Like many of you, we are just wrapping up the busy fall conference season. These conferences give us the chance to meet and renew our acquaintanceships with many of you, our members. With over 1,000 institutional members in 90 countries, and with 17,000+ individual ZIMS users, our staff has been busy preparing and attending events across the globe. Our fall conference schedule included AAZV (US), AZA (US), EAZA (Europe), CAZA (Canada), IAC (global aquarium), AZVT (vet techs US), EARAZA (Eurasia), WAZA, (global), ZRA (North America), AZCARM (Mexico), SEAZA (South East Asia), and AZAA (Middle East).
When meeting with so many of you, it’s always interesting to learn what you value most about attending these zoo and aquarium conferences.
The easy answers often start with “I want to eat, drink, and party for free.” Or simply “My boss told me to go.” Then there are always the few who remark, “I’m here for the goody bags.” But after we dig a little bit deeper, we hear about the many more significant benefits:
- Learn new animal care ideas – We all know that sometimes you have to take a break from the everyday work at your zoo or aquarium to sharpen your skills. Many mention returning from a conference with new excitement over an idea or creative approach that increases their personal effectiveness in their job.
- Meet zoo experts or aquarium influencers – Sometimes it’s about taking a selfie with someone who’s influenced your professional development, or sharing a husbandry idea with someone you admire, or making a vet connection that can lead to finding your next mentor.
- Network with peers – Too many of us rely on social media to stay connected with colleagues – those who are geographically near, as well as those who are far away. Conferences prove to us again that there is really no substitute for meeting people face-to-face and building relationships.
- Learn in a new space – Why do so many zoological institutions have periodic staff meetings away from their facilities? Working in the same environment for too long can result in finding ourselves in a rut. Too often this familiar environment prevents us from renewing fresh ideas and creative thinking.
- Break out of our comfort zone – A willingness to break out of our comfort zone often helps us to stop thinking in our old ways.
- Learn the value of “random workshops” – Members often comment that some of the best workshops and presentations have been ones they were unaware of before the conference.
I hope you enjoyed your conference season as much as we did ours. . . and for the bosses out there, know that your staff and facility benefited in many ways from these important community events, as did the animals in your care.
Director Global Member Development