It’s been nearly two weeks since I attended the one-day annual conference of American Independent Writers. And it has been more than a week since I’ve returned from presenting at the 2011 SLA Annual Conference in Philadelphia. The ALA Annual Conference is beginning in New Orleans, but I won’t be there this year. I attended last year and in 2009, when I did the first book signing for Living in More Than One World. Professional conferences are great experiences, on many levels. They are a valuable way to learn a lot about a particular discipline in a relatively short period of time. In that spirit, last year I gave a thought exercise to my students at the Catholic University School of Library and Information Science. If you could attend any conference, anywhere, that was outside your professional discipline, but in an area of interest, what would you choose? The trick here is not to get sidetracked by location. Just because a conference happens to be in a city you’d like to visit isn’t a reason for choosing it. Rather, what professional discipline outside of your field would you like to learn more about, enough that you would spend three or four days immersed in it? I think this is a worthy thought process for any knowledge worker. It allows you to consider subjects you are curious about, and gives you the opportunity for checking online to see how those disciplines present their conferences. A quick source of ideas, for academic conferences, is Conference Alerts. Ideally, you are picking a field that is a stretch in terms of your current knowledge and experience. It’s true that this is all speculative, and in reality you are not going to be transported there. But just reading through the conference information online gives you worthwhile information about topics and people important to that subject. And who knows, maybe next year you’ll take a leap of faith and attend the conference on your own?