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Why You Should Attend Privacy Conferences (and other industry conferences too!)

I just returned from the IAPP Global Privacy Summit 2022 in Washington D.C. This is one of the largest gatherings of privacy professionals, sponsored by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), an organization founded in 2000 to help define, promote, and improve the privacy profession globally. After two years of COVID lockdowns and remote events it was invigorating to attend in-person events once again. The messages from keynote speakers and panelists in a live audience format resonated more profoundly than when dialing in from home.

We are all extremely busy with work and personal life, but over the course of my career I’ve learned the importance of setting aside time for personal and career development. Conferences are a great way to accomplish this and in my opinion are well worth the investment of not only time but cost. Attending privacy conference is a great way to expand your knowledge, to network and strengthen your participation in the privacy community. In addition, conferences offer opportunities to speak and share your expertise.

Expand your knowledge

Industry conferences offer efficient and often high-energy ways to expand your knowledge base. Major conferences often have hundreds of individual sessions on a wide range of topics – usually the problem is deciding which ones to choose! In addition to the high-profile keynote speakers, attendees can hear from leaders in the field: academics, regulators, and practitioners. The IAAP Global Privacy Summit for example addressed big issue topics such as ransomware, artificial intelligence/machine learning, and global data protection legislation as well as the latest technical solutions and best practices for individual privacy operations.

When attending a conference, I suggest setting aside time for trainings and active learning through which you can earn certifications for specific areas of expertise such as laws and regulations, operations or technology. For those in the legal profession looking to earn hours for Mandatory Continuing Legal Education, conferences offer credit for attending individual sessions.

Participating in a learning culture provides opportunities to deepen your knowledge of your practice area, develop expertise, and keep up on new legal and regulatory developments.

Network and support the privacy industry

Because the privacy industry is relatively new, it’s especially valuable that we connect to one another in meaningful ways. Consider conference attendance as a team travel and bonding event – at IAPP Global, for example, I attended along with several legal colleagues and members of our privacy operations team. Conference organizers recognize that networking is one of the main reasons that people participate and for that reason provide many opportunities to strike up conversations, ask questions, and learn from one another. Such conversations can be a whirlwind (in a good way) of opportunities to benchmark and share best practices with colleagues in similar companies or industries. Organized happy hours, dinners and chance encounters in the hallways are great ways to get to know one another and catch up with old friends. Not to be underestimated is the value of socializing and having fun. Even the privacy nerds can party.

Showing up at a privacy conference is a concrete way to physically support the growth of the expanding ecosystem of privacy professionals, vendors, academics, and advocates. Privacy newcomers need role models and can find numerous examples on the stage and in the halls at privacy conferences. If you are on the lookout for advisory opportunities, a conference a great way to find a match – an advisee or a company looking for consulting advice or input. Finally, attendance at these events is a way to forge enriching relationship with conference organizers and staff.

Speaking opportunities

Conferences are also an opportunity to share your knowledge and experience by speaking on panels or hosting seminars and events. Sharing in this way may be the motivation you need to organize your thoughts and experiences, but don’t be put off by the preparation it may involve. Chances are you are already more knowledgeable than you think. And if you are looking to up your presence in the field or build awareness about special projects, participating in a conference usually means that your photo and/or bio will appear on the conference website. More than self-promotion, however, participating in this way allows you to share your vision and values. Pro Tip – conference fees are often waived for speakers.

It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day responsibilities of your job. Especially when so many of us have been or will be working remotely at least part of the time, it’s especially thrilling to interact with people face-to-face. Attending a conference in any industry, not just privacy, helps to renew and inspire.

Here’s some bonus tips about some of the logistics in getting there.

· Pitch conference attendance to your manager or company. Not only will this let people know you are serious about your career development, but in many cases your organization may be willing to cover all or some of the conference fees and travel expenses.

Where to find Privacy and Data Protection Conferences in Your Area

Below is a partial list – hope to see you there!

IAPP In addition to its annual Global Privacy Summit, IAPP offers a range of conference events throughout the year and around the globe.

PrivSec GlobalGRC World Forums sponsors events and provides information on privacy & data protection, security, digital transformation and ESG, all geared towards governance, risk and compliance (GRC) professionals

LegalWeek Geared for lawyers who practice in the privacy field, this conference promises curated deep dives into the latest in legal technology as well as learning from speakers on topics such as ESG, the Future of Law, Robotic Process Automation Cyber Security, Data Privacy, eDiscovery, and Contract Lifecycle Management.

Privacy + Security Academy Oriented towards Privacy and Security Professionals, CIOs, Attorneys, Academics, Experts from NGOs & Thinks Tanks, Technologists, and Policymakers, these conferences offer insights from thought leaders, practical deep dives, and educational credits.

RSA Offers expert insights, conversations, training, and best practices around cybersecurity as well as accredited educational training. Their next conference is in San Francisco this June.

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