Choose the BEST EVER Professional Development Plan – For You!


Thousands of dollars. Hundreds of thousands of miles. Weeks and weeks of my time. What could possibly justify this level of investment? Why do I go to the IAF (International Association of Facilitators) conference at least once, if not twice a year? Why do I make it a good part of my professional development (PD) plan? And should you? What else might you consider for your PD plan each year? This blog is meant to help you think about your own professional development and possibly reconsider your attendance at IAF and other conferences in the near and far future.

I’m always surprised when I meet other facilitators who do not regularly and substantially make the commitment to their own professional development. I’m imagining having a conversation with you and these are the reasons you’re giving me for not attending facilitator and other related inspiring conferences, multiple day trainings and/or hiring a facilitation coach/mentor:

  • You don’t make enough money (to attend the conferences that are far away, hire a coach/mentor, training registrations,etc.)
  • You don’t have the time
  • Your home and community responsibilities are so great you can’t get away
  • You don’t think you’ll learn anything
  • You don’t particularly like or are not comfortable with crowds of people
  • You don’t think it makes good marketing sense

Check which ones apply to you!

What if I could strategize with you to make it so enticing you would reconsider or perhaps sign up for the next IAF conference or another substantial professional development opportunity that appeals to you?

Consider the Benefits of Non-related Professional Development Opportunities

For the first 5 years of being in business I wasn’t really aware of the IAF conferences and when I did hear of them, I dismissed them as being boring. Rather, in that first five years I invested in a 3 year facilitator associates program with ICA Canada (ToP methods). I took certification programs in thinking and learning styles. I attended an international accelerated learning conference on a yearly basis. I took conflict resolution training. These were great investments. I would say it is essential to attend some conferences and training which are in a completely different discipline than your own or than facilitation from time to time. The creative connections we make by applying two different disciplines together is amazing. You can really borrow from one discipline and have it enrich a completely different one. For example, I took flamenco dance, piano lessons and singing lessons for the first seven years of my business as a facilitator. These helped me develop a sense of pace, rhythm, cadence, tone, and understanding of patterns. It helped jump start my creativity. It gave me confidence that I could do something I had never done before.

Why the IAF Conference Has Become a “Must-Do” For Me Every Year

And now I find it equally important to always make attending facilitator conferences a big part of my PD plan. I have attended almost every IAF conference in North America since the year 2000. So why did I migrate over to the IAF conferences and make that my priority?

Reason #1 – Commitment to the Certification Program

In the year 2000, I undertook certification with IAF. It prompted me to make the commitment to attend this organization as it was the only organization offering a rigorous certification program. One of the competencies is “Build and Maintain Professional Knowledge”. I reasoned that if I was going to proudly wear the badge CPF, I needed to support them in their efforts to offer professional development opportunities.

Reason #2 – Family of Colleagues

As I met more and more people at each conference, it began to feel like home – a place where I could genuinely share my triumphs and tribulations. I have a “family” to come home to every year. Each year, I meet colleagues I still collaborate with.

Reason #3 – Workshops Presentations

From early on, I submitted proposals to present workshops. My passion is facilitation! Thus I love to present various topics that have guided me on my journey. Initially I did these workshops on my own, and then I realized that it was so much more fun to co-collaborate on these presentations. This year, I will be presenting 2 different workshops with my colleagues, Rangineh Azimzadeh, Sunny Walker and Sharon Almerigi (see below for more details).

Reason #4 – Find Clients or Clients Find You

Many times people would attend my sessions and then hire me later. That’s how I got a job at the University of Rutgers – by simply giving a 3 hour IAF presentation. Someone walked past my IAF conference session, saw the color, toys and music, asked what I was doing, asked for my business card and then emailed me later to offer me a two day job. They did not even attend my session! In another year, I had a Muslim man from Kuwait tell me it was worth coming all the way from Kuwait for my session. Later he mailed me a little gift afterwards to help me understand his culture. Those moments are priceless and worth every penny I spent on the conferences.

Reason #4 – Grow

Meeting new people each year keeps me growing out of my comfort zone.

Reason #5 – It Works Out Financially

To be able to attend these conferences, here are a few suggestions on how I’m able to pay for the travel and attendance to these events:

  • Presenting at pre-conference workshops
  • Offering to assess at certification events
  • Using my accumulated airmiles, when needed
  • Sharing a hotel room with 1-2 others
  • When I travel to far away conferences, I offer to give workshops in nearby cities before or after the conference – thus again paying my way.

Why You Should Reconsider Your Own Professional Development Plan

Every year, you should analyze where you are in your facilitator competencies.  Here’s a quick download on our website to assess yourself based on these competencies:

Ask yourself:

  • What will make me grow the most this year?
  • Where will I get the most pleasure?
  • How can I self-subsidize this PD opportunity?
  • Who can support me with this?

I have often set up scholarships for younger adults to attend IAF. I simply ask all my colleagues to donate some money and bingo – we have enough for 2-3 registrations. I have also asked people to donate airmiles to those young adults. You can be creative. Don’t moan. Just do it! Start making friends globally who care as much as you do to grow and help make peace in the world!  Oh yes, last objection… If you dislike crowds, just find a cool small group of people to hang out with at the conference and it may help you feel more comfortable. And get a room for yourself to retreat to when you need that.

Your Suggested 7 Step Mini PD Plan:

  1. Review your current set of competencies every year.
  2. Brainstorm at least ten PD opportunities you’d like to consider including personal and unrelated areas to your field to grow in new ways and to boost your creative connections.
  3. Develop criteria to choose and also trust your intuition.
  4. Choose 2-3 (at least one) that will be out of your comfort zone and out in your field.
  5. Develop a plan to fund and put them on your calendar.
  6. Register and make that time “sacred” time – just for you – not even a job will take them away from you. You are simply booked for that time.
  7. Smile 🙂

See you at the next IAF Conference!

For a listing of a conference near you, visit

Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.

Leave a Comment