This is not because I tend to learn a lot. I actually think they should find a way for more junior researchers to attend - they would benefit tremendously. While I don't necessarily learn something I didn't already know, however, I always come away from each day thinking about something I wasn't thinking about before. I invariably feel revitalized and inspired.
It always makes me realize that there is a lot going on in this business beyond what I do. There are also a hell of a lot of folks in this industry who are smarter than me. Hearing different perspectives from extremely talented people i just as important to professional (and personal) growth as learning new things.
This morning's sessions were quite interesting. OpEd New York Times columnist (among many other pursuits) David Brooks gave a fascinating presentation called "Rethinking Thinking: What's in Your Cognitive Toolkit?" Frankly, the title didn't make me think it would be particularly inspiring. But it was. How people think and make decisions, the role of emotions, the unconscious, and socialization. It can't really be covered in this small space, but it made me want to get his book, The Social Animal.
I also liked the panel of journalists, with Stuart Elliot (The New York Times), Chuck Ross (TVWeek.com), and Joe Mandese (Editor-in-Chief, Mediapost), all of whom I know. I've had many intense discussions with Joe Mandese about the press and how they report on research issues, so I was obviously interested to hear their perspectives. Given that Dave Marans (EVP, Media, ARF), who, when on the agency side was one of the most heavily quoted executives in the business, was the moderator, I expected some harder-hitting questions, but I still thought it was excellent.
The other morning panels, one covering TV, print, radio, out-of-home (they are purposely avoiding the overused term, "traditional media"), the other covering digital and social media, were also very good.
The one compliant I have is that I think the Concurrent Key Issue Forums contain a number of presentations that should be part of the main conference. I always have to choose, and wind up missing stuff I want to see. But I guess that means the ARF staff has chosen the topics wisely.