Attending conferences can be expensive, especially if you are paying out of pocket. They can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars (in USA). This is why you want to get the most out of the conferences you attend.
No matter what your role, be it attendee, volunteer, speaker, or sponsor there are things you can to do get the most out of attending technical conferences. Follow these tips to make your conference experience even better.
Getting The Most
Look through the sessions and decide which ones you want to attend. The speakers and sessions will be announced well before the conference starts. Pick the ones that you are interested in attending. They may have the schedule posted online. Use this to create a plan for what session to attend. There may be more than one session at a time you want to attend. Look at the conference as a whole and see if there are other session on similar topics. When you get to the conference check the schedule as there may be last minute changes.
Don’t try to do everything and meet everyone. FOMO (fear of missing out) can cause you to burn out early. Conferences may be short term but if you try to do everything the first day you’ll be too tired to do much of anything the second or third. Pace yourself, you may not get to everything but you’ll get higher quality experiences.
“I had this a lot when I was younger, high school and college days.”
Learn about the speakers and the session topics. Look up and get familiar with the speakers. This will help you learn more about them. It can also help you find leaders in the community to follow. Follow the speakers and conference on social media. Important information about sessions or parties will be shared. Things that may have been missed in printed materials.
19:35 Paying Attention
Be an active listener. Turn off notifications for email an other messaging services. Repeat what you’ve heard either through questions or writing it down.
Take notes with either pen/paper or on your computer. Pen and paper provides better “muscle” memory of the talk. Computer allows for easier sharing and referencing of notes.
“What I did this year was taking notes in comments in code.”
Create an outline of the presentation. Rephrasing what you’ve just learned is a way to express understanding. If confused ask about what was said to help understand.
Provide feedback for the presenters. Ask questions during the presentation if appropriate. Fill out the post session survey to help the conference become better. After the session talk to the speaker and ask questions not covered in the talk.
Conferences are more than just about the talks and workshops, you want to use the time to make contacts in the larger tech community. You may meet future mentors, coworkers, or bosses at conferences. Local groups and schools usually have a large presence. It’s also good to have friends in the tech community outside your local groups.
“I ran into a couple that I hadn’t seen in like 10 years.”
Stay off your phone between sessions and during meals. This is a time to meet new people and network. If going up to people isn’t comfortable start by checking out the vendor booths, they are there to meet people and it’s a good way to get the ball rolling. Talk to people in the same sessions as you or attend open spaces where you can discuss topics of interest.
Go to the parties and socialize. Show that you are not a robot just there to get business cards. People will remember you better if the spend time doing something fun.
“She sent me her notes and I was like ‘This is phenomenal!'”
Make friends so you can share your experiences from different session. You may not be able to go to all the sessions you want especially if there are multiple interesting ones at the same time. Split them among friends then compare notes in the evening or after the conference.
28:10 Follow Up
Review your notes. Ask yourself how apply what you’ve learned. Use your notes to create something useful or a proof of concept. Put together a lunch and learn for your job/school.
“I went over some of the Electron app stuff with my daughter.”
Keep in touch with people you meet. Email new friends and contacts soon after the conference. The recruiters and other booths will contact you.
Start planning for next year or the next conference. Keep in touch with speakers, especially on the topics you are interested in learning more about. Plan to speak yourself.
While at Music City Tech we had the opportunity to speak with a few different people including attendees, speakers, volunteers, and other local leaders. Listen as we talk to them about their experience at the conference.
IoT Tech Expo North America
This is a two-day event held in Santa Clara, CA with talks by major companies and producers in manufacturing, transportation, health, logistics, government, energy, automotive, and several other industries. The conference tracks are designed for IT decision-makers, developers, government officials, technology providers, investors, and venture capitalists. The conference provides an overview of where IoT stands now and where it is headed. Major companies sponsor the event and provide speakers, so the networking opportunities are strong if you’re looking for an IoT-related job or people to hire.
Tricks of the Trade
You are at a conference to get value for yourself. That means seeking out value, but it also means extricating yourself from situations that don’t provide value. And that’s ok.