The Value of Attending Conferences
I love attending conferences and I think that everyone working in our industry should try to attend one, at least once in a while, to experience what it is like as well as all the reasons listed below.
The draft for this post has been sitting with me for over a year now and my experience at the recent conferences I attended reminded me that it is well about time for this post to get finished.
I have been attending conferences quite frequently for a couple of years. Sometimes I would speak, I recently started to give workshops and other times I'd solely just attend, with the latter being the most relaxed option for obvious reasons. The frequency has varied, but it's usually been around two or three per year.
I think the conference thing has really started taking off around 2013 and since then a countless number of new conferences started to pop up all over the globe. It's been great to see this development, especially for people working in the industry who are not located in the US or in Europe.
Limitation by Location
Speaking of location: For many people it is rather easy to choose a conference which they like, since there is a lot of choice, often in fairly close proximity. I have been based in Hong Kong for almost 8 years and being in this part of the world limits your choices of attending conferences without long travel times quite a bit. There are more conferences around Asia now than a couple of years ago, but compared to Europe or the US, choice is rather limited.
Besides the possible travel costs, there's the ticket price. Depending on what conference you're looking at, how many days it runs or what kind of conference it is, tickets can be expensive. From my experience this can vary from below 100 USD up to much more, with most conferences levelling in at roughly around 300-600 USD I'd say.
At first this might seem very steep. Considering what you theoretically can take away from it, the price isn't that high anymore. This of course is very subjective, but by picking the right conference, I believe the learnings and takeaways by far outweigh the price.
For some people, this might still not make it more affordable, so it's great to see some conferences offering scholarships and discounted tickets in some cases. This can make attending, for those who otherwise wouldn't be able to, possible. 👍🏼!
If you don't “live on Twitter” and stay up to date with the latest technologies and best practices that evolve so rapidly that it can be very daunting to keep up with, a conference is a good option to get yourself up to date.
Conference talks are a great way to get a new idea across, highlight best practices or give a rough overview about a new or existing technology. Personally I'm a big fan of the “bigger picture” talks, those that don't focus so much on a certain technology but rather the industry, how we work or how we can contribute to creating a better web for everyone. Most of the time these are the ones sparking a new idea or letting me see things in a different light.
Other than that, it's always great to make new friends and meet likeminded people from all over the world. Many times I meet people that until then I've only “known” from Twitter.
I've been saying this for a while and wanted to write it down for a long time: For me, the “real” conference takes place besides the conference. That’s where the magic happens.
The magic of a conference is its people. And that's speakers, attendees and organisers alike.
Countless conversations while exploring a new city, during dinners or over drinks have been the most valuable takeaways from every single conference I have been to. This is where you learn more about how other people work, what they do and what challenges they face. I have always found these conversation very helpful and inspiring, while giving and receiving advice as well as exchanging knowledge and ideas always turns out to be beneficial. Many times you can apply these to your work and this is where the value of your conference ticket will eventually pay off, big time.
At other times, I get inspired or motivated, just by listening to other people. More than once I have been thinking about an idea for a very long time, which then suddenly made more sense, just by getting someone else's input during a conference.
By having conversations with people who are new to this field, or haven't been working in the web industry for that long, I have learned to better understand different and new approaches, which started to change my rather “old-school” thinking and made me be more open towards new ideas. And it works the same both ways.
As an extra bonus on top of it, I have met many nice people and sometimes even got to know their personal stories. Over time, some of them have become good friends. And that's great.
Getting Out There
Whether you are a “conference regular” or have never been to one at all (in which case again, I highly recommend it), this sentence kinda sums it up for me:
The people, exchange of experiences and expertise is what contributes to making the web better and let's us move forward. Get out there and continue sharing.