Conference is a good way to achieve several things: to know the known unknowns, and to know the unknown unknowns. It is also a good opportunity to expand your network.
However, you’ll need to know some tricks so you don’t waste your time on conference. Conference is designed to be open for many people from different background, business, role, and level of technical fluency.
Here are several tips on how to make the most of your conference.
List your questions — Solve the known unknowns
Sometime you don’t know how to solve a technical challenge. Or you have a solution already, but you are not sure whether your design future proof or not. List those questions. If you represent your team to join the conference, ask them to contribute questions too.
Now you have your questions, what’s next? Join the session that relevant to your question and ask them there. Or connect with other attendees and ask them.
Get in touch with speaker & attendees, before the conference
Usually a good conference has speaker & attendee list that you could explore. Look for people in the same focus as you, and or in relevant business. Contact them. You could invite them to have lunch together and discuss things. Usually lunch is served in the conference venue so it is efficient.
Believe me, for introvert like me, inviting them beforehand is a lot easier than starting a conversation on the spot. It’s awkward and usually there are a lot less to talk about when you are not in relevant business, or worse when you have different role.
Ask your questions, or share how you solve your use cases and ask them how they solve theirs. This is where usually I get something very useful. Either insights on how to solve my problem, or get a confirmation on what I’ve built or designed. (IMO sometime more useful than the sessions itself).
Pick your session carefully
In big conferences usually there are many parallel sessions running at the same time. There are some rules to pick session that I find useful.
- Guess each session target audience from the schedule and title, and check whether it suits you. Usually same audience will be put in the same room throughout the day. There are track that is targeted for business people, devops, or software engineer. Sometime it is specific for certain topic.
- Look who will be speaking, from which company. If it is from vendor, likely it will be marketing talk. If it is from consultant, likely it will be touching only surface of the problem. What is very useful is usually if the speaker is software engineer as well, coming from different industry, sharing their experience. If you find someone so expert, follow all his sessions is proven effective for me, just beware of duplicate content across session.
- Move to other session is OK, if it’s not like what you expect. Listen for the first 3–5 minutes, whether the talk align with what you expect. Don’t waste your time if you think it will not beneficial for you. It will either the title and the content different, or sometime the presenter is not able to present well.
No interesting session at all?
Spend more time with Speakers or other attendees. Speakers usually get chased by many people asking questions. When other attendees having session is the time when speaker got a lot of time. This is a good opportunity to ask something deep and require a bit explanation
Be open to learn
Beware of the unknown unknowns. You have to be open. Don’t assume you have known everything. This is a good chance for you to minimize that. This is proven effective for me when trying to attend session that I think I have known. But turns out there are several interesting details that I haven’t known before.
Hope you find it useful, and enjoy your conference!