Conferences: Jump at the Opportunity

Are you trying to decide whether or not you should attend a conference for your industry? Maybe you are having trouble determining if it’s worth it, or you aren’t sure what to expect. I recently had the pleasure of attending the “Sunshine PHP Developer Conference,” and I am here to point out some of the benefits of attending these events.

Soak Up Some Knowledge

Out of all the reasons you should attend a conference, the opportunity to learn is perhaps the most compelling. Conferences are a perfect place to gain insight on new (or new to you) technologies. With talks generally being about one hour long, you will not become an expert in the subject matter. Heck, you may not even understand many of the things you hear in a given talk. That’s okay, don’t despair. Set the expectation to yourself that the talk is a “preview,” exposing you at a high level to these new ideas and technologies. You’ll need to take it upon yourself to continue learning, after the talk, about the subject matter to really get a grasp and understanding. Take notes and jot down keywords to aid in your research later.

Another great thing that you can learn from attending conferences is what’s trending in the industry. There likely won’t be a talk labeled “What’s Trending in the Industry,” instead this is something that you have to pick up on yourself. A good way to identify trends is to categorize talks by their subject and see if any of the categories have a high (or higher than expected) amount of coverage. For example, at the conference I recently attended there was a noticeable amount of talks relating to container technology (such as Docker). When compared to the amount of talks that were on the subject of containers in past years, it becomes clear that container services are becoming more utilized throughout the industry. Categorizing talks is just one way to identify trends, but let’s take a look at another way; talking to people.

Come Together

Yes, that’s right, while at a conference, you can talk to other people! As mentioned earlier, this is a great way to help identify trends in the industry. When talking with other attendees ask them about the technologies and processes they currently use or are thinking about moving towards. If they’ve already started to adopt new technologies and/or processes that you are considering, ask them about the pros, cons, and gotchas they’ve experienced as a way to guide you and your team down the path.

Additionally, this is a good time to pick the brains of developers who you do not work with on a day-to-day basis. When you ask the same questions to the same people, you tend to get the same answers. Asking questions to people with different backgrounds and experiences leads to new strategies and ideas for solving the same problems.

The discussions you have don’t have to end at the conference. Take this opportunity to build your professional network. Trading contact information with other attendees allows you to build a collection of resources that have expertise in an area that you are not as familiar with. Nobody expects you to have all the answers, and sometimes it’s not what you know, but who you know.

Just Do It

To wrap this up, if you find yourself presented with an opportunity to attend a conference in your industry, do it! You may have to give up some time on a weekend, but what you get in exchange is worth it. Conferences are a great place to learn about new things and build up your network. The investment in yourself will pay off.