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I go to a lot of tech events. Some would say too many. In fact, it’s probably around 25 or so conference a year and a user group meeting most weeks. While some are brilliant – incisive, inspirational, a joy to be at – I sit in others and realise that this is time I will never get back. The trick is, of course, spotting the difference before they lock you in. But I’m not sure I’ve quite cracked that one yet.
So here is my attendees’ guide: Four ways to making a tech event work for you
1: Make it about you
Remember, this is your time – if this is a daytime event chances are that whatever work you’ve left behind won’t magically disappear while you’re away. In fact, it’s likely to pile up with the same deadlines it had before. If the event lands outside of work hours you could be spending time with family or non tech friends.
So make sure you get what you need out of your chosen event. If you want to meet people and network, get over your nerves and start speaking to others (after all, you’ve all got something in common just by being there). Likewise, if a meet really isn’t working for you, vote with your feet and go do something else instead or speak to the organiser and see if there is anything you can do to help improve the event.
2: Look for a mix
If your focus is on one specific technology, the temptation is to only attend events around that subject. Personally I like to focus when it comes to my work and use events to look more broadly. That is why I try and Mix up my event choices… I look for the occasional left field meet up about a topic I know less about or attend large events with agendas that mix it up a bit – some deep tech followed by some more light-hearted geekery.
3: Don’t ignore the newcomers
Established events and Meet-ups are great, but the thing I’ve found is that it’s often the lesser-known that inspire me the most, the people doing brand new stuff. They can be found at newer meet-ups. At large conferences they often get hidden in breakout session F in a room furthest from the main hall but, more often than not, they’re worth the trek. (BTW this is why at Ubelly, we set up The Critters awards to recognise the best new talent.)
4: Be committed, spread the word
If you find an event that you like or is doing something special, let others know. Commit to attending regularly and find ways to support. A positive blog post helps others that are hunting quality events, if nothing else the organiser will love you. Setting up an event, getting people all in one room and hearding speakers is really tough so taking 20 minutes out of you morning to write up a 300 word positive review and tweeting it out is a great way to say thank you to the organiser for their efforts.
For all their sins, events are a great way to meet other likeminded people. They help you see the world outside your own particular bubble. And they can be nothing short of inspirational.
One of my favourite meets this year was a little event called Digital Barn in Barnsly. It was a 5 hour drive for me to get their but it was totally worth it for the conversation and particularly Harry Roberts talk on CSS and why we should question some of our deep rooted beliefs about purist frontend development. You can see a nice heartwarming video about the day over on YouTube.
So what have been your favourite tech conferences over the last year? What meet ups am I missing? And do you have any tips of your own?
Is there a good list of UK events maintained anywhere? All too often I find out about events too late!
Wow, great article, I really appreciate your thought process and having it explained properly, thank you!
Hi Tom, the most comprehensive list on the internet for all UK developer events is on DeveloperFusions.co.uk they have all the Microsoft events as well as the user group events and loads of others as well. It's well worth a look if you're trying to keep track of everything. We also highlight in every newsletter any upcoming Microsoft technology related events and user group meetings.