How to get the most out of a tech conference

A couple of days ago I attended a fantastic IT conference – Techorama in Antwerp, Belgium. I wanted to extract maximum out of this opportunity, so I made a list of steps that I should follow. The payback was huge, so I will share this list with you guys.

Put your goals straight

Write a list of topics you want to cover. Think through what you would like to be your takeaway from the conference. Depending on your skill set and working roles, the goals will be different. For example, you may want to improve your technical knowledge in web frameworks or in IoT field, so you would target sessions related to those areas. Or your goal may be to grasp the latest technological trends.

Here is my list for Techorama:

  • Figure out technological trends for 2019. What is “the next big thing”?
  • In what direction are going: web, mobile, machine learning, IoT, conversational UI?
  • Attend some JavaScript sessions
  • Attend Bot Framework sessions
  • Check out what’s new in Xamarin
  • Follow at least one session on something completely outside of my expertise

Read full agenda with descriptions

Before even arriving to the conference, read full agenda with all the descriptions. I know this may sound boring, but it would give you a great overview of the topics covered, so you could think through your preliminary agenda. What else would you do in the airplane anyway?

Read the agenda prior to each session

Most of conferences have mobile apps nowadays. Download the app and read descriptions prior to each timeslot. Also, pay extra attention to who is the presenter and their roles. Questions you should ask yourself:

  • Is the description carefully prepared? If not, the chances are that the session would be poorly prepared too
  • Is the description too “marketingy” and the presenter is from a big tech company? If yes, you may end up sitting in a scripted session delivered by a bot presenter. Usually you can find the same value by reading docs or checking short into video about the technology
  • Do you already know the presenter from a previous conference or a video?
  • Listen to your gut. With a bit of experience you can smell a good presentation, and it’s important to choose well when you have many parallel track

Even on a quality conference like Techorama I ended up going on two not so good sessions, but other than that I attended great sessions following the list above.

Write your notes in OneNote

Or in any other tool of choice. Just write them during the sessions. Recollecting notes after the conference simply does not work as good. If you attended more than 10 sessions, your brain will not keep all the information that you want to remember and share. OneNote on Android is a fantastic tool because you can easily: type, indent text, take and crop pictures. All the data is already online, so you don’t have to do extra work compared to writing by hand in a notebook.

Talk about the key takeaways between sessions

If you have a colleague or friend at the conference, talk to them right after each session. This will help you extract the main points of the session and you will be able remember more.

Socialize

Conferences are a great place to make new connections. Push yourself a bit out of your comfort zone and talk with other attendees and the presenters.

Process the notes at the end of the day

Take a bit of time at the end of the day and process all the notes you took. Read them again and format, add or remove points while the memory is fresh.

Write blog posts in the following days

No better way to deeply root the knowledge than to write about it. It takes a bit of time, but you will benefit from it a lot. Moreover, you are giving something back to community, which is a great thing.

Share knowledge with colleagues

When you are back in the office, talk to your colleagues about your finding, share with them your notes, and even make presentations. This again has two benefits: it forces you to remember all the great topics, and your colleagues get to hear about it. It may even position you as an expert in your company on the topics you shared.

Bonus tip: have fun on the trip

The conference is not just the conference. It can be a fun trip too. Try to connect the conference days with a weekend, maybe even take a day off or two. Explore the city and try local food and drinks. Techorama was held on Wednesday and Thursday, so I took Friday off and connected it with the weekend. This gave me the opportunity to visit Brussels, Bruges, Gent, even to make a day trip to Amsterdam! This is what I call extracting the maximum out of a conference!

I hope this list could be helpful for you too. Feel free to share your own tips in the comments below. Happy conferencing!

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.