Getting the most out of a tech conference

We’ve organised a few events in our time, including jQuery UK and All Your Base, and we try to get to as many conferences and meetups as we can, so we thought we’d share some of our tips for getting the most out of attending a tech event.

Check Lanyrd before you go

If you’re heading to a conference or meetup alone and want to get an idea if anyone you know is going, check out the event’s attendee directory on Lanyrd. If your Lanyrd and Twitter accounts are integrated you can even filter the list to just show just the “people you track”. And if you’re feeling especially bold, you can track individual attendees you haven’t met yet and mark them as someone you’d like to meet.

Peruse the programme

It’s particularly useful to check the schedule ahead of time if you’re going to a multi-track conference, so you can figure out which sessions you’d like to attend. But even for a single track conference, it’s a good idea to read the session summaries and check out the speakers before the day – you’ll arrive with a clearer idea of what you want to get out of the day. Plus, if you follow the speakers on Twitter ahead of time, it’ll be easier to tag them if you decide you want to live tweet during a particular talk.

Give out custom business cards

If you find yourself going to a lot of conferences or meetups and other events, you could consider ordering a few custom cards to give out to the interesting people you meet. It might be a pared down version of your full business card (which you may not want to give out, if you’re attending in a personal capacity), with just your name, email address and Twitter handle on it. If you want to be really helpful, you can include a photo of yourself to remind the recipient who you were, and a space for notes on the back so they can jot down where they met you and what you spoke about.

Remember the people you meet

If you’re giving out business cards, you may well be receiving them too. Instantly snap a picture of each one with your phone, and you won’t need to worry about holding onto the physical card. And if you save them to a service with image recognition, like Evernote, you’ll be able to search the text within the photos without having to type out all the individual contact details in the first instance.

Chat to the sponsors

If a company sponsors an event, it’s usually because they have a product or service that will be of interest to the attendees. So if the conference you’re attending has sponsor stands, take some time to go and chat to the people manning them during the breaks. You might discover a new technology, or that a company is recruiting for a role you’re interested in, or just some information that is relevant and useful to your job or interesting to you personally. Not to mention that there is often swag to be had!

Live tweet at the event

Most events will have a hashtag, and will actively encourage you to tweet your thoughts and photos on the day. Obviously, you want to strike a balance between listening to the talks and focussing your attention on your phone or laptop, but there are advantages to live tweeting during an event. It’s a great way to get involved in conversations and note down questions or comments you have for the speaker as you think of them, that they may be able to respond to after the talk. You can capture a session’s key points and particularly impactful quotes in real time, and share them with your followers, who may have their own experience and perspective to add. Finally, it can be fun to connect with other people using the hashtag and get involved in the community aspect of an event. You might even get in on action you’d have otherwise missed, like an impromptu pub trip with other attendees!

Attend the after party

Speaking of the pub, find out in advance if the conference you’re attending has an after party and make sure you book a later train back home! The after party is a great opportunity to meet and mingle with attendees, speakers and organisers. Drinks and nibbles are often put on by a sponsor, and the casual atmosphere is conducive to geeking out about technology, chatting about your current role and projects, and even discussing job opportunities and other events you could get involved with. In fact, we’d argue that the after party is often a key component of the overall conference experience, rather than just a nice extra.

Over to you – leave a comment or send us a tweet with your personal tips and ideas. And if you’d like to put these ideas into practice sooner rather than later, check out our awesome front-end developer conference, jQuery UK – coming to Oxford on 16 May 2014.


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