How to Attend a Conference (and Make It Worth Your Time) – Part 1

Conferences aren’t cheap. Registration fees, travel expenses, and time spent away from the office can add up fast. How can you get the most value from your investment? In this two-part guide, you’ll learn how to pick the right conference and make the most of your time attending.

1. Set a Goal

Why do you want to attend in the first place? Are you looking to glean insights on a current project? Perhaps you’re switching to a new role and want to get up to speed on what to expect. Maybe you want to network or earn a certification. Whatever the reason, make sure you’ve got a valid one, and let it guide your decision about which conference to attend.

2. Do Your Research

There’s nothing worse than finding yourself in the middle of a conference that’s not what you expected. I’ve personally sat through plenty of talks that were a lot of fluff and very little substance.

To avoid this, I now look specifically for lineups that feature familiar speakers. I also gravitate toward conferences with several hands-on workshop opportunities.

Think about how you learn best and the type of content that resonates with you. Doing so will help narrow down your options. Your coworkers and network are also a valuable resource. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask which events they’ve found particularly useful.

3. Play to Your Strengths

Since I joined Atomic Object, the way I view professional development has shifted. I used to focus on the skills I lacked and sought opportunities to improve in those areas. While there’s nothing wrong with this approach, I often found myself procrastinating.

A conversation with a coworker helped me realize I don’t need to be a Swiss Army knife. It’s okay to be naturally talented in a couple of areas and pursue becoming really, really good at them. In fact, when you’re part of a well-rounded team, mastery can become more valuable than being a generalist.

This doesn’t mean I need never address areas for improvement. But, at least for 2020, I plan to look for learning opportunities that allow me to deep-dive into areas where I’m already passionate.

Finding the right conference is key, but what about when you actually arrive? Read tomorrow’s post on how to level up your conference-attending strategy.

Further Reading