I’ve been to three web industry conferences now, #TIDE in Scarborough, SmashingConf in Oxford and The Meat Conference in Aberdeen. Next up for me is The Web Is in Cardiff at the end of October. There’s still some tickets available for The Web Is, see you there?
They can be expensive but for what you get from them I really believe it’s worth it. If you work for a company, quite a few places offer a conference budget for you to use. Perhaps if your place doesn’t you can discuss it at your next review!
There’s something about being in a room with hundreds of likeminded people, listening to others talking about their experiences and what’s worked for them that’s inspiring. The conferences usually have a few organised meet-ups outside of the conference itself, a great way to sit down and chat about what you’ve been working on and bounce some ideas.
Some conferences have a theme, for example The Meat Conference in Aberdeen was great for getting inspiration for working on a side project. Whilst some other conferences cover a broad range of topics, like SmashingConf. Look around to see what might suit you and your work.
If you’ve been feeling like you’re stuck in a bit of a rut, it’s a great place to remind yourself why you do what you do. I found that when I got back to work after a conference I was really pumped, ready to turn things up a notch after levelling up.
Before I attended my first conference I was a bit skeptical about how much I would actually learn given I read a fair amount and listen to podcasts. Turned out I was wrong. I found that it doesn’t just depend on the speakers, but on how much time you take to chat—to anyone. Each time I made sure I attended the pre/during/after meet-ups, listening out on Twitter for where people were off to. More often than not I went without knowing anyone, but it turns out most people are pretty normal and like to chat!
I’ve met some great people at these conferences, some of which I keep in active contact with on a personal level as well as a professional level. You’re surrounded by people like you, and you’d be hard-pushed to come away not making new contacts. It helps to research a bit before the conference. Look at the attendee list if there is one, where people are from, who they work for, what speakers you would like to chat to. Write down some topics and questions down to ask them, find them, and chat over a beer, coffee or dinner. Make the most of it, and keep in touch afterwords too.
You get a good deal of overview from Blogs, Twitter and suchlike but talking with others about design trends, upcoming technology, what people do to stay motivated, their workflow, all helps to stay on top of your game.
Visiting New Places
Who doesn’t like to visit somewhere new? Sure there’ll be some conferences in places you’ve already been to but I think it’s a nice excuse to travel and see different things. For The Web Is in Cardiff, I’m staying around a day or two after the conference to look around as it’ll be my first time in Wales. Whilst at Aberdeen for The Meat Conference I wandered around taking some photos.
Things to Remember
- Do your research. Check out what conferences would best suit you and your work. They are expensive when you factor in travel and hotels so you probably won’t be attending loads. Try to pick the best ones.
- Twitter. Keep an eye on the hashtags used at the conference to find out about meet-ups and for others who may be travelling alone and looking for some dinner arrangements.
- Take a pen and paper. Some people type away on laptops but I think it’s pretty distracting for others. Key thing is to take actionable notes for later.
- Follow up. If you met some people at the conference you really got on with, drop them a line a few weeks or so after your home and touch base. See how they are doing or if they actioned anything you chatted about.