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Thoughts about visiting Conferences

Recently I visited developers in Switzerland and we discussed visiting conferences. Some developers love to go to conferences and others are skeptical whether the cost is worth it. So lets think about reasons why you should go:

1. Get out of your office

Some developers have not much contacts to other developers. They code in their offices or at home. Some have no colleagues to talk with or don't participate in the forums.

So please use the conference as a chance to get out of office and meet others. A little bit travel may make a difference to your normal work week. Meet other people who may have the same problems and give you conceptions to solve them. Get a different point of view on your development workflow.

2. Add extra days

When you decide to visit a conference, please add a few extra days. No need to rush to save a few bucks. Stay at least a day before and after the conference to relax a bit, join any before/after activity with other attendees and enjoy a bit of sight seeing.
Especially when I fly internationally I often need a day to do the work left on the desk while I was in the airplane.

Often it can be much cheaper to fly to another city, enjoy a few more days there and drive to the conference city.
As far as I see my ticket price to Dallas is about half of the cost to flight to Austin. And Frankfurt Dallas would be a direct flight. With the savings on airfare, I can easily pay a few extra hotel nights. And even the accounting will not complain if I show them the cost for short stay (expensive) vs. longer stay (cheaper).
(Last year's Xojo conference was in Austin. But for next year's FileMaker DevCon in Phoenix, I may get a flight to Los Angeles or Denver.)

3. Learn something

At the conference, go and visit a few sessions. The title often doesn't tell whether this will be interesting or not. Don't go to topics where you know most already as that could be a waste of time. If some sessions are recorded, go into the others who aren't. You can watch recordings later. Try to pick sessions with new topics you are not familiar with or at least some which have a different view on something you know. This way you have more things to learn about.

Be sure to visit the keynotes to learn what is new and coming soon. You depend on our development tools and if something is going to change soon, you should know it first hand. And later on the conference ask all the questions you may have.

4. Get contacts

Simple rule: Try to talk to everyone a few minutes. Ask what they do, what they think about the news at the keynote and how they enjoy the conference. It is always good to have contacts to people which may at some day help you. For example in a forum, or as contractor or employee. For self employed developers, it may be good to present yourself and maybe someone will hire you in future.

5. Talk to engineers

Talk to the developers writing your tool. Know who does what in the company, so you can email them directly with problems to get a quick answer.
Tell the engineers what you need, what you like, what you don't like. Telling them what concerns you have could lead to a change in some things. If you have concerns about licensing, platform support, upcoming features or problems they may not be aware of, please tell them.
Also fill bug reports and send them the IDs, so they can keep an eye on the cases and follow up with you.

6. Show problems to experts

If you have a problem, bring an example project to the conference. Show it some engineers and ask for help. Maybe they can run Xojo/FileMaker in debugger itself and see what line in the C code causes the exception you see. The conference visit may be paid if a big problem is solved for you at the conference!
At least you may find a workaround with the engineer and get a fix with the next version.

7. Lobby

Stay at the conference. Don't go shopping in-between. You are here to learn and get contacts. So use the time between sessions or if no interesting session is running to talk to people. Especially use the time to have some private time with a tool vendor in the exhibition area or an engineer. You easily pay $100 per hour at the conference for your trip, so don't waste it.

I highly recommend everyone to visit a conference if they can. If the conference is in a holiday destination, maybe bring family and enjoy a few extra days. If the company pays for your flight, your hotel room and a rental car, it should be no big problem to buy an additional flight ticket and just take your wife to a holiday with low cost for yourself.

See you at the next conferences:
28 09 16 - 23:06