Confessions of a Conference Attendee

Laurie on November 18, 2019

I finished my 2019 conference slate late last week. All told, these were my numbers. Laurie ... [Read Full]
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So true about the swag! I realized how insane I was about it when I traveled for a conference for the first time (using only a carry-on) and realized how much of what I got I didn't want! Stickers and pens are much easier to travel with than...literally anything else. πŸ˜‚


I just got back from my first conference (reinvent) and they had swag donation boxes scattered about, including in the hotels, which was brilliant. All that swag people changed their mind about or ran out of room for, was donated. :)


It's pleasing to see that vendors are moving towards less swag that's just going to end up in landfill - either by having things that are really actually useful or just saying 'we're donating to a charity instead - come talk to us because you want to, not because you want free stuff'.

I think being intentional about everything - whether it's attending sessions, meeting/networking (I really enjoy that and sometimes regret not making enough time to meet people), or just calling it early and realising that I need a break... is the best way to really enjoy a conference! So great advice!

I also try to make notes the day of an event vs trying to remember what happened a week later.. hahahaha. All the sessions blur into one...


Sounds like you get a lot more use out of conferences than I ever did. Ultimately, unless I'm presenting, I avoid them &ndash especially larger ones or ones that don't offer small seesions – like the plague. I get too frustrated when I can't ask questions or, if questions are never usefully answered. A lot less frustrating reading good documentation.


I think it really depends what job you do, what your conference goals are, and what the conference is. As a learning only tool it may not be effective for you!


I'm a deep in the weeds kind of person, even when things are notionally brand-new to me. Basically, if a presentation trips the "this seems like <thing_im_already_familiar_with>" circuit, I immediately want to know "how is <new_thing> different when dealing with <rabbit-hole_thing>". When I'm reading something, if such an event is triggered, gratification is generally a quick Google search away. If I'm at a presentation, the combination of having to wait to ask a question – which, if I even get the chance to ask – invariably results in receiving the "why do you have three heads" look.

Patience has never been a strong-suit, for me, particularly when it comes to learning.


This is from the early 2000s. At that time XML was the rage and there were so many conferences in San Francisco Bay area where one of the topic would inevitably be about XML and SOAP and what have you. It was as if you had to have XML as part of your solution otherwise you were not really doing it right!

I attended 2 of them and realized that most folks who do not really have anything to do with the actual work of implementing XML in their organisation were organizing these conference :) Most of it was all hot air and vapor ware.

In those days, so many conferences were just hot air and nothing of substance as such in terms of presentation and subject matter expertise.

Haven't been to one after that till date. Maybe things have changed.


Socks are the best swag by far. I always get conference socks when available.

I rarely go to conference lunches just because it's always the same generic sandwich wrap. If I'm traveling, I try to find somewhere really interested to go have lunch instead. Last conference I went to, I skipped the conference lunch and got pulled pork BBQ instead!

BBQ, okra, hush puppies, and other artery cloggers.


Great post. These are some good tips. I really like how you point out to go into the vendor area aware of the time you will spend there. I think approach of doing things intentionally is a great idea and probably would help someone’s entire conference experience. Being specific about what one wants to get out of conference and thinking about it before hand is a great way to make sure the time and effort is worth it. Thanks!


'I attend talks on topics I don't know'
Definitely something I didn't realize I should be doing.


I saw your tweet but didn't realise you were on DEV, too! Followed!

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