DEV Community

Nick Spinazze
Nick Spinazze

Posted on

12 Tips to Maximize Your Experience at a Tech Conference

If you're anything like me and have fairly strong introvert tendencies bundled with some form of social anxiety, a tech conference can seem like an extremely daunting task. That being said, you can learn an incredible amount and get actual face time with industry leaders and even legends. If you want to take the plunge here are twelve tips that have helped me maximize learning, networking, and communicating at tech conferences.

  1. Start socializing early. Creating meaningful connections and even friendships generally take multiple points of contact so it's a good idea to start early on it. Like anything else, I find this gets easier with practice so just rip the band-aid off and dive right in.

  2. Try and meet every speaker and follow up after the event with a LinkedIn request or email. They are often way nicer than you would expect and happy to answer questions.

  3. ASK QUESTIONS, of speakers, of organizers, everyone. This may seem obvious, but I've often seen people spend 95% of the time at the conference trying to plug themselves, their product, their brand, etc. This is not a great way to make a positive impression on people in my opinion and you're missing out on learning opportunities.

    • I've found a really useful technique is to write down questions while you're listening to a talk and then track down the speaker at some other point in the conference and get their thoughts.
    • Not immediately before or after their presentation. Before they are trying to prepare for the speech and are probably a little tense. Immediately after, they need a minute to decompress, plus there is often a crowd.
    • Try and make sure the questions are interesting. Dig deeper with "why" questions. Ask nuanced technical questions or predictive questions such as "What do you see as the future of [insert tech buzzword]?".
  4. Get your hands dirty when being introduced to a new piece of technology. Pull the repo, play the API, dive into the documentation. I found this can really help you think of pretty interesting questions as well.

  5. Be useful. Think more about how you can help others than how they can help you. I can't stress this enough. I feel like a lot of people go to a conference with a "transactional mindset", which I don't feel is productive and not at all conducive to building meaningful relationships.

    • Open source projects are incredibly important to the tech ecosystem and they are often just passion projects for people. If you find someone that has an interesting, useful project offer to help and then follow through.
    • Help out the organizers get set up and pack up. There is an incredible amount of thought and effort that goes into orchestrating these events. Try and show some appreciation by lending a hand however you can.
    • Be a force multiplier for positive change...I think this is just good life advice in general.
  6. Disseminate information. With your coworkers obviously, but go beyond that. Not everyone has the resources/ability to get to the conference. So post on social media or write a blog post. Invite speakers on podcasts, this is a fantastic way to get some time with tech rockstars.

  7. Focused notetaking. Don't try and write down every single tidbit of information during talks especially the heavy technical ones. Talks are often videoed and slides posted so focus on few keys points and thinking of interesting questions.

    • A great way of improving my own mastery on various subjects is to keep a list of terms I didn't fully understand during the talk, google them after and fill in the blanks.
  8. Have fun. Buy drinks or dinner for speakers afterward. A lot of these individuals aren't paid and sometimes even have to cover their travel expenses, so express some gratitude. This also goes a long way toward building meaningful relationships.

  9. Be selective about the conferences you go to. I find smaller ones are actually better a lot of the time. Much easier to get facetime with speakers/thought leaders and it's easier to make deeper connections.

  10. Facilitate connections between others. Go out of your way to introduce people that you think might be useful to each other. Make an effort to ensure everyone is included in the conversation.

  11. Define your goals in advance. Have a checklist.

    • "I want to meet X number of people, learn about this topic, ask this speaker this question"
    • If you're going with a team, define roles in advance, but even if you are your team's "scribe" try and make some new connections.
  12. Write down everyone's names immediately after you meet them and a few facts about them. Then after the conference is over, use this list to craft thoughtful follow-up messages with everyone you met.

Top comments (3)

murrayvarey profile image

Great post!

Facilitate connections between others -- this is fantastic advice for any walk of life. There's something extremely rewarding about matchmaking, professional or otherwise. (Also, people never forget the person who got them together!)

nspinazz89 profile image
Nick Spinazze

Totally agree with that! I think this is a great way to create more diversity in tech as well.

murrayvarey profile image

Yup! It doesn't always come naturally, so can take some conscious effort. Always worth it though.