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The importance of meet ups and conferences

Mention the word meet up or conference and many will say, “Great place to catch up with people, listen to some good talks and a bit of socialising at the end.” Others will say, “Just another event where the egos can go spin their yarns whilst people pretend to like each other and get drunk.”

Or words to that effect.

So what do I think?

I think it’s important to get this out of the way now.

I’m split on conferences and meet ups. Simply down to the fact that other people either make it good or bad.

I’ve not been to a meet up or conference where the event has been poor, it was mainly the people who attended or spoke that made it so. I’ve always got something out of it, whether it be some great knowledge or idea that I’ve used myself or learning that the guy on Twitter who looks all happy and friendly is actually a massive rude tool. More on him later.

I’ve been to about 4 conferences now I think and about 6 or 7 meet ups. Mainly on my own skill set except for a couple where I knew nothing about the topic, I just went along with friends. I’ve listened to a lot of very good speakers, some excellent designers and developers. I’ve also listened to a lot of waffle, ego building and so on. Simply put, you are going to get that as well.

That said, spend 30 minutes in many agencies and you’ll get the same.

So why do I go?

At first, I went because I needed to find contacts to get work. I’d made contact with a load of people on social networking and through that was able to meet them at a conference. It’s always weird when you meet someone off Twitter say for the first time. You feel like you know them but you don’t really know them. Quite bizarre. That said, the socialising factor is great at these kind of events. Although it’s not always the case.

Conferences and meet ups can be quite cliquey. This is natural. People who know people will always talk in groups. That’s life I’m afraid. Some will force their way in, some won’t. Some will be ok with it, some won’t. Some won’t even talk to you when you are sat at the same table having lunch with them.

But enough about him 🙂

It’s not all about the social

Far from it, I went to a conference last year that really inspired me. I didn’t hear anything revolutionary or whatever. It just showed I was thinking the same way as the people seen as driving this industry forward. It gave me confidence that I was doing it right.
I’ll be honest, most talks will be boring. Some will stand out as really good and some just good enough to keep you interested. Again, it all comes down to the person I guess. I’ve seen some great speakers and some poor ones but can I remember their talks? Not many of them.

Take from it what you want

My advice is certainly go to conferences or meet ups. You’ll make friends, you’ll have a laugh, you may get inspired. But you’ll also meet tools, get bored once in a while and wish you had a WiFi signal to tweet instead.

That’s the beauty of a room full of people.

Dan Davies

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