As our application development team prepares for our annual trip to FileMaker Developer’s Conference (DevCon), an event where we share best practices in the desktop, web and mobile development world, I thought I’d share with you some advice on how to find value in attending conferences.
Attending conferences that focus on your profession, in my case application development, is an atmosphere like no other. Having the ability to network and learn from like-minded people turns into a fast-paced, educational and even fun whirlwind of a few days time. Even if not immediately apparent, the value of attending a conference can be immediate and long lasting.
No matter what role you serve your organization, finding value in attending professional development events is easy to do. Since conferences are usually topic or occupation-focused, anyone can build their skillset by attending. Most conferences will have a wide variety of sessions, catering to the complete novice and the seasoned expert alike. Tradeshows will often host vendors for the tools your organization is already using and might be interested in. Some vendors may offer a special conference discount on their tools. Vendor demos will also help you experience tools firsthand, showing features that may not be shown in their general marketing or online.
Finding the best value will come from finding the best conference to attend. There are many large conferences representing a worldwide attendance. There are also closer, smaller regional conferences that may be just as valuable. So before you sign up, ask your peers, do some research and make sure the event goals speak specifically to you.
Planning your trip will help you get the most out of a conference. Most conferences will have a complete schedule posted well in advance, allowing you to prioritize what sessions you want to be a part of. Don’t forget to plan for social interactions as well. Bring business cards, and more importantly make sure to hand them out. Some conferences are in destination cities, like the FileMaker Development Conference I’m going to in Vegas in July. Word to the wise, hold off on your tourist list for before and after the conference to avoid distractions. Stay up late and meet others around the conference.
Take notes and find out what materials, demos and freebies will be handed out at the conference. Think about how you will be taking notes during sessions. Using a highlighter when writing or highlighting text when typing are great ways to mark key points. If any speaker says, “this is important,” make sure to make a note of that.
Be sure to debrief after the event. Reviewing your time at the conference with your team and with others will help cement the new tips and techniques you learned. Within a few weeks of attending, review your notes and make a list of key points. Continuing to review that list of key points will help you leverage the best of what you learned. Make sure to follow up on any business cards you received, thanking those people for meeting with you during the conference.
When you’re ready to take it to the next level, get more involved with not just attending the conferences you find value in, but helping with them. Most conferences have volunteer opportunities, as well as open slots for industry experts to present. Presenting is a lot of work, but it’s rewarding in its own way.
Sometimes on paper, the cost of attending a conference may not seem worth it, but the networking opportunities and in-depth training you can receive is worth much more than the number you see. Attending your first conference may seem overwhelming, but anyone can make the most out of the investment with good planning.
MIke Beargie will be presenting at FileMaker DevCon on July 21 and July 23. He’ll be sharing Time Tested Tips for FileMaker WebDirect as well as presenting a session on the best Free FileMaker Tools and Resources.