Are conferences, events, conventions, etc worth the time or money?
I’ve long had the attitude that conferences or conventions held little value for me or most of the attendees. Aside from a networking opportunity or possibly the chance to get on stage, I couldn’t justify the cost to attend. As someone who does user growth at startups, I looked at the money spent on a ticket as hundreds of lost users that could teach me boat loads more than the speakers I was going to listen to, or at least pretend to listen to.
Now I understand that the same is not for everyone, and I’m quite possibly in the minority. People find a lot of value at these things and generally seem to enjoy them. If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be any demand for these things (duh, Alex).
Last week I went to the Game Designers Conference here in SF and it really has changed my thinking on these types of events. First off, I have to give props to the conference organizers. Not only did everything run smoothly and have a great feeling of cohesion, but the content and speakers were pretty great considering there were over 100 different talks the whole week. I had originally balked at the idea of attending for some of the afore-mentioned reasons, and had already kinda expected the whole thing to suck. As the week went on, I felt more and more invigorated. Talking with our team I found that everyone had started feeling the same way. Being surrounded by people who are DOING things, creating things, sharing things is really an inspiration. Being in that type of atmosphere can really be a shot in the arm for ones own career. This conference’s value to me was not necessarily from the talks, the networking, or the demos, it was from the motivation and drive that I got from being in close proximity to so many people that are excited about doing what they love.
So take pessimists like me with a grain of salt when thinking about attending these things. Make sure you are going for the right reasons, and keep yourself open to the inspirations around you. The benefits can often be immeasurable and unquantifiable. For us, it brought new life to our team and our vision and I will definitely return next year (plus it’s pretty sweet to play a bunch of video games for “work”).
PS. Go to the parties if for nothing else than to have fun. We got to go to Mojang’s Skrillex and Diplo concert and it was fuckin’ awesome! Really put a bow on the whole experience (and a hangover).