I want this to be the best.
May 24, 2012 4:17 PM   Subscribe

My first conference — help me make it the awesomest ever! My boss & I are going to Eyeo, in Minneapolis, a week from Monday. I've never been to a professional conference before. I am super excited about the subject matter (data visualization, creative code, etc.) I am a somewhat experienced designer and a pretty new coder (though I do have a relevant project up on the web). I know nothing though about how do get the most out of this. Please advise!
posted by dame to Work & Money (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My main advice would be don't stress! Having been at Eyeo last year I can say you will basically always be missing a good talk, so trust your instincts. If you spend a half hour poking around on the sites of the various speakers you will probably be able to tell which presentations will be most essential for you.

Secondly, make friends with your neighbours. The Eyeo audience is as much an attraction as the speakers – loads of really smart cookies that are doing fabulous things, many of whom will be friends/peers after a few sixteen hour days. Thirdly, bring business cards and point people at the cool stuff you are working on.

See you in two weeks. :)
posted by serial_consign at 4:48 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Definitely bring business cards, and if you still don't have them printed, make sure to put your online portfolio/LinkedIn profile link/whatever on there. Make sure to make contact with people via email/text/contact requests within about three days of the end of the conference so they are reminded you exist in a non-stressful, easy-to-add-to-their-contact-list kind of environment.

And drink plenty of water, eat very sensibly, and lay off the alcohol at the evening festivities (whether planned events or casual dinners out.) Conferences wipe out the energy of even the healthiest participants. If you're shy or haven't been to any big networking type events, brush up on your basic etiquette so you'll be confident and competent.

And read this, it's funny.
posted by SMPA at 4:54 PM on May 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

You will get the most out of it by talking to people! I mean, the talks will give you lots of inspiration and all, but making connections with other cool people is where the real benefit lies.

Make sure you go to the mixer parties and actually mix - be bold, introduce yourself to strangers. There will be lots of people standing by themselves not sure who to talk to, we're all shy in these situations, and just a little tiny bit of courage is all you need to start a conversation. ("Hi! I'm Dame. Were you at the Such and Such session? Wasn't it fantastic?") This also works in the sessions themselves - introduce yourself to your seat mates.

Otherwise: Eat a hearty breakfast. Nap if you need it. Don't drink too much. Don't worry about what you're missing (but also, don't be afraid to bail if a talk isn't panning out well). Enjoy yourself!
posted by agentmitten at 5:01 PM on May 24, 2012

Tips for you.
posted by brainwane at 5:35 PM on May 24, 2012

I'm going to Eyeo. Say hi when we're there!

Bring work of your own. Have something you've done you can quickly show people, either on a phone/laptop screen or a piece of paper. When you meet people they're going to ask what you do. Prepare a little soundbite about your work and a visual to accompany it. (Don't overpractice it, but organize your thoughts.) The schedule has an "attendee show & tell" on the schedule every day; not sure how that works, but maybe you and your boss can present to a group. There's also an Ignite session on Tuesday night, not sure if that's open.

Do your research ahead of time. Check the speakers and think who you want to get to know better. Look at the schedule and make notes on a few talks you absolutely want to hear. If you really want to prepare, visit websites for the speakers and learn about their work ahead of time.

Decide what your goal is for going to the conference. Do you want to learn some specific technology like processing.js? Be inspired by cool visualizations? Make friends? Network to find a new job? Have a few days' vacation? Take detailed notes to report back home? Those are all things people do at conferences. If you decide ahead of time what your goals are, great.

Personally I find the talks themselves the least interesting part of a conference. I much prefer the social stuff, the casual conversations in the hallways and in the evenings, the demos, the impromptu hacks.
posted by Nelson at 7:38 AM on May 25, 2012

Oh crap! I'm going to Eyeo too and was going to ask my own question. I hope it's not rude to piggy back, but reading these answers is actually starting to make me nervous. I've been taking on more responsibilities regarding designing and whatnot where I work and I've done some minor projects (but nothing complex coding wise, or all that artistic design wise, definitely not anything I think is Eyeo showing off material). I knew going in that I'm kind of bunny slopes level when compared to the average Eyeo attendee, but I was mostly excited about listening to speakers and talking to and meeting other attendees to hear what they had to say about what they are doing and what's out there in the world since how else do you get better at something without looking at how the best are doing it?

However, after reading this Askme, now I'm worried that without anything to show, or not being at a certain level of skill I'm going to be like the sad kid sitting alone at lunch in the cafeteria unable to join in the cool kids' conversations. Is this trip going to be a total waste for a total noob?
posted by kkokkodalk at 8:11 AM on May 25, 2012

You will not be sitting alone, kkokkodalk — I promise we can hang out and I'll tell you some secret designer words. And thanks everyone!
posted by dame at 10:15 AM on May 25, 2012

Maybe we should have a MeFite dinner one of the nights?
posted by dame at 10:17 AM on May 25, 2012

Ok, posted.
posted by dame at 10:31 AM on May 25, 2012

kkokkodalk, I fear my comments prompted your worries. Don't mind me! The primary purpose of the conference is teaching people like you and me and dame. As an attendee you're under no obligation to show anything!

But for any conference, I think it is worth an attendee's time to think a little bit about what they want to say about themselves to the people they meet. A simple explanation of why someone is at the conference and what they're interested in learning about goes a long way to starting an interesting conversation.
posted by Nelson at 10:45 AM on May 25, 2012

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