You know my friends, I've been hearing from some folks that the idea of technical events that people actually go to is well past its best before date.
I confess I've been disenchanted by some events from time to time, but I still believe that there's real value in these things. Allow me a few thoughts on why that is. I'll share some of the comments I've heard and then provide my perspective and since I'm the guy behind the keyboard I get to do that.
One view is that the Internet changes everything, including the value of going to this kind of event. I have to disagree. Certainly some vendors do excellent Web sites with lots of information and if your whole goal was to collect brochures, the Web is clearly a better choice. But maybe you'll notice that some Web sites are nearly unnavigable and it's easier to use a search engine than to navigate the site directly. What happens when you have questions about a product or service? Too often I find that this is true, and the Web site is ineffective at getting me what I need so I get to spend hours searching tips and forums trying to find a simple answer. Being at a show gives an opportunity to speak to vendor or partner representatives and get useful answers without having to wade through a ton of dreck.
Some people think that learning on your own time using tools that run in your browser are ideal. Not awful, but gets boring really fast. Events often have classes, tutorials and other presentations where you can actually learn something new. And since you're there, you get to pay attention instead of trying to do fifty seven other things while watching a webcast. When you have a question, you ask it. And a real person answers you. Then something very cool often happens. Someone else adds to your question, or offers a different perspective or takes the conversation in a new direction. I've been a public speaker for over thirty years and I promise you that the most fun for me is when the audience stops being listeners and become engagers. Think about your own experiences and I think you'll agree that the interactivity makes live attendance much more powerful than some simplex remote talking head.
I've read that social interaction is highly overrated. Events often have places where attendees get together to eat, have a beverage or get some needed work done. When you look up from the laptop or the smartphone, you might actually have a conversation with someone you've never met. It's called socializing and we humans for the most part seem to enjoy the whole thing. Often there are places where attendees go after hours to unwind. More social time. A good idea I think. Looking at FaceBook, Twitter and the entire social network space confirms that we enjoy interacting with others, and doing so live is pretty darn good.
When you attend a technical event, you get to meet people with similar or different interests, learn from others, share your knowledge, expand your personal network, have some fun, enjoy some time away from the desk or cube and when you come back, you bring knowledge, new skills and new perspectives to help you do your job better and make a difference to your place of work. Sounds like a win-win to me.
I'm doing five sessions at BrainShare this month, March 21 – 25 in Salt Lake City, Utah. I look forward to seeing you there. Come find me and say hi.
And if you won't be in SLC, you'll be missed. Until next time, peace.