January 29, 2019
Recently I was sharing my excitement at attending the upcoming NSNorth conference in Montreal, and possibly Release Notes in Mexico (right?!) and this led to a pretty good question. As a developer trying to justify the expense of going to these events, how many should you go to and how do you pick which ones to attend?
A few assumptions. First, if someone else is paying your conference and travel costs, try to go to as many as you can. This post is not about why conferences are rewarding and fun. Let's assume they are, and that the limiting constraint is money and time (roughly equivalent to money for an indie). So, how many per year?
Rather than contriving a cost-benefit analysis for any particular conference, or conferences in general, I'll suggest a try-it-and-see approach and say that if you have never been to a developer conference you should make it a personal goal to attend your first this year. Just one. Just to see.
If you have attended conferences in the past, enjoyed yourself tremendously and still, like me, twitch a little when you see your credit card bill when you get home, my suggestion is: one a year. Put aside the question of which one, take a deep breath, and commit to attending one conference every year. You probably already realize that it's good for you personally, good for your business, and good for your future prospects. It's fun, it's eye-opening. Go to one a year. Unless you really can't afford it, and then obviously put it aside until you can.
So you're going to a conference this year, but which one? Here's my rule of thumb: go to a conference at which you can imagine yourself speaking someday. If you have the opportunity and interest in speaking right now then go ahead and submit a proposal. But even if you're not ready to take the stage just yet, I suggest you pick a conference where someday you might. That's a great way to think about what conference is likely to hold the most value to you professionally, and where you might meet people with similar interests and values.
And don't wait too long before trying your hand at public speaking: it's absolutely the most fun way to experience a conference.