The Top Three Benefits of Attending IT Conferences and Conventions
Every industry, once it reaches a certain size, inevitably ends up inspiring one or more industry conferences aimed at its working professionals. The information technology industry is no different. Actually, IT has spawned a larger calendar of events than many other industries — an evolution of the nature of the computing technology world itself, a world that grew out of computer geeks gathering together in garages and campus labs to show each other handwritten code or hand-cobbled circuit boards.
Techies typically like to share information, and are open to learning from peers and colleagues. This personality trait accounts for the enthusiasm found at technology-based conferences and expositions. These events give techies an open invitation to let their geek flags fly, and lets them interact with people who have the same passion for technology and the possibilities it allows.
That said, getting to an IT conference that isn't in your hometown or somewhere nearby is generally not an easy or even pleasant affair. Nobody likes the modern "guilty until proven innocent" airport experience, and "economy class" is currently synonymous with "livestock pen with noise-cancelling headphones." Mobile phone roaming charges are calculated in blood diamonds, and hotel wi-fi seems to have been invented by Samuel Morse.
The potential benefits gained from attending IT conferences and conventions, however, are often worth the travel ordeal. Here are the top three benefits of attending these events.
Every person you meet at an IT conference, whether they are an attendee or a presenter, is a contact who can potentially help you achieve a goal sometime in the future. This is known as developing a professional network, and it is not as sleazy an activity as some people make it out to be.
An effective professional network is made up of people who do what you do, or are connected to your career path in some way. At an IT industry event, these people are everywhere you look: sitting next to you at presentations, manning product booths at tech expos, and discussing questions you bring up at subject matter expert workshops.
Professional networking can be as simple as a quick impromptu conversation and the exchange of personal business cards, but there are lots of different strategies for networking. If you need help coming up with some proven networking ideas, then do a web search for "professional networking" and you'll discover several sites dedicated to this topic.
IT industry conferences usually offer tons of information in a short period of time — the phrase "drinking from the fire hose" is commonly heard at these events. Your IT conference attendance fee potentially gets you access to all sorts of presentations, workshops, product demos, classes and hands-on labs.
IT event attendees also usually receive an impressive bundle of takeaway literature, including free training books and industry white papers. Thankfully, these handouts are now commonly distributed as digital content copied onto inexpensive flash drives. The hard copy equivalent would likely put your suitcase over the airline's weight allowance limit.
Some IT events even offer attendees the opportunity to take free or heavily-discounted certification exams from the event's primary sponsor.
This third benefit is a little more "touchy-feely" than the first two, but is by no means irrelevant. IT industry professionals often find themselves isolated within their organizations. The IT department is commonly walled off (figuratively, one would hope, and not literally) from other departments. In smaller companies, IT pros may not even have a peer or two who they can share professional interests with.
IT industry events give technology professionals the opportunity to be among members of their vocational tribe. It gives these attendees an environment in which their common knowledge and enthusiasm is not just accepted, but is catered to with loads of themed content.
IT Conference Suggestions
There are boatloads of IT conferences and events to choose from. Here are some suggestions for events taking place in 2015 that may be of interest to you:
Interop Las Vegas
Las Vegas, Nev. — April 27-May 1
Interop is a very large technology conference and expo that attracts participants from across the tech spectrum, including information technology professionals. Interop is loaded with sessions on numerous industry tracks, including information security, virtualization, cloud computing, storage, and IT infrastructure.
Chicago, Ill. — May 4-8
This year's Ignite event has some great featured speakers, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and EVP Peggy Johnson, head of Microsoft Business Development. Even better, all registered attendees can take any Microsoft certification exam at half of the regular price during the event.
Gartner Security & Risk Management
National Harbor, Md. — June 8-11
This IT/IS security event is packed with keynote sessions, industry-specific forums, and how-to workshops, and even gives attendees the opportunity to have a 30-minute one-on-one session with a Gartner analyst.
Chicago, Ill. — Aug. 4-5
CompTIA offers large-scale events throughout the year, but this one has the biggest tent and probably embraces the widest cross-section of IT. If you're a business theory wonk, then you don't need us to explain the IT marketing channel. If you aren't, them CompTIA would probably love to have you at this event.
Austin, Texas — Sept. 23-25
There's no relation to the long-gone-but-not-forgotten Spice Girls movie of the same name. Rather, SpiceWorld is the annual gathering sponsored by SpiceWorks, a major professional network for IT workers. You can meet and mingle with techies from all walks of IT.
San Francisco, Calif. — Oct. 25-29
OpenWorld is Oracle's flagship annual event. To help you maximize personal enjoyment of your business travel, Oracle even recommends "mini-vacations," excursions to points of interest in and around San Francisco. You know, just to help ensure that you don't spend your entire OpenWorld in a hotel ballroom.