There are a number of events out there targeted towards web designers. You will come across everything from small meetups to large corporate blowouts. Each of these opportunities has something unique to offer.
Personally, I tend to prefer WordCamps over other types of events. The laid-back atmosphere and very reasonable cost attract a diverse group of both users and developers. I find it to be a fun experience. And who couldn’t use a free t-shirt or two?
But regardless of the event you want to attend, you should have some basic criteria for making the right choice. Events don’t always live up to their billing. So, it’s wise to temper any dreams of life-changing moments.
Still, the right conference can benefit you both professionally and personally. With that in mind, here are some things to consider before you buy that ticket.
Opportunities to Learn
Education should be one of the main selling points for attending a conference. Therefore, it’s important to look over the list of speakers and the subject of their presentations. Find things that interest you, even if you don’t know a whole lot about them.
Don’t be afraid of subjects that may be over your head. You can still pick up some useful tidbits of information during a talk. That knowledge can actually be a great way to spark further curiosity. This could encourage you to take the next step in the learning process.
Presentations can be especially worthwhile if they are interactive. For example, a talk that makes time for a question and answer session expands on the topic being discussed. Sometimes, you end up learning more from a follow-up question than you do from the more formal parts of the talk.
Lastly, if there are multiple presentations you want to attend, make sure you can fit as many as possible into your schedule. Bigger conferences tend to have multiple, concurrent sessions. If everything that interests you is happening at the same time, you’ll have to make some tough decisions.
Costs and Travel
Determining your own idea of a “fair cost” for a conference is more than just looking at a number. It’s also a matter of comparing the price to what you believe you’ll gain from the experience.
For instance, if you’re looking for employment, you may be more likely to spend extra to attend an event that will have lots of potential employers on site. Or, the possibility of learning a new money-making skill could also be worth a premium.
On the other hand, an expensive event that seems like a glorified sales pitch could be worth avoiding. There will always be salespeople, but commerce alone shouldn’t be the main focus.
Some conferences, like the aforementioned WordCamp, are incredibly affordable. In that way, cost really isn’t much of a factor – unless a lot of travel is involved.
Speaking of travel, it is often a matter of convenience. How far are you willing to go to attend a conference? Will you have to miss any work time? The costs of getting (and potentially staying) there should also be a factor in your decision.
Maybe “networking” isn’t the right word. Depending on your personality, just the mere mention of it can make you cringe. But it is something to think about with regards to a design conference.
Ideally, you’ll do best at an event where at least some of the attendees come from similar work disciplines. That way, you can talk shop with others who’ve had similar experiences.
However, there is also a benefit in being around people with a mix of specialties and experience levels. It often makes for more interesting conversation. And there is an opportunity to learn about the challenges that others face. It can be eye-opening.
If you’re a front-end designer, starting up a conversation with a developer can be a real learning experience. Finding out, for example, what techniques developers use could positively affect your design work – and vice-versa.
Overall, think about the target audience for the event and how it lines up with your interests. The crowd is often just as important as the presentations.
Web designers often spend long hours toiling away at their desks (not to mention those after-hours emails). Therefore, a conference provides us with a chance to relax and have a little fun.
Learning skills and meeting people are core parts of the experience. But it works best in an atmosphere that is light and casual. The last thing you want is to end up in a place that makes everything feel like work.
If you look around, you’ll find that there are plenty of design-related conferences to choose from. Here’s hoping that the one you choose turns out to be both fun and educational.