10 Reasons to Attend Technology Conferences

Last year I attended and spoke at over twenty (20) conferences that covered a wide range of topics from Artificial Intelligence to Agile & DevOps to Data Science.  I spoke on a wide range of digital transformation topics and had the opportunity to meet many interesting IT leaders and event sponsors.

There are lots of reasons to attend technology events so let me suggest some and how to get the most out of them -

  1. Open your mind to fresh thoughts and new ideas - IT leaders in the office are like deer in the headlights on an eight lane freeway. Tweet: IT leaders in the office are like deer in the headlights on an eight lane freeway. Getting out of the office a bit helps - @NYIke #CIO Getting out of the office a bit helps many IT leaders to clear their minds and see the forest from the trees.

  2. Networking with peers, potential hires, or new opportunities - Since you are all seeing and participating in the same agenda it's easy to meet and start conversations with new people. But make sure to follow up beyond just doing a LinkedIn connection in order to form lasting relationships.

  3. Identify new partners - Conferences are an efficient way to learn about new companies and products and see their capabilities in action. More importantly, you can discuss your business needs with them (and sometimes their customers if they are attending the conference) to gauge whether it's worth following up.

  4. Recognize that your not alone with your challenges and get help - Whenever I speak at conferences or moderate a panel, I'm always looking around the room at people's facial expressions for that look that says, "Damn, I have the same problem." Many of those people come speak to me afterward to discuss and often learn that they are not unique with these challenges. Some just look to vent, others find comfort that they are challenges are not unique, but many use the opportunity to solicit new ways to cope, improve, or solve their challenges.  

  5. See emerging technology in action - We all know that the media loves championing stories around emerging technology... And we also know that the path to leverage new tech is full of speed bumps, wrong turns and false starts. "There's no better place to hear and see new technology in action than at a tech conference whether its being demoed by a sponsor or being talked about at a session." Tweet: no better place to hear and see new technology in action than at a tech conference whether its being demoed by a sponsor or being talked about at a session. - @NYIke #CIO Even better is when you network with early adopters and can follow up with them after the show.

  6. Why just attend? Speak, or join a panel! - Even before authoring Driving Digital and starting StarCIO I was a frequent speaker and panelist at conferences. It gives you an opportunity to organize your learnings and generalize them to a large audience. It helps polish up your presentation and storytelling skills which are all critical for IT leaders today. It also makes it easier to meet new people when they approach you after the session with questions.

  7. Pick an analyst's brain - We love challenging, thought provoking questions. We also attend to share what we know so seeking analysts at conferences is a great way to get quick (and cheap) answers to your questions. 

  8. Brainstorm and innovate! - Don't just listen to the content being presented! Absorb it, ponder it, and let it help you generate some new ideas. You just may come up with that great next big startup idea when listening and learning.

  9. Share on social media and with your colleagues - In addition to meeting people attending the conference, posting what you learn on your social networking feeds is a great way to meet others sitting on the other side of the room and others not able to attend. Some of the best people I have "met" at conferences came through twitter dialogs. In addition, I always tell my staff to monitor my feeds to see what I'm learning in real time and then I would formally share key takeaways when I returned to the office. 

  10. Have some fun - Life is hard. Work is hard. Conference organizers know this and they all create opportunities to have some fun whether it's happy hours before meals, after hours in the tavern, other entertainment and especially poker nights.

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