7 tips to make the most of Dev Conferences
We’re a team of developers. We do our best to stay current on technologies, and to keep on trying new frameworks, technologies and OS features.
Worth the investment?
Initially, we were quite reluctant to go to developer conferences (e.g. Google I/O, Apple WWDC or Droidcons).
We thought it would be sufficient to watch videos of these conferences.
And the budget necessary to buy (quite expensive) tickets and stay several days in another country (e.g. SF, NYC, or London) would be overkill vis-a-vis what we could learn.
Basically, we thought it was not a good investment.
Well… we were (very) wrong
From 2015, we had the opportunity to go to the Apple WWDC and Google I/O in California, the AppDays in Paris, FrenchKit, and Droidcons in Paris and Turin (Italy). So we decided to test “developer conferences”, and see that as an experiment.
Most of the time, it was not the conferences themselves that were very productive (anyway, most conferences are shared on Youtube).
Actually, it was everything you could learn and share with the community attending these events.
We’ve started to analyze how we could make the most of these events. And here it is.
Each time we went to such a conference, it was always intense. Learning and sharing, from 7AM to 11PM. It’s really a good investment for your company, but it must be well prepared.
You have to go to such events with all questions and problems you’re struggling with (e.g. technical problems, UX questions, marketing/store problems …). You’ve got to ask your team members everything they have in mind that could be fixed/improved.
This is your main to-do list for the event, with the objective to have most of these problems fixed or questions answered at the end of the conference.
Based on our experience, here are 7 tips to make the most of the developer conferences:
1. PREPARE — As I told you above, prepare a todo-list of all questions/problems your teams are facing. And also list the persons you want to meet during the event. Try to connect with them ahead of time to book a slot during the event (e.g. via Linkedin or the App of the event).
2. Have your apps ready (and stable) for a quick demo. Ok, it’s obvious, uh? Well… one day, by chance, I bumped into someone important for oneSafe in San Francisco. I had only oneSafe in alpha version on my iPhone (not yet tested): it took 2min of “optimizations” right after the login… 120 seconds of happiness, as you can imagine. You don’t want that. Seriously. (note: this meeting went well, but it could have been a total disaster if it was crashing after these 2min…).
3. Have a 15-second “pitch / demo” of your Apps, if you want feedback on the concept, user interface or experience of your app. The guy you will pitch is going to hear 100 pitches a day like yours, so make it attractive and concise. And prepare accurate questions to avoid the awkward “Ok, so… how can I help you?”.
4. Prepare some ice breakers, e.g. on your badge or clothes. It helps meeting with more people. Here is a photo of our “We do APPS in the ALPS” business cards. You can’t imagine the number of persons who came to us with a “Your tagline is soo cooool”, or American folks with a “I loooovee France and the Alps” ;) (congrats Rosbeef! for this awesome tagline).
5. Have juice for 24 hours. Charge your smartphones/smartwatches/computer, and also your battery packs… Why? You finally meet with THE guy you wanted to chat with, and it’s 9PM, after a full day using your smartphone. Here, your battery pack will be a life saver.
6. Make sure you have your projects available at your fingertips (e.g. in Xcode or Android Studio), so that you can be super reactive when necessary.
7. Plan your trip: first, get some rest before the event (you can’t be tired the evenings, it’s the slot you want to be up-to-speed to network :) !). Second, each time we arrived 1 or 2 days before an event, it was great to start networking (and most of the time, the flight was cheaper…).
The Apple WWDC last year is a good example. At that time, we had nasty bugs on some of our Apps.
We could talk to Apple engineers, the folks at Apple behind the technologies we use every day. They spent time with us, literally debugging in Xcode with us. How cool is that? But it was more than that:
We met with one of the Apple “UX guru”, the App Store review team, and the Legal team. We fixed pending items with these teams in 30 minutes or so — faster than phone calls or emails. That would have taken days or weeks with a standard process. Face-to-face was super efficient.
We also had the opportunity to share and learn from other experts coming from all over the world, while drinking a beer or eating a burger in the Moscone Center area :)
We met with developers from Europe, USA, Asia… with a deep knowledge on many topics - a lot to share.
The return on investment was very positive.
Spending time from 7AM to 11PM during 2, 3 or 5 days, you will definitely have a lot of unexpected encounters and opportunities, if you’re open enough to share your knowledge and expertise on different topics.
Maybe not short-term, but I can guarantee you that each time we went to such a conference, few days, weeks or even months later, you have an unexpected consequence of having attended and shared at these events.
For those of you who were wondering if it was worth spending time and money to attend such “developers” events, I hope you’re now motivated to try ;)
And for those of you who already attend such conferences on a regular basis, I would love to know your tips to make the most of these conferences!
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