A beginner's guide to attending tech conferences

Ever since I walked past the George R. Moscone Convention Center in downtown San Francisco, I have been dreaming about being part of a conference which is held there. My big moment came with this years SIGNAL - Twilio’s annual customer and developer conference. I had received a scholarship to attend the event.

As a first time attendee, I navigated through this overwhelming tech gala and somehow, could figure out how to make use of the opportunity. For those of you who are new to tech conferences, here are a few tips which I found useful and the ones which I wish I had known:

Choose your tracks carefully

There will be lots of events in a conference on a wide range of topics and different levels of technical depth. Instead of cramming your brain with intense technical talks, sandwiching lighter topics like soft skill improvement, in between, is a good strategy. Panel discussions by Women in Technology wing of SIGNAL was a bunch of useful and relaxing events I chose to attend in between tech talks.

Network in moderation

If Networking is the lifeboat of job seekers, Conferences are the deck where the lifeboats are stacked. But please do not forget that these people who we desperately want to talk to, are also here to learn, network and grow their respective careers. Respect people’s space and make sure that you are not interrupting somebody’s conversation.

Do not oversell your resume

Trying to oversell your resume is a total No-No. Marketing your skills is an absolute necessity. But that is not an alibi to take the entire time of your conversation to brag about you when you can actually learn useful lessons from the industry experts. They might even let you know if they are hiring and offer a referral.

Other things to remember

  • Make sure to follow up with your new connections through LinkedIn, Twitter or just email them.

  • Dear college kids, please do not think that every conversation happening inside a conference hall is networking. People may be just having a good time.

  • Don’t be shy to grab all those swag. Swag is there because the companies want you to have them!

  • If you need to de-stress yourself for sometime, do not hesitate to take a seat in a silent corner and meditate, listen to music or try doodling.

Checkout this skyline doodle I tried in my recess time at SIGNAL. Isn’t it cute?

  • Make sure to share your experience with the world through your tweets, LinkedIn posts and blogs (like this one).

And finally, relax and enjoy the conference. Even the slightly dramatic keynote addresses by CEOs in Steve Job-ish ‘I wear the same everyday’ attire, is fun to watch. You are at the Red Carpet of the tech world. Just enjoy the show folks!