Over the past few years I’ve been focusing on my professional development (PD). I left a company where I was gaining nothing but stress, to a great company that actively promotes PD. They provide every employee with their own PD budget, they sponsor events, and some of their employees speak and organize conferences.
However, most conferences have one flaw. They focus on exposing people to new technologies, but most sessions stop there. Exposing me to something new is wonderful, it’s great… “but maybe” we can do better. I recently attended a conference in Las Vegas, it had an all star line up of speakers. But sessions were quite short, and the technical talks were so introductory that they were basically useless. They equated to ten minutes of tutorials on the web. If you had never seen or heard of the topic, they at least exposed you to it and gave you a new search term to learn more, but they were incapable of going further.
There was a lot of Twitter praise for the conference…but having been there, I know a large portion of the people there were novices or senior people who no longer actively develop and thus, were effectively novices. The few of us who are actively developing were underwhelmed and dissapointed, and while our company sent 6 people to this conference, I don’t see any planning to attend the next one.
I did however find a lot of value in the full day workshop before the conference. It was able to deliver an intermediate level of complexity. You learned a bit about what could and couldn’t be done with the tech. And had enough information to make a preliminary decision about using the tech in upcoming projects without a bunch more self learning.
I think conferences need longer sessions, and to try and provide more value to intermediate and expert skilled attendees. I have been talking with an organizer of an upcoming local conference. And the plan is longer sessions, more workshops, more value to the non-novice. That’s not to say intro level sessions won’t exist. They will, and they are needed, but they will happen prior to any advanced talks, and the session notes will point out the correlation between the talks. That attendance to the advanced talk should be proceeded by the intro if you have no prior exposure, etc.
Hopefully things go well for the organizer of this conference, as I’m excited for the new format. I’ve always found this conference worth attending, but one of the goals of it has been keeping it low cost. Had I spent the same money I did to travel across the continent, I don’t know that I would have felt the same way.
I’m hoping to find conferences that can truly provide some educational value beyond exposure. Maybe I’m just asking for too much.