June 4, 2005 spout

Realistic Conference Expectations

I was chatting today with a friend that complained that he didn’t get any deep technical knowledge from a conference talk. I said that he had unreasonable expectations; the most he could expect from a good conference was the following:

  • Networking opportunities (hard for geeks; often works via friend-of-a-friend in bars and restaurants, but only if you have at least one friend and s/he has at least two)
  • Info triggers,” i.e. if you attend a 90 minute talk on MSMQ and you’re having or are about to have a problem that MSMQ solves well, the talk should a) let you know that MSMQ provides a good solution and b) where to go for more info
  • Entertainment (and that’s only the good conferences)

In general, every talk should be structured like so:

  • Name the thing
  • What’s the thing good for
  • A demo of the major use(s) of the thing
  • Here’s where to go for more info
  • Any questions?
  • Please remember to tip your waitress

That’s why I really love the idea of groktalks. If you attend 3 groktalks instead of 1 regular talk, the chances of you finding an info trigger are 3x, while still keeping your networking and entertainment chances even.