So, why do I love conferences so much?
Well, there are many aspects, but a lot of it boils down to two simple reasons:
- Expanding horizons
Expanding horizons: When working on projects on a daily basis, one tend to get bogged down on the problems there, and loose the greater overview. Going to conferences not only expands your knowledge, but also gives you new mental tools and frameworks to approach problems.
Heck, some times, the talks make you realize that you have been looking at the wrong problems all along.
Conferences are also great sources for inspiration towards improving yourself. E.g. at last years GOTO, Kevlin Henney gave a keynote talk on Cool Code which fired up just about everybody who listened to it (a video of a less energic version of the talk, which he gave at GeeCON can be seen here).
And of course, conferences help you keep track of tendencies and cool new technologies.
Networking: I am a quite social person (to put it mildly), and at conferences I get the chance to meet a lot of interesting people. The speakers are of course interesting to talk to, but the other participants are also frequently very interesting - the sort of people who wants to go to conferences are often opinionated and have interesting thoughts on many subjects.
So, if you go to conferences, remember to participate in the social events. Also, try to strike up a conversation with strangers, and see where that takes you. You'll often be positively surprised.