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Conferences – Yes, no or maybe

Determining whether or not to attend a conference can be tricky. Photo by Kounosu on Wikipedia Commons

Determining whether or not to attend a conference can be tricky.
Photo by Kounosu on Wikipedia Commons

Oh, conferences. You are a surefire way to get out of the office for a day (or more) in order to eat mediocre at best mass-produced finger food while trying to impress everyone around you even though they are all speaking in their own jargon that they don’t even understand.

Oh, conferences. You can cost a fortune and give me zero value in return or you don’t have to cost that much and I make a connection that’ll change my life.

Oh, conferences. How will I ever know which one to attend?

Hi. I’m Josh, your friendly neighborhood video editor here to open up and give you my thoughts on the answer. I’ve been to my fair share of conferences, both in industry and out of industry. I’ve been to enough to know the factors that should determine if you should attend that conference. Let’s jump into them!

Yes, you must attend.

There are two factors that can invoke an automatic “yes, you must attend” response.

First, is your company paying for it? If that is a yes, there really isn’t much of a reason not to go. Any chance you get to build your skills and network while someone else pays for it, you better go.

The second factor is if you will absolutely have a chance to speak to someone that you really really really want to meet. Let me stress really.

That was Richard Harrington for me years ago. My first employer had these ancient After Effects training DVDs that Richard Harrington was the host for. I was able to learn the basics from the DVDs and found a ton of other training from him online. He’s actually local to where I live and was doing a couple sessions at a small conference downtown so I convinced my company to pay for me to go. I attended his sessions and was able to meet him too. He started following me on Twitter recently so that’s pretty exciting for me now.

This past year I was able to meet Garrett Oliver, the brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery. The event cost hundreds of dollars of my own money but I ponied it up and went anyway. Garrett and I did not exchange phone numbers or have a deep conversation or anything, but I was able to get his ear for 30 seconds to be a total fanboy. It was worth every penny and I can’t wait to go to this event/conference again next year.

Garrett Oliver and I at SAVOR

Garrett Oliver and I at SAVOR. That smile is pure happiness.

The next person on my list to meet at a conference is Chris Potter from ScreenLight (a service I cannot recommend enough for any editor). Hopefully 2015 will put us in the same city for an event.

No, do not attend.

There are three factors that trigger an automatic “no, do not attend” response.

Is it out of your budget? If you cannot afford it, do not go. The money you spend on this conference could be better spent with a yearlong subscription to Lynda.com.

Can you spend your time in a better way? Better way is very vague. Let me try to explain. Would taking an old classmate, co-worker, professor or someone in your extended network out to lunch and reconnecting or getting to know them be a better way to spend your time? Who knows… Maybe they will help you land your next gig. What is for sure though is that you forged or reforged a relationship. And that is something that you cannot guarantee will happen at a conference.

What's the next conference you're attending? Photo courtesy of Pixabay

What’s the next conference you’re attending?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The last automatic no might not be for everyone but it is for me. Is it a big pain to attend? I’m speaking logistically. Does your wife have to go into work late to drop you at the metro and you have to lug your laptop on your back through the city, navigating streets you’ve never been down all while really having to pee and there isn’t a Starbucks in sight? If that’s the case then count me out. I don’t want to have a stressful morning when I’m going to be trying to make great first impressions and learn all day. No thank you.

Maybe you should attend.

We’ve already gone over some automatic factors that will determine whether or not you should go. But if you’re still on the fence, make sure two out of the next three questions are yesses if you are going to go.

Will you learn something new? My number one goal for attending a conference is to learn something new. That could be in software, in post production workflow or something entirely different.

Are you determined to make one solid new contact? Networking comes second to learning for me. If the conference sessions are a joke then I have to be set on making a new contact. That isn’t just swapping business cards. I must get an, “I’m going to email you X tomorrow and we’ll talk about Y.”

How big is the shrimp? Yes, the shrimp. I don’t remember if it was an old professor or old co-worker who explained this to me back in the day but you can usually determine the value of the conference based on the size of the shrimp served at the main event that evening. If they are the 51/60 shrimp then they probably aren’t getting the crowd you want to be around. If they are the 16/20 shrimp then you probably want to attend.

Again, make sure two out of the three questions above are yesses if you are still deciding whether or not to go. What good is big shrimp if you aren’t going to learn anything or connect with anyone? Then you are just spending $300 for shrimp. Go to Bonefish instead.

What determines whether you attend a conference?

Should you attend that next conference? Go if you can go for free. Go if you are going to meet someone you’ve been dying to meet. Don’t go if you can’t afford it. Don’t go if you can spend your time in a better way. Don’t go if it’s a pain for you to get to. Maybe go if you will learn something. Maybe go if you are determined to make a new contact. Maybe go if the shrimp are big enough.

What do you use to determine whether or not to attend a conference? Share in the comments below!

One more thing – I want to know about who you are and how I can help you edit video faster. What experience level are you? What software do you use? What do you need help with? Use this link to leave me a short note through my contact page.

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Thanks for sharing this post, your thoughts on it and who you are. I’ll see you on Friday with a new tutorial!