Anuvrat Parashar

Conferences and Meetups

Every year more and more technical conferences and meetup groups are sprouting up all across India. The format for most of them includes a few workshops, talks and developer sprints. While attending the formal sessions is the primary objective, spending all the time inside the halls is counter productive. Here is a brief heavily opinionated guide on the DO’s and DONT’s at a meetup / conference.

Meet and interact with strangers, avoid loitering with friends

One of the primary objectives of such gatherings is to expose your mental model of the world to diverse opinions. If you spend most of the conference time with the same bunch of people you work / go to school with you are going to think the same thoughts.

Don’t attend all the talks

Your brain can handle only so much content shoved down its throat. Attend a few talks that you really find interesting so that you can give it all your focussed attention. Properly listening to one talk and retaining most of it untily after the conference is much better than attending 10 and barely being able to recall their titles.

Don’t be afraid of going to the conference / meetup even if you are a n00b

Statements like, “What will I do there, I don’t even know <X>” are quite common amongst newbies. Remember, everyone starts somewhere. A high degree of familarity with the components of the ecosystem is required to accomplish anything with any programming language / tool, not much can be done with only syntactical knowledge. In order to achive that, one has to get out of their comfort-zone, and subject themselves, every once in a while to things they know nothing about.

Don’t miss the Hallway track.

The most interesting discussions are usually happening in the hallway, outside the auditoriums and seminar halls. Many a times, one learns a lot just by listening in to such conversations.

Hunt for mentors, collaborators and opportunities

A gathering of humans with a common interest is the best hunting ground to find like minded people who would be interested in collaborating with you, either in your open source project or in your team at your day job. As a corollary, it is also the best place to look for opportunities.

Asking question after a talk.

Lanuching into a discussion on the pretext of asking a question is generally frowned upon. Frame your question in your mind before you take hold of the mic, and keep it short. Acceptable: “Hi, I am XY ZW. What in your opinion is the right way to do a randomly werid thing with <the topic of the talk technology>?”. Unacceptable: “Hello, I am XY ZW. My 3 minute work history. My 3 minute experience rant about the topic of your talk. My problem with your view point. My question that does not even sound like a question.” If it is a discussion, please take it up with the speaker in the hallway track, not during the question answer round.

Be Polite.

This is of utmost importance. Even if you disagree, do so politely. Maintain the decorum of the place. Especially if you are experienced / have been around the block / are in the organizing team, rudeness is not permitted.

Starting a conversation with a stranger at the meetup.

Start with a hello, proceed with small talk. A technical meetup is no different than a bus stand when it comes to starting a conversation. Feel free to ask them:

  • what their interest is
  • what they work on
  • where do they work
  • how is the culture of the place of their work.
  • which talks they have attended / plan to attend.
  • what other conferences they attend.
  • what books they like to read
  • how the learned the skills that they have.

Find common ground and built on it.

Do not create ruckus during the talk, feel free to walk out.

Unlike the famous coersive attendance policies of Indian universities, staying out of a talk will not cause any loss. If you feel that your time will be better utilized elsewhere, feel free to walk out as quitely as possible, without disturbing others.

Date: 2018-08-30 Thu 00:00

Author: Anuvrat Parashar

Created: 2020-03-22 Sun 01:33

Emacs (Org mode 8.0.3)