Tech conferences have real value to sysadmins, something that goes far deeper than the cynical tropes of expensing beer out to the company or a free vacation. The excuse used to sell conference attendance to the brass is that they provide valuable training and a good look at upcoming technologies. The real value is in the …
Choose conferences or events with real techies.
I would recommend being selective - there is nothing worse than going to an event and finding you are going to be slidewared to death by salesgrunts that actually know nothing about the product other than the brochure view. And try and stop senior management going to such events otherwise you will end up having to undo what is often some very good indoctrination pushed by people that know how to press their buttons. Instead, get a list of the presenters and (if possible) booth bunnies and Yahoogle them and/or look them up on LinkedIn - look for the guys that are not presales or tech sales, look for the lab guys and developers. The real techies will tell you how the product ACTUALLY works rather than what the vendor wants you to know, and if you can split them from their minders they often like to talk about their work. Remember, these guys don't get out into the real World often so they love to hear about real implementations and the problems you run into. I once got a fix for an implementation bug from one such techie when our rep was telling me it was not a known problem.
Re: Choose conferences or events with real techies.
Sage advice. On my junket I was lucky to meet with the actual techies. My understanding is that both VMWorld and Build are like this. I wonder which others qualify?
And there was me thinking that SysAdmins went not just for the free beer, but to find proof that there actual real women in the world. And not just real women, but ones in high heels, smart suits and glasses, with long flowing hair and welcoming smiles. Dang, that stuff on the internet is real.
But in all seriousness, and to reiterate the article, social networking will do you a world of good in career and knowledge progression. Don't just limit it to paid for conferences in far away towns - all those tech forums you read every day - suggest those in your town meet for a beer. IT Contractors do it, why shouldn't the Permies?
I only came here 'cos you said FREE BEER
business cards keep the hipsters away
good idea - business cards will keep the hipsters away! shoo hipsters!
You don't really need your own business card
I've found that handing out my business card has mixed success. Busy techies are poor at following up but Sales People ALWAYS call you back (relentelessly). When you hand out your card it's no longer in your control whether that person will call you or not.
The best thing to do is GET the business card of people you want to talk to again. Then it's in your power to follow up (or not).
I learned this from our Sales Team (sigh). Sure, they will hand out their cards like toffee but when there's a real prospect in sight they will definitely ensure they GET that card.
Re: You don't really need your own business card
THIS. SO VERY MUCH.
My employer hosted an industry-specific conference last year, and I got spammed by just about every single vendor that had either been invited, or paid to be part of it. How? they got my info from the folks running the conference. *sigh*
I was at least able to match a few faces with names of the vendors I do interact with, and learned a few very useful tidbits on the side. Sadly, the 'technical' track of that conference didn't really have a whole lot of technical content in it. :(