The week before last I had the opportunity to attend the VSLive NY conference in Brooklyn. I’ve never been particularly conference-oriented – I’m always asked rather than asking to attend – mostly out of anxiety from the travel or being thrown into a large crowd of people I don’t know. VSLive NY was a very positive experience for me. It was a local conference, which is one of the most important reasons I moved to NYC in the first place, and it was the first time I attended a conference with an eye toward architectural concepts. VSLive really delivered.
I had a blast at this conference! I was initially concerned many of the sessions might be too introductory but it gave me an opportunity to listen to audience questions about the material and really get a feel for how information is absorbed. I took the opportunity to see how I could be a better presenter myself. Though I haven’t needed to do large presentations like those at a conference, I do have to do internal trainings. In fact I have to do a series of presentations on the things I picked up from VSLive!
What really shifted my point of view happened during the VSLive After Dark event. After the developer duel (NY 2012 Winning Team!) and remaining prize drawings there was some wind down time with a gentleman speaking about his many years at conferences. One thing he said that really surprised me was a side comment about VSLive being his favorite conference. He said other conferences were stuffed with people who lived for code but this conference was filled with people who could have fun. I admit I was a little offended! I turned to a presenter sitting next to me and said it was a bit insulting. He said I needed to understand the crowd at VSLive is essentially 9 to 5 programmers. Once this sank in I shifted my expectations and looked for other learning opportunities at the conference.
From that moment on, I took the conference a little less seriously and things really clicked. I was much more comfortable joining discussions, listening to audience questions and chiming in when presenters were approached after their sessions and peppered with questions. I made a few connections but more importantly I grew my confidence and practiced my socialization skills! Maybe the vamping presenter was right – maybe those who live for code could use some practice relaxing our obsessions!
VSLive was definitely a positive experience. Not only were many of the sessions a chance to take a look at stuff I don’t work with on a daily basis but it opened my eyes to the extra value a conference offers beyond the material itself. I can honestly say this conference was such a great learning experience for me in so many ways. I’m going to be keeping an eye out for more conferences in the future and I hope to see some familiar faces!