I met my three best friends, Paul, Keith, and Adam, at PHP conferences.
Meeting people and making new friends is one of the major benefits of participating in a conference. I would not say that ‘the hallway track’ is the reason to attend a conference, but it is in the top 3.
The friends you make at a conference can:
Help you find an answer to a problem you are facing
Help you locate someone you need to talk to
Be your rubber duck for a problem you are having
Help you find your next job
Before you travel across the street, or around the world to participate in a conference, sit down, make a plan. Look at the speakers who will be there, and follow the conference hashtag on social media to see who has announced they are participating. Make a list of the people that you want to meet.
As you participate in the conference, look for those people. Seek them out, and make new friends.
The friends you make at a conference will last a lot longer than any knowledge you may pick up in a session.
For those of you lucky enough to attend a technical conference, you need to change your mindset.
You need to do away with the word ATTENDEE.
Attendees are passive. They show up, that is all that is expected of them.
If you want to get the most out of the conference then scratch through that word on your badge and write PARTICIPANT.
Participants are part of the conference. If all they do is show up, they have fail.
Participants get involved.
They ask questions during Q&A
They engage with the other participants at the social times
They participate in the socials and engage with other participants
They do all of this even though they are shy, or introverted, or whatever their reason is for not normally being so outgoing. Participants understand that for the conference to be good for everyone, they have to do their part.
Make the most of your next conference by seeing yourself as an integral part of the conference, a participant, not a bystander attendee.
I was sitting on the edge of the pool setting up my gear when a student asked a question about the skill they had just learned. I opened my mouth to answer when the instructor chimed in from a ways away with the answer.
Later he pulled me aside. Apologizing for interrupting, he explained that it’s ok for me to help setup or check gear, but I am NOT QUALIFIED to teach anything. If they have questions I am to point them to him, a certified instructor.
Programmers, have this problem. I know a lot about PHP. I have put in the time and effort, I actually have the certification, I can teach people PHP.
There are a lot of topics though I am not qualified to teach on. I have not put in the time or effort to learn them in a structured environment that ensures I have a thorough understanding of the topic.
I need to be careful who I listen to.
I need to separate what I know well, from what I have an opinion on.
I need to be careful what topics I are willing to teach.
To be a leader, you have to understand that trust is not bi-lateral.
You don’t get trust from someone just because you trusted them. That may be the first step in the process, but it is probably not the only step. You have to show that you are a good steward of their trust. The impetus is on you, the leader, to actively earn the trust.
On the other hand, one of the many ways you can earn the trust of your followers is to trust them. To give someone your trust and let them grow and flourish in their role.
Earn your followers trust by trusting in them; or destroy their trust by making them earn it first.
I took the Brightline yesterday from West Palm Beach to Miami for SunshinePHP. When we arrived at the Miami station, there were employees waiting to get on board to do their job. As we pulled past them, each was smiling and waving at us as the train inched by. It was a wonderful experience.
I learned this when I worked at Disney. Any time a Disney employee is “on stage” – somewhere the general public can see them – they were to be smiling, friendly, and helpful.
Contrast that with support at my local cable conglomerate. They are curt on a good day, and surely on all the rest. I dread having to contact them for any reason because the conversation is never pleasant.
How do you want to be remembered by those you have casual contact with, surely, or smiling?
The world would be a much better place if we all took a cue from Brightline and Disney.
Smile at people that you pass by in life. Greet them warmly, even if you don’t know them. Do this, even if you aren’t feeling it.
Make everyone around you feel like they are at Disney.