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My nice employer allowed me to visit a software conference in June (International PHP Conference, for those who care).

Wanting to make the most of it, I would ask the more experienced conference goers in here to give me some tips on what I could do to maximize my learning experience on the conference, and to reduce beginner mistakes.

Sorry that this question is a little ambiguous, but I think it's best to keep it a little bit more open, so I can get a wide range of Ideas, and it will be of more use to further people seeking for an answer.

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closed as off topic by Oded, S.Robins, gnat, maple_shaft Apr 6 '12 at 13:16

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Off topic, as this has nothing about it that is software specific. Your question applies to any kind of conference. –  Oded Apr 6 '12 at 13:11
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@Oded Really, there is nothing different about software conferences than any other conferences? What about the temptation to carry your laptop everywhere and try to code all the samples real time? What about how to take useful notes on a demo? How is this not a, "freelancing [or] business concern"? –  Joshua Drake Apr 6 '12 at 13:22
    
Find out which ones are videotaped and request access to those when the conference is over, and go to others untaped in that slot. –  user1249 Apr 6 '12 at 14:08
    
@Oded well, I never have been to any other conference before, so how should I know wether or not they do differ? –  Paul Weber Apr 6 '12 at 17:53
    
@ThorbjørnRavnAndersen this seems like a nice tip, thank you! –  Paul Weber Apr 6 '12 at 17:55
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted
  1. Review the schedule before you go.
  2. Choose two sessions for each time slot. Some will get cancelled, some moved, some full, some you'll decide that the speaker was terrible last time, some you'll just want to hear them speak again, but you'll need options.
  3. Take notes, however you would normally. I prefer a notepad and pen, but make sure you use the method you are most comfortable with. Many of these will be useless later, or at least my own notes often are, but I find I retain more and can get the gestalt, which I find the most useful.
  4. If possible have a buddy system. Each of you take a track relevant to your position, or employer, or where the industry or your particular use of the technology is likely to be headed.
  5. Talk to other attendees. I've made both interesting social and business contacts this way, in addition to the added perspective and tips on what/who to go see, especially as many sessions are offered at multiple times.
  6. Use what you've learned. Practice those IDE shortcuts, write up that sample application, read the mentioned reference documentation, and do it all at the end of the day, back in your room.

[Edit]

 7. (or 8. see @Ozz comment.) Give a presentation of the highlights to your team when you return. A summation of where the technology is heading and what your company might be able to use in that future helps you recall what you learned, spreads the wealth a little bit, and reminds your boss why he, or she, paid for it.

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My 6 is different from yours. "6. Enjoy every evening eating and drinking at your companies expense and seeing a bit of the host city" .... was generally what I have done when going to conferences. –  Ozz Apr 6 '12 at 14:08
    
Possibly should have added that as an alternative 6 or a final number 7. –  Joshua Drake Apr 6 '12 at 14:10
    
Sadly the question has been closed so fast. Thanks for the helpful answer! –  Paul Weber Apr 6 '12 at 17:57
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