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I've been programming for a while now, and have been thinking that I really should go to a conference. I think I will be able to get a lot out of the networking opportunities, but also would love to see new ideas/technologies and other things that might fuel ideas for my work. Since conferences cost a lot, I really want to make sure I find one that can provide value to me personally and to my employer.

I know there have been questions on identifying conference listing sites even ones to identify good conferences. But the crux of my question comes to what makes a particular conference "good"? How would you take the list of all available conferences and filter it down to those that would be a good fit for you personally? What factors do you consider about yourself and your personal situation and how does that drive what features do you look for in a conference? In the other direction as well, if you've stumbled across a conference that may be interesting, what do you look for to know if it would be a good fit? Conversely what red flags do you look out for to make sure you don't attend an unsuitable conference?

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Few factors that i would consider,

  • Cost : Try to segregate the list in terms of cost.
  • Competition : If the conference would include participants from competing companies in the same domain.This is definitely good place to attend to check them out.
  • Nature : If this was more of an expo /demo it be relevant to include people from the marketing team.If it was more of a developer conference and includes stuff like post mortems and such it would be worthwile for junior developers to attend. If it was more of a whitepaper or research based conference it would be better include people from R&D and the more experienced/senior developers.
  • Company Undertakings Present and Future : Is the conference of some relevance in gaining understanding or more insight into present or future goals/activities of the company.Like a new product/domain/application that you are looking to develop.
  • Duration This would be to evaluate the quality of the conference and your own cost/time ratio.
  • company policy or outlook : Do the top brass have an open view in regards to sending their employees on potential Poaching Grounds . It works both ways mind you i.e sometimes you can even get good people for your company.
  • ROI : You should be able to specify how you attending the conference is going to help improve their product,process,system ,etc. In short you should not be at a lack of words to explain enough the potential benefits of attending the said conference in terms of money.
  • Cost/your salary ratio: Depending on where you live It might be relevant to look that the cost of the conference does not way insanely more in terms of the salary you get.

Red Flags you say?

  • As developer i have personally stayed away from conferences that are mainly for marketing or showing off product etc. As such information can be gathered online etc.i.e No real gains.
  • Present company situation. is it permissible.
  • Conferences that are notorious for being poaching grounds.
  • When i cant quantify solidly the financial benefit the company stands to gain by attending it.
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Great answer, but I'm not sure what you mean by poaching grounds. You mean notorious for recruitment? –  Tim Post Apr 9 '11 at 15:28
    
Yes (extra characters) –  Aditya P Apr 9 '11 at 15:33
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