How to choose which IT conferences to attend

Tech conferences can provide practical insights and invaluable networking opportunities — or be a waste of time. IT pros discuss what they look for from the ideal tech event.

From user symposiums to vendor-neutral events, there’s no shortage of tech conferences to sign up for. Each offers unique upside, whether it’s strategic insights into how another company implemented a new technology or simply an opportunity to grow your network. But with the need to learn almost everything in a fast-paced profession, and the time that conferences take away from pressing work, how do you know which ones are worth attending?

For many IT professionals, the decision starts with money. “If it's too expensive, it's too expensive,” says Joe Devon, founding partner of application developer Diamond. With events like Atlassian Summit charging up to $1,700 for a single registration, this is an easy concern to understand. If your employer pays or if registration is free because the sales department got a booth, the price issue gets easier. But Adam Amrine, lead consultant for developer Adro Solutions, points out, “If I'm paying for it out of pocket, cost is obviously a major factor.” Most employees paying their own way don’t have that couple extra thousand to spare.

Of course, expensive conferences often offer more bang for your buck. Atlassian Summit, for example, provides meals — something smaller events don’t always do. And larger tech conferences frequently include what’s called a bash — a final night performance from a celebrity band du jour. This year’s Adobe Summit, for example, will feature The Killers and SAP Sapphire Now has booked Lady Gaga.

But Eric Gauthier, director of technology and information security officer for HR tech provider Scout, could care less: “A conference’s success comes from the new insights into or solutions to problems I face that I could not otherwise have found, and not by the quality of the food, uniqueness of the entertainment, or the title of the vendor executive I meet.”

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