Thoughts From a RailsConf Virgin

I recently returned from the 2014 RailsConf in Chicago. Since this was my first time attending, I wanted to share my thoughts on the conference. Hopefully, this will help others that have been thinking about attending and wondering "is it worth it?".

Let's just get the TL;DR out of the way. Yes, you should go.

Okay, that was easy. Now, on to the full details.

The Secret Sessions

When you look at the conference schedule, you are not going to see some of the most important sessions at the conference. That's because some of the best discussions and information I received was actually in the hallway between sessions.

That's right, the hallway. Striking up conversations with other attendees was by far one of the most amazing parts of the conference. Not only was I able to delve deeper into a subject that interested me, I also met some amazing people like Sandi Metz, Yahuda Katz, and Charles Lowell. Not to mention all the networking with other devs that were there.

If you are lucky enough to attend the next RailsConf - which will be in Atlanta, Georgia in 2015 - do yourself a favor and make an effort to talk to other attendees. You will not regret it.

What'd He Say?

Since RailsConf is a global conference, be prepared that English is not the first language for some of the presenters. That may seem obvious, but I can't tell you how many people I talked to that were frustrated that they couldn't understand or follow what some of the speakers were saying.

Be patient.

These people took the time to prepare a talk, travel to the conference and then get up on stage in front of potentially hundreds of people. Give them the respect they deserve and don't get pissy if it's hard to follow along. When was the last time you gave a talk in another language?

Description Deception

A pretty common thing that happened to me - and others that I talked to - is that the title or description for a talk didn't necessarily live up to what was delivered. There were quite a few times that I found myself thinking "this is so not what I thought this talk was going to be about".

I had two choices; stay or leave. Most of the time, I would choose to politely excuse myself from the talk and slip into another. There is so much happening that you shouldn't stick around if you aren't getting what you want out of the talk.

With that said, do try and be considerate when leaving. I don't know how many times I saw people walk in front of the stage or let the door slam shut. Don't be that person.

Leave the Laptop

So, this may send waves of fear through most of you, but seriously; lose the laptop. At least while you are in the session anyway.

I saw so many people frantically writing notes, or searching for websites/tools that the speaker had mentioned. You don't need to worry about that. Most - if not all - of the sessions are recorded and posted online after the talk. The slides are typically online as well.

So sit back. Relax. And listen to what the speaker is saying.

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