Writing About a Developer Conference: Tips and Lessons Learned

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Writing About a Developer Conference: Tips and Lessons Learned

This article presents some thoughts from one of the DZone editors about what he has learned from his experiences covering and writing from conferences.

· Writers' Zone ·
Free Resource

Conferences are one of the primary ways that developers learn and interact with other developers and industry professionals to learn about trends and topics in software development. Millions of software professionals attend conferences every year to network with and hear presentations with thought-leaders in their fields.

But if you're reading this, you knew all this already. 

Not only do you know this already, you've probably experienced the 8 AM chaos of the registration of a multi-day conference, and the crowding in the rooms of a highly-anticipated talk. I have, too. So what I'm here to explain today is not about conferences; it's about the content that you produce from them, and some things I wish I knew when it was tasked to me to do so.

Produce Your Passion

After researching the scheduled events for a conference, you'll probably see a handful that align closely with topics that you are either very familiar with or interested in but would like to know more about. And in much the same way that the best conferences are the ones that you are passionate about, the best content is, ultimately, content that you enjoy producing the most. Whether that is an article, video, or interview with participants at the conference, feel free to produce the content type that is most appropriate to you. 

What's the Point?

Since conferences provide a great space for developers to get a glimpse of some of the newest and most groundbreaking ideas in their field. In addition, many talks and presentations will go in-depth into more familiar topics, introducing alternative or extending concepts in technology or processes. Now, since each talk at a conference can range in length from thirty minutes to multiple hours, you'll get thrown a lot of information, and it can feel a little overwhelming tucking away in a corner on-site or settling in after the conference to recount what you've just absorbed. 

So here's a secret that I learned when I was taking so many notes that I wasn't even absorbing the presentation: your audience will be less concerned about reading about every word you heard than what the main points are and how you can apply them. Here are two other tips on this subject:

  • Check with the presenter: If there is something in one of the presentations that you think you might have missed, be sure to reach out to the presenter. Most are more than happy to fill you in, if not offer you a copy of the entire presentation.
  • Bring a camera: I haven't been to a presentation or conference yet that discouraged me from recording the talks, and I've often found that it was a great way to get any of the little details that I might have missed while still being able to pay attention.

Make Friends and Use the Ones You Have

Two of the best realizations that I gained in both my work with developers and meeting developers in conferences is that no one expects you to know everything, and devs love to share. Their thoughts, opinions, experiences — everything is fair game. And that includes writing. Collaborative writing has been one of the most beneficial ways of writing that I've come away with when it comes to writing from conferences. Whether that means directly collaborating with others at the conference, or writing analyses or interviews based on speaking with other conference attendees, this is a good way to clarify your thoughts, get some fresh perspective on a topic, and share some of the workload of producing content. 

Some Advice for Virtual Conferences

This article is being written during the COVID-19 pandemic, and much of the knowledge about navigating traditional, in-person conferences no longer applies. Many conferences have been canceled altogether, and those that remain are being repurposed as virtual conferences, which can require some adjustments. Here are some things to remember about covering virtual conferences:

  • Record if you can: As the alternative to bringing a camera, see whether the software that you're using lets you record the sessions. It'll be pretty useful to have if you miss something, and if there isn't a record capability built-in, you can always screen record from your own computer.
  • Make use of the chatbox: Most virtual conferences will include a chatbox that allows participants to ask questions and interact without disrupting the presentations. This is a great space to speak not only to the presenter, but to the other attendees to get opinions and quick perspectives.
  • Prioritize your schedule: Virtual conferences move as quickly, if not more quickly, than in-person conferences, and break-out sessions can be held in other virtual rooms. Ensure that you know where you're going and when ahead of time so you can navigate effectively.
  • Take a break: Virtual work, in general, can be more difficult to step away from; you're presumably more comfortable, you're alone, and you're probably in an environment with fewer distractions. Still, make sure that you are monitoring yourself. If your conference includes breaks, take them and step away from the computer. If it doesn't or you need more time, do that, too. 

Most of All, Have Fun!

To my point earlier, it can get pretty easy to get so swept up in the need to mentally and physically record and make note of everything that you'd like to write about that you forget to participate in the actual conference. At the end of the day, that is the main goal of going to a conference, and I've found that no matter how many notes you do or don't take, you'll always have something to take away from a conference that you're engaged in. And when it does come time to write the article, conduct the interview, or record the video, you'll find that producing content based on an engaging conference experience will be almost as rewarding as having participating in it.

conferences, developer writing, tips and tricks

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