As I type this, I'm currently on a break from attending the Brighton Digital Marketing Festival here in sunny Brighton. On Monday I was fortunate enough to attend the surprisingly fantastic Update Conference, and the Friday before that I attended the annual (and highly acclaimed) dConstruct2011.
As if that wasn't enough, tomorrow I'm attending (or at least partially) the BrightonSEO conference, and next week I'm attending Carsonified's Future of Mobile conference up in London. Busy, busy, busy, as in between that I actually have client work - imagine that! So why am I bothering if, as a freelancer, I have to pay to attend and lose a potential day's work?
Conferences represent not only a good place to network and meet new (and old) peers, they're also a unique opportunity for personal growth and career development. Rarely are they a random assortment of random people talking about random things. Instead they're carefully curated to deliver a well-rounded and often thematic experience, with speakers selected based on their influential thinking, their prominence, or just for talking about what's 'next'.
The conferences I've attended in the past (eConsultancy's 'Future of Digital Marketing', as one example) have always been chosen specifically because they offered insight into ideas and concepts that I couldn't normally access, be it in my then full-time job or more recently as a freelancer. The option to just listen and learn is what makes conferences so attractive (for me, at least).
So, this time round and like the conferences themselves, I've curated my conference schedule carefully, picking and choosing the content that I can directly (or indirectly) apply to my current, future or personal work.
As the always inspirational and sometimes abstract dConstruct helps to plant ideas for the future, the more mobile-based Update and Future of Mobile conferences are directly inline with my own foray into the mobile space, combined with a strong love for responsive design and evolution into mobile email design. The marketing conferences - staying true to my roots - keep me tuned in to what's up and coming in that space, so I know how best to offer my clients more solutions beyond design & dev. Ultimately, rather than a mish-mash of random conferences to simply waste a day at, I've chosen this selection specifically to enhance my existing knowledge and learn new things from industry experts.
Attending conferences is ultimately a personal preference. From both a financial and content point of view they're not for everyone, but if you manage to pick and choose the ones that will help you grow, you'll find the true value, for both you and your clients.
PS If you're lucky enough to be based in (or near) Brighton, I urge you to check out the fantastic lineup of the Brighton Digital Festival. There's something for everyone, and of course it was designed and built by yours truly.