I recently was nominated to attend the NDCsydney conference which is one of the biggest and most popular events in IT.

During the conference I had a chat with a friend discussing the fact that "should companies really send the employees to the conferences while they have access to all the videos and materials online after the conference??"

Trying to find the answer of this question helped me a lot to leverage the conference much more than last year. In this article I will discuss  :

  1. While you have all videos online, why still companies should send the employees to the conferences?
  2. who really should attend the conference from the company?

While you have all videos online, why still companies should send the employees to the conferences?

There are at least two main approaches how the companies decide to train their people.  Either sending them in person to the conference or providing them with 2,3 days off and give them access to the  videos of the very same conference.

In terms of learning and education, one might say, employees even can benefit more since they can pause the videos and discuss the topics in the team and getting hands on to practice while they are learning.

In a more forward thinking manner, I would say definitely attending the conferences will give the company much more benefits. Here are my reasons:

First Fact: Introducing your company as a great place to work

As a developer, I will be attracted to know the companies whose employees attend in the conferences.

While I was in the NDC conference, in all my conversations people asked me where I came from? and I mentioned the name of my comapny "Challenger Limited" tons of times.

In this situation when you hear the name of the company who sponsors their people, you will hear these things:
Challenger company care about their people, in Challenger company education has priority, Challenger company is a place you can improve your knowledge. Finally Challenger company is a good place to work!

Simply it is a way to increase the attraction and improve the recruitment process for a company just by using the word of mouth.

Second fact: Personal Branding leads to Company Branding

All the big companies care a lot about Personal Branding. Well known peoplemake great people attract to the comapny.
Most of professionals in IT know Martin Fowler as a great author, designer and speaker. He has a great personal branding for sure. However, once you open his profile, the company he works for highly catches your eyes! ThoughtWorks.

If ThoughtWorks did not have any meanings to you before, from now on it will because you would think "wow Martin Fowler works for ThoughtWorks. So it should be a great place"!

martin-fowler

So as a company you need to value how people build their personal branding since it has a direct impression on the company brand too.

Third Fact: Increase the level of knowledge in your company

Once people attend the conferences and talk to likeminded people and speakers, they will find senarios and issues as you would have in the company. So it helps to learn what approaches other people used to solve the issue. What was the mistakes and successes to learn?
Sometimes, whole these discussions and new knowledge help your people come up with new ideas and new use cases to leverage the technologies and solve the complexity of issues at the company. This degree of learning never would be achieved by only watching videos since it needs discussions and questions.

It is a great opportunity for the companies to train their people and transform them to creative, knowledgeable people and vice versa.

Forth Fact: Bring the knowledge and network back to your comapny

To me, main reason for attending the conferences is Networking.
Sending the right people to the conference who would love communication and connections helps them to expad their network.

As an attendee, networking is not only helps me finding great friends in the community but also helps your company to share those networks. How?

I give you an example to make it more clear. I run BrownBag sessions (training over lunch) in my company every week on a certain day at lunch time.

Last time when I went to NDC, I made a few new connections while I made my old connections stronger.
During the conversations if people show any interest, I invited them to our brownbags at Challenger company. Almost all of them accepted my invitation and our brownbags has been covered for more than 8 weeks which was amazing.

So literally my comapny benefit my networks that I made over conferences. No doubt that this experience can be potentially appear in differet forms of connections other than BrownBag.

ANother form of bringing back the knowledge to the company is just sharing your knowledge by writing the articles, summaries or giving lightening talks on what you have learned from the speakers and also people you talked to.

Fifth Fact: Avoid any cultural shock of Digital Transformation

One of the risks which always threats people in IT is the cultural shock or technology shock!
If your people in the company are way far from new technologies and methodologies, then they are always in the risk of staying far behind the modern tools and technologies which means it is so costly and inconvenient to speed them up and train them.

Here is the stage that you would see many redundancy happen in the companies and you would lose great loyal employees with lack of skills and knowledge.

So by sending people to the conferences, they will realize what knowledge they lack for. Then they are aware enough to get themselves up-to-dated with the recent technologies and patterns. Hopefully the company would not embrace this risk of losing people.
Plus, by helping your people learning new skills, they always feel highly motivated and confident which makes the work better place to live in.

Are you one of people who can add values to your company by attending the conferences?

Now this is a time for a very honest question. who do you think should be nominated to attend the conferences? Are you eligible? Find the answer by going through the questions below.

1- Are you going to just attend the tech talks and jump to the next room without communicating with people?

2- Are you looking down on your mobile while you are waiting in the hall for the next session?

3- Are you going to discuss different issues and talk with new people to learn from their mistakes and successes?

4- Are you paying 100% of your attention while you attend a talk or just falling asleep during the talk?

5- Do you try  to share your knowledge when you come back to the company or keep your knowledge with you forever?

6- Are you going to build a good personal branding and impress people by introducing your company to the world?

7- Are you caring about the company who paid for you and sent you by contributing to the conference properly?

These are the questions that company and yourself should ask before nominating people for the conferences or deciding on the method of training you would like to pick!    

How to pick the proper session at multi-stream conferences?

Talk to people and ask their opinions about the topic and the speaker.

Another great experience of mine this year at NDC was the variety of talks I attended.

Last year I only attended technical talks and felt a bit overwhelmed by tech talks! Whilst this year I attended  different talks including soft skills, work skills, designs, leadership and even fun talks which gave me a good balance. Also in non-tech talks you have more opportunity to connect to people and ask deep questions to learn various skills and explore their point of views.

Final Tips...

The last not the least are some tips I experienced personally as below:

Please connect with people and come out of your comfort zone. Nothing bad will happen. Join people and simply introduce yourself and ask if they enjoyed the conference so far.

Go to the pre and after parties of the conferences. It felt a bit uncomfortable before you join the parties but once you do it , you will find it quite fun and interesting.

You will meet more people in the casual environment and you will find network and friends which are even beyond the network.