Too often, people think of conferences as boondoggles. As a frequent conference speaker, I can tell you that it’s possible you’d encounter a marketing presentation devoid of technical content at a conference–once. I doubt that speaker would be allowed to return.
As a result, conferences are a great place to start learning about new things, and they’re a great place to network with other people interested in learning.I can’t possibly list all the conferences here. But I will list the conferences I tend to speak at on a yearly basis, where I think the networking is good.
- SQE hosts the Better Software, and STAR conferences. Better Software is for the whole gamut of software development. There’s something for managers, project managers, developers, testers, release engineers. (I don’t think there’s much for product managers.) STAR conferences are focused on testing and management of testing.
- Software Development hosts the SD conferences. These conferences are for the whole gamut of software: managers of many stripes including project managers, developers, testers, release engineers. (Again, I’m not sure about product managers.)
- AYE conference is about developing interpersonal skills, and is for anyone. It’s limited to 99 people, but we have reports that a number of the people who’ve met at AYE have networked with each other to find jobs.
- Many local chapters of ASQ, PMI, IEEE, ACM also hold one-day conferences, aside from their national conferences. Most of them charge a nominal fee for a booth. I find the local one-day conferences a great way to network.
If you read a magazine or belong to a technical society, chances are good that magazine or society is affiliated with or puts on a conference. I particularly like local conferences, because it’s more likely the delegates are local.To use conferences for networking, consider all these alternatives:
- Make up flyers with your open positions/ads/whatever will attract people. Include a URL to the full job description. Post a flyer on the message board. Include ways to contact you.
- Take advantage of each session and any networking opportunities to talk to people. You don’t have to “sell” your company; you just need to let people know you’re looking. Keep your introduction low-key; let other people help sell you.
- If you take a booth at a conference, bring plenty of flyers so people can take one (and maybe pass it along). Be willing to talk to anyone who stops by. Practice your job fair skills before the conference.
- If you have a booth, make sure you make the decision early enough to be part of the program.
- Give a talk. Your talk about something you/your group has done at work is a huge attractor to potential candidates.
If you use other techniques, please comment. But don’t discount conferences. Conferences can be a great way to source candidates.