The benefits of attending a tech writing conference go way beyond learning about methods and tools. That’s why I really look forward to Writers UA next week!
Most reasons are kinda obvious really. But put them all together, and they create a serious pre-conference buzz, almost like when you follow a band on tour or attend an intense music or theatre workshop. If you’ve never been to a conference, I can assure you all the benefits will make it worth your while. And if you know what it’s like, I invite you to add your own reasons in the comments.
1. Learn about methods and trends
This is the “official”, token reason: Of course, you’ll learn about tech writing methods, tech comm trends and case studies. Look at the conference web site which gives you an idea what to expect. (Here’s my earlier list of links to conferences this year.)
2. Check out new tools and versions
Many conferences double as a trade fair, so you can get a guided tour and a hands-on impression of new tools without installing trial versions and wondering “now what?”.
3. Meet experts (a/k/a make friends)
I’m always amazed at the combined expertise at conferences. And I don’t just mean the speakers. Go down to the hotel registration desk, and you may meet someone whose tweets you’re following. Sit down at the bar, and you may chat with someone who’s been using the content strategy you’re pondering. The chance acquaintance at the dinner table may have been using the tool you’re considering.
4. Connect with the hive mind
Often you can come with a specific question in mind and find ways to answer it. TCUK10 had a rant session that also gave people the opportunity to solicit answers from attendees. WritersUA has a more formalized Q&A opening session: “Let’s Look in the Mirror and See What We See“. Where else can you get instant, free consultation from dozens of experiences tech writers at once?
5. Visit with friends
If it’s your first conference, you’ll enjoy to get to know people better who you’ve just met. Then you can look forward to meeting people again you haven’t seen in a while, but you’ve seen their tweets, blog posts or articles.
Bottom line: Soak up inspiration and motivation
It all boils down to this: A conference can give you inspiration, motivation and confidence that you’re not alone, that you’re doing something professional and totally worthwhile! If that isn’t worth your time (and maybe even some of your money…) 🙂
Practical tip: Share costs and benefits
It’s pretty obvious that your company shares in most of the benefits. So it’s in their interest as well that you attend a conference. If your boss has more understanding than budget, consider if you could split the cost:
- Maybe you can pay (and write off) travel costs?
- Maybe you don’t have to take days off to attend?
[Update 8 March: Bill Albing answers that once-a-year conferences are sooo yesterday in the age of social media. Make sure you also read his Top 5 Reasons to Avoid a Tech Comm Conference.]
Do these benefits work for you? What other benefits can you think of? If you’re freelancing, can you land new contracts at a conference? Please leave a comment.