My first ever professional conference (ignoring BarCamps) was last year’s ZendCon. I showed up in Santa Clara not knowing anyone except for a few brief appearances on #phpc (freenode).
What made ZendCon absolutely enjoyable was indeed what everyone is suggesting to you: the hallway track.
I could have easily attended sessions then hid in my room until the next day, yet I chose to go out to the social events and thanks to that decision, ZendCon ’08 remains currently one of my fondest memories.
It’s one thing to sit down and listen to talks from famous PHP developers, those that I read about all the time (or read their books in many cases). It’s a whole other beast to find yourself sharing a beer with them in some random “English Pub” while getting your ass kicked at trivia (I still have the beer glasses that were given to me by the real winners).
And these events didn’t happen because I’m some modest uber-genius (I am by no means modest), I’m famous, or even particularly well respected (“He’s not stupid” is as gracious as a comment as I could want in a programming community).
They happened because someone yelled “Pub Crawl!” and, dammit, I was there.
They happened because I struck up conversations with random people.
They happened because I got in religious flame wars with random people. (Ask me about the time, thought not at ZendCon, where I launched into a tirade against CakePHP with who I later found out was the founder of CakePHP)
As it has been reiterated time and time again, this conference is not really about the sessions (it’s a success if there’s just 1 talk that you go to). It’s about the people you meet and the friendships you foster.
In summation, I have a list of goals for you, my loyal readers that are attending ZendCon:
- Start a conversation with a random person in a hallway
- Find and say hi to an author of one your PHP books. Tell them how awesome the book has been
- Attend at least 1 UnCon session
- Attend at least 1 post-session social (keep track on Twitter and ask your fellow attendees for info)
- Find me and introduce yourself