How to have a great conference experience.

My table spot for the conference.

Nothing like a pen and a pad of paper to organize your thoughts

I just got back from “An Event Apart” in Atlanta. This is the second AEA that I’ve attended, the first being in New Orleans several years ago. If you’ve never attended An Event Apart, it’s a truly inspirational conference. Creatively merging design, development, and mixing them all in a tall glass of web standards, it’s really the one other conference, besides Adobe Max, that I feel is a legitimate, “must-attend” learning experience. It’s not for the feint of heart however, it’s a lot of information over a small amount of time. You’re exposed to an eclectic mix of speakers and topics ranging from high level design discussions to low level, technically challenging sessions like the nuts and bolts of CSS, or technical executions of cutting edge HTML5 solutions. It’s not like MAX, where you’re moving from venue to venue over the course of a couple of days, interspersed with keynotes and scoping the sponsor pavilions. You’re essentially in the same place for two straight days (three if, like us, you attended the additional “A Day Apart” session on devoted solely to “Content Strategy”).

Spending two days in the same room can sometimes try even the most patient observer, but the topics breeze by and the challenge instead becomes, “how do I make sure I’m taking this all in?”. Luckily, the brilliant guys and gals at AEA make the presentation slides available to attendees, and armed with an iPad, I quickly discovered the best way to keep up. Each day, before that day’s sessions, I would download all the presentations to my iPad and set it up at my spot, allowing me to keep up with the talking points on a provided pad of paper. Yep, good ol’ pen and paper worked better than anything I could come up with, and leaving my laptop up in the hotel room enabled me to really concentrate on what was being presented.

In fact, this worked so well I think I’m just gonna plan on attending future conferences armed with a moleskine  and a pencil.

3 Replies to “How to have a great conference experience.”

  1. That’s pretty cool that they had the presentations available *beforehand*. Every conference I’ve been to, admittedly not many since I went out on my own, they haven’t been available until after the conference. Which is cool… but I’d love to peruse the presentation, let it sink in and really think about it, then go into the presentation armed with questions and ideas.

    1. Yeah, it made the whole experience much more enjoyable. I was able to relax, take in the presentations, let it all really sink in, like you say, and just relax and soak it in. They really put on a textbook “terrific experience”. Kudos to Zeldman and the whole A List Apart crew.

Leave a Reply