Written by Peter D’Agosta
My very last business trip before the coronavirus appeared (actually after it appeared elsewhere in the world) was NY to Dallas for a tech conference. Most have been lightly attended in recent years due to less tech resources on staff to companies, especially those who are integral to their companies 24/7 demands. It was a good conference. Like going to the gym, you get what you put into them. Pick a track that is meaningful, put the phone down, pay attention, ask questions, reconnect with brethren in the industry … especially over a pint at the end of the day.
Once we were all banned from buildings and travel, this part of my job, which I do maybe 2 or 3 times per year was no longer an option. These updates are needed however, given technology changes rapidly. While many of the larger tech conferences were shut down some of the smaller ones were planned around Virtual attendees. Typically, I’m not fond of that because it’s difficult to tell if people are paying attention. If you are a speaker you don’t feel the ‘vibe’ (i.e. feedback, facial/body/eye movement). But it seems that using systems like ZOOM and others at home have made people more in tune with virtual conferences.
One such conference I attended was very much on the same level as in person. The IBM TechCon 2020 Virtual Experience. In some ways it was more valuable, at least for me. It was very focused, there were few if any interruptions (big peeve at live conferences is how many people open the doors and peek in and them let them slam as they realize it’s the wrong room). The pace was good, the information perhaps more prepared as there weren’t the little issues of live interaction like failed A/V. Some speakers were clearly reading material not on screen, but that was fine if it was relevant.
Now, the having a pint with your colleagues was definitely out. I had to settle for using my breaks to brew some coffee, but all in all the material at this conference was VERY good. VERY to the point and relevant. A nice touch was Open Offices at the end of each day. This was a time set aside to visually chat with colleagues about not only the presentations of the day but anything else on your mind. Well almost anything. There were more industry experts than end user techs, however. Too bad because those techs missed a good opportunity to get direct face to face feedback. I suppose anyone could have had a pint at this point, but perhaps it was too early (too early?!) for that. Anyway, shout out to this conference for being so well prepared. They even offered a hands-on lab the following week. This is key (by the way), because during a conference I usually don’t get to attend these due to commitments back at the day to day job, meetings lined up at the conference itself, and some time to chill with that pint 😉
If anyone is interested in the agenda, most of the materials are available if you registered for the event here!