There was a time when I considered myself to be just a nerdy, introverted, quiet designer who had a hard time relating to my non-webbie human counterparts. Then I attended my first web conference, SXSW 2007 and it really changed my perspective. I met a lot of designers and developers who I considered to be celebrities in their respective fields, most of whom were very approachable and genuinely happy to get to know a fellow web nerd.
When I say that attending SXSW changed my perspective, what I mean is that it made me realize that I have a lot in common with anyone who works on designing and building the web. I’m still just a nerdy, introverted web builder, but I’m certainly not alone. It was this sense of community and shared experience that led me to attend and eventually start speaking at other conferences and gave me the desire to establish a local Refresh group, which I ran until I moved here to Atlanta a few weeks ago.
Since that first SXSW, I’ve been to lots of different meetups, barcamps, and conferences… and even help organize one every year. Some of these events have been very well run, some have been an utter mess. At some talks I learn lots of new tips and tricks while others leave me sadly disappointed. The common value that I find in every tech gathering I’ve been to is the potential for making new friends. Some might call this networking but to me, networking sounds like looking for investors or new business opportunities. I’m not. I just want to meet and learn from other people who do what I do. That, to me, is about making new friends, not “business contacts”.
Last weekend I attended LessConf for the 2nd consecutive year and actually had the opportunity to speak at the event this time. LessConf’s primary audience is startup founders and entrepreneurs, so if there was any event where you’d expect a focus on networking, this would be it. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. In fact, the primary purpose of the conference, according to LessConf organizers Allan Branch and Steve Bristol, is making new friends.
Aside from the one blog conference I’ve been too, the talks at most conferences I’ve attended have been about the practice of our craft. With talks about “knowing when to quit”, “why your customers don’t like you”, and being a DOer, it’s obvious that LessConf is more about motivation. The result of this shift in focus had me aspring to be a better leader rather than just a better designer or developer…and with all the new friends I met, I’ve got plenty of people to keep me accountable with that.
If you’re looking for a different kind of web conference experience, I highly recommend checking out LessConf this time next year. Allan and Steve are also planning more of a BarCamp style event this November…on a cruise ship. That’s right, web nerds on the high seas. Not sure if I’ll be able to make that event yet, but if it’s anything like LessConf, the LessCruise is sure to be full of win.
Other great blog posts from fellow LessConf 2011 attendees: