I’m speaking at the PHPNW ’08 conference in November, and I’ve just been contacted for advice by someone understandably excited at going to her very first conference. Thing is, I’ve never been a conference newbie (I’ve always been either speaking or running a conference) so I’m not the best person to offer advice on this.

What would you add to this list?

  • Arrange with on-line friends to meet up either the night before or before the presentations start on the day.
  • Look for social groups (e.g. PHP Women) you can join before the conference, to see if anyone like-minded is going.
  • If the conference has more than one presentation going on at once (== multiple tracks), work out in advance which presentations you’d like to go and see. You can always change your mind afterwards :)
  • Bring a laptop – a lot of the conversation at the conference happens online (such as on Twitter).
  • Bring a mobile broadband card with you too (do you have mobile broadband outside the UK?), as conference wireless systems can be incredibly unreliable.
  • Be yourself, but don’t bullshit – the folks you’re trying to impress could be prospective customers, work colleagues or employers.
  • Stay for the after-conference drinks & food, where you can socialise and network.


  1. LornaJane says:
    October 24th, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    This is great advice, any conference virgin would do well to follow this. If you don’t manage to pre-arrange to meet anyone then go along to the pre-conference social and find some friendly faces to go back to the next day. If you are going with someone you know, make the effort to abandon them and talk to someone you *don’t* know. And definitely drop by the phpwomen stand, we’ll talk to anyone :)

  2. Stuart Herbert says:
    October 24th, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    I forgot to mention … power is often at a premium at conferences too, so if you want to be the most popular person in the room, pack a 4-way power extension lead :)

  3. Donnie Berkholz says:
    October 24th, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Never eat alone. Always get together with either existing friends or new ones.

    Find the “big shots” who you’re interested in, email them well in advance, and try to set up a time to meet with them. Buying them lunch is the most worthwhile $20 you’ll ever spend.

    If there are no sessions at a time you’re really interested in, don’t go to any of them. Hang out in the hall track instead. Preferably, find the schedule in advance and email the above people to schedule time with them.

  4. Dave Marshall says:
    October 25th, 2008 at 11:21 am

    PHPNW will be my first conference, although I’m not sure I’ll be able to meet the preconference social.

    Anybody know how many people are going to the conference? These things should let you upload a passport photo when you register, people can then match faces to names they know in advance.

  5. terry chay says:
    October 27th, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    - Find out the twitter to follow. Set up search.twitter.com for the part you need
    - #phpc on irc.freenode.net
    - approach speakers in between sessions if you have a question, they don’t bite…mostly.

  6. Daniel Cousineau says:
    October 27th, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    I can second these suggestions.

    ZendCon ’08 was my first “real” (if you don’t count local BarCamps) conference I attended and I made sure to be active on the #phpc/#phpwomen channels a few days before as well as attend the pre-conference pub crawl which really helped me meet new friends and get to know the community. I also stayed active on the IRC channels and Twitter.

    Thanks to me following essentially the same guidelines I made new friends and got the opportunity to sit down and hang out with a lot of really freaking cool (and internet famous) people. Granted I’m sure some of the bigger name types were wondering what an annoying kid like me was doing around but I got what I wanted :P

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