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Tips for Attending Your First RailsConf!

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Tips for Attending Your First RailsConf!

Okay, picture this: It’s your first RailsConf, and you are excited but also pretty nervous! You don’t know many people at the conference, and it seems a little bit overwhelming to go to all of the mixers and talks and still make time for the vendor area. Well, don’t worry! We’ve been attending for years and have compiled some quick tips to help you have the best experience at your first RailsConf.

Don’t overbook yourself.

It can be tempting to load up your schedule with talk after talk all day. There are so many cool presentations and discussions to attend to. But if it’s your first time, it will be overwhelming to run around the conference, trying to find the right room or make time for lunch, and in the end, you will have missed out on some valuable parts of the conference.

Set a breezy schedule for yourself and try not to attend back-to-back talks. This will help you make time to visit the vendor area, talk with peers, and digest what you heard in the presentation.

Our Senior Fullstack Developer, Liz Pantalone, says:

Don't try to see all the talks. Leave some time after each session to absorb what you just learned or to chat with the presenter or fellow attendees. Definitely go mingle with vendors if they're around.”

Take a walk.

Spending the entire day in a conference room or the vendor area can be pretty draining! So if the weather is cooperating, find a nice route to walk and see some of the city. This can be a great way to get some alone time or to network with new friends from the conference.

Google Maps says RailsConf 2024 is right on the Detroit Riverwalk path!

conference map

go for a walk giphy

Attend talks you know nothing about.

RailsConf is a great time to learn about new practices, theories, and tools! But try to avoid getting pigeonholed into attending talks about tools and techniques you already know a lot about.

Engineering Manager, Ben Parisot says:

Fight the temptation only to see talks that you feel you know a lot about the topic already. You should definitely be interested in the topic, but you learn more by attending talks that you’re only somewhat knowledgeable in the subject matter.”

If you’re presenting - keep it real.

If you’re a first-time presenter gearing up for the stage at RailsConf, take a look at your presentation and make sure that it fits the audience you’re speaking to. Sure, these are developers; they’re familiar with Rails. But they aren’t going to remember much if you spend your whole talk deep in theory-speak.

Senior Software Developer, Sergiu Truta says:

Only present something that helped you with a real problem. Keep it short and concise, and make it as visual as possible. Most people won’t remember text on a slide.”

Take a notebook instead of a laptop.

Telling you not to take a laptop to a conference by and for developers is pretty wild, right? Well! There’s a reason.

Our CEO, Robby Russell, says:

Try to take notes on paper and put your laptop away as much as possible. People are more likely to say hi if you appear approachable. Taking notes on a laptop is okay, but you also look like you might be working on something more important in between talks."

Liz Pantalone agrees:

Yes, do whatever you can to keep yourself approachable. Try to leave your phone in your pocket. There is no need for a laptop if you're not at a coding session. Try to say hello to anyone you sit next to at a talk and introduce yourself. Quickly follow it up with, ‘Where are you from?’ and an open-ended question like, ‘What brings you to RailsConf?”’

busy cat typing giphy

Lunch Table Networking

Ah, the best time of the day: lunch! While you’re taking a much-needed break between presentations and talking with vendors, don’t forget to be a friendly face at the table. Inviting people, joining groups, and striking up conversations are great networking opportunities at RailsConf. Who knows, maybe you’ll make a new friend... Or coworker!

Robby says:

At lunch, find a table that is already half full. Ask if the seat is open, and quickly introduce yourself with, "I'm Robby from Portland" as you're sitting… that way, by the time you sit down, you're already part of the conversation. Or, if you end up being one of the first to a lunch table, make friendly eye contact with people looking for a spot to sit. Invite them over to join in. Try to be the person who keeps inviting more people to join the conversation.”

Still trying to figure out what to talk about? This is an excellent opportunity to learn about what tools people use in their daily work, any blogs or podcasts folks like (hint hint Maintainable is a good one), and any innovations in the community that could help with what you’re working on.

invite to lunch

Make sure people can find you.

Great job! You had that friendly lunch conversation. Now, it’s time to make the connection. Finding people you connected with after the conference can be a real chore. Here are some ways to make it easier:

Ben suggests,

If the convention doesn’t already facilitate this, find some way to easily connect with other attendees—a QR code that takes them to your LinkedIn, even cheap business cards with contact info. Then, connect with people on LinkedIn as soon as possible after meeting them. Include a note describing how you met (“We met at the talk on upgrading Ruby versions.”).

Another good way to stand out is to grab something from the Oh My Zsh shop, like this cool logo shirt!


Most of all, have fun!

Conferences can be long but a lot of fun. Make sure to get to know the vendors, presenters, or other attendees while you’re there. You never know who you might run into later in the community or what tool you’ll need on a new project in the future.

Come find us! Robby Russell will be there, and he might have some Oh My Zsh stickers for you. We’d also love to hear what you’re working on.

Have a project that needs help?