Why do people go to conferences? For the people!

People go to conferences to see friends, meet people and learn new things.

Over 80% of people said that seeing friends and meeting new people was the reason they went to conferences or it was very important. 53% of people said "attendees they want to hang out with" is the reason they go to conferences. The comments really reflected this with people talking about how meeting people renewed their energy and many talked about how "fun" it is!

Good speakers followed as a close second with 96% of people saying the talks were at least somewhat interesting. (Two thirds thought the talks were very interesting or the reason they go to conferences.) Interestingly enough 100% of people thought meeting the speakers was at least somewhat interesting. I didn't ask why they wanted to meet the speakers … I assume to talk to them about their  topic but perhaps it's just meeting someone famous!

Keynotes were less of a draw, 15% of people couldn't care less about them and half (51%) thought they were only somewhat interesting. So that would kill my fame idea …

Closely related to meeting people and listening to talks is learning new things. Both learning more about topics you are already interested in and learning about new topics ranked high for most people.

But here's the data. You can see for yourself.

This data is not necessarily statistically significant. I didn't ask for any demographic data. I recruited people on this blog and on twitter. That crowd is definitely not representative of the general population. (But I wouldn't want to ask the general random population about attending conferences.) You are welcome to use the data and blog about it yourself, just link back to here or explain where you got it from.

In this first question, I added two items to the list after it started, so that's why the responses for the last ones are lower. Also, the first two respondents couldn't pick an answer in every row. They alerted me to the problem and I fixed it for everyone else.


I was impressed by how many people would go out of their way to see their favorite speaker speak again. Especially since most speakers tend to talk about the same topic.

This question would have obviously been better as a percentage and I did open a new survey just for this question (redone) but very few people responded to that one.


And then I asked people in their own words why they went to conferences:

  • To learn something new, meet new people, and touch base with people I've met previously.   
  • I think good conferences are inspirational for the attendees, and I like to travel, so both thing make me go to conferences.   
  • That is a good question…
  • To meet my preferred e-mail addresses contacts face to face
  • To be an active member of the community
  • To hook up with people
  • Meet old freinds, make new freinds, be seen, learn about the latest developments
  • To meet F2F with colleagues and come to concensus on how to solve the problems that vex us, where email/irc/other distractions simply don't allow progress to be made otherwise.
  • To learn, expand my horizon, see / hear about technology 'at the edge'
  • to learn new stuff
  • A combination of the talks (news), friends and beer.
  • I go to present, to meet people and to hang out in the "hallway track"
  • Sell, Sell, Sell! Party!
  • networking
  • because they rock
  • To Learn more about the organization and product.
  • to collaborate, start collaborations, and have a good time with friends   
  • To renew energies in my FLOSS involvement
  • Because of the people I meet there!
  • meeting co-developers, learning interesting things about other projects (by talks) or even your own project
  • Meet people, help build up the FOSS community, learn about technologies
  • I want to know where the open source community at large is heading.. also I really like keynotes but if they get posted as OGGs I skip them because I don't want to miss the small parallel tracks
  • Its vital for making me feel that im part of a community made up of real people, not just hacking gods. The creativity blossoms at conferences, while there is some creativity in irc channels, i havent seen this offline creativity and lust for hacking replicated online.
  • fun and interesting
  • It's fun! 🙂
  • For the feeling you get that you are part of something big.
  • Metting people. It's easier to interact with people through the Internet if you konw them in real life
  • I go to get an introduction on technical subjects that my peers find exciting
  • networking
  • for the people
  • Spending time with peers, interesting venues (fortunately I'm "new" enough that every conference has been a different city), renewing my interest in volunteering on specific projects.
  • It's different for "work" conferences compared to "play" conferences. But in both cases you get a chance to hear the best in the field, make new contacts, learn what others are doing (find out the cutting edge), and publicise yourself/your company.
  • Meeting with Friends
  • Learn new Things meet great ppl
  • To expand my circle of contacts and learn about new tech.
  • To meet people
  • People! 🙂
  • To learn new things
  • I typically go to conferences to meet new people and hang out with old friends. However, it really depends on why I am at the conference. When I am at the conference for a project I am usually in a booth or talking to people about the project. I catch a few talks if I know they will be good. If I am at a conference for myself I usually hang out around booths, see a few talks and talk with people in the halls. If I am at a conference to attend for work I feel I have to see as many talks as possible and end up limiting my talking with friends and new people.
  • No single reason; meeting up with folks, learning new things, promoting our work, arguing about stuff 😉
  • meeting and talking to people who work in the same/related space
  • I go to meet people, show what I've worked on, plan for future things. And to party!
  • To better myself, via the sharing of ideas with like minded people
  • for the bandwidth of face-to-face ideas exchange
  • To hear other people opinions about the stuff I think I'm good in. And then to rethink if I'm really good.
  • To Connect!
  • Learn, network, and recharge.
  • network with people
  • To gather with interesting people and listen to them talk about interesting things.
  • To meet people
  • To learn and to network.

2 Replies to “Why do people go to conferences? For the people!”

  1. I think one of the reasons people like to talk to the speakers is that they often are the most interesting people at the conferences.. I guess they’re also picked as speakers because they’re interesting.
    That said, to me the talks are only interesting because the company I work for will only pay my full expenses if I’m speaking (and I think its also the case of many other companies). But if it wasn’t for that, I’d prefer a conference with no talks and just social events (ie parties) so I can socialize/meet/etc with as many people as possible.
    Honestly, I would prefer a conference with no keynotes that are not directly related to Gnome as such. So at last year’s Guadec, probably only Federico’s keynote was worth it.

  2. I like keynotes because they tend to give a broader picture than the talks. I like the 10,000-foot view, and I don’t often get that in other venues. It helps prepare me for the 10nm view. 🙂

Comments are closed.