Digging out of the COVID “rut” by attending in-person tech conferences

This post is going to be a bit different from my regular stuff. You won’t learn anything technical here, but I hope you will still find value in what I have to say.

Last week I attended the Wireless LAN Professionals Conference (WLPC) in Phoenix, AZ. I’ve attended this conference many times in the past, but this one felt different. It was my first conference since February of 2020. This was also the first time I had met with a large group of my peers since around the same time.

I was surprised how socially awkward I felt. It had been years since I interacted with large groups of people, or even tried to hold a conversation between multiple people at once. It took me a day or two, just to not feel overwhelmed by all of the people around me.

As my friends know, I tend to take things more seriously than most (to a fault). When attending tech conferences, I usually avoid the late night social gatherings. The most important thing for me is to learn as much as I can from the sessions. As a result, usually when I return home from a conference I am completely spent, and feel like I need a vacation to recover from how fried my brain feels. Even though I treated this conference no different from any others, this WLPC couldn’t have been a bigger contrast from the norm. I felt refreshed, motivated and maybe even invigorated after I got home.

I didn’t realize how much of a funk I was in. Due to COVID, I have been working primarily from home for the past couple years. Not interacting in-person with co-workers and friends on a regular basis, coupled with no opportunity to be force-fed knowledge from a conference really had an impact on me. It was tremendously motivating to see and interact with some of the great minds in the wireless industry again. I didn’t realize how much I was motivated just by having ad-hoc discussions with groups of industry peers. It felt really good to be “out there” again, having these discussions and wanting to learn more about Wi-Fi.

I’ve attended a few virtual conferences since COVID hit, and the value just isn’t there, in my opinion. The presenters usually aren’t nearly as well prepared, and it is very hard to focus on what little good content is presented. Many times, the presenter’s audio/video is so bad that it distracts from the content. The frequent “rah rah” attempts at building excitement seem super fake and actually detract from the overall experience. In-person conferences are far and away better than virtual conferences for me. The excitement is real, and the speakers are giving their all. Attending this WLPC in-person felt like the first time I went to Cisco Live in 2012. I was in awe of the technical expertise that was on-site, and it was a veritable fire hose of information.

I’m unsure whether this year’s WLPC was just that good, or whether I had just been craving an in-person technical conference. Perhaps both. Either way, I am more excited than ever to attend Cisco Live, and hopefully a couple other in-person conferences this year.

If COVID has you in a funk, or you feel less excited about Wi-Fi/tech/your job than you were a couple years ago, I strongly encourage you to attend an in-person tech conference this year. It was difficult for me to see how much of a rut I was in, and attending WLPC has done me a world of good.

2 thoughts on “Digging out of the COVID “rut” by attending in-person tech conferences

  1. Mark Gunn

    Was there also our paths may have crossed. I took the 9800 Boot Camp with Chris Avants. Feel the same way! Just being able to interact with and learn from my peers again was magical. Seeing all the new innovations using tech we have been hearing about and or seeing but not in-person and how its revolutionizing wireless brewing in those in Home Labs was special as well.

    Agreed, needed to get out of the COVID rut and see the world through new eyes again. Time to see and touch all the new tech and how WiFI6 and 6E is going to change how we design and deploy going forward! Looking forward now to Cisco Live in June in Vegas. Hope to see you there!

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