I recently returned from San Francisco where I attended my seventh An Event Apart (AEA) web conference. It was another wonderful experience with an excellent lineup of speakers and topics related to the web design industry. As an attendee of more than five events, I was recognized as “An Attendee Apart” and that got me reminiscing a bit about my previous AEA events that I have gone to.
My first AEA was in Chicago in 2008. It was my first conference of any kind and I can remember being star struck by the speakers, many of whom I learned about through Twitter. I’m pretty sure I had some sort of fan-boy complex, particularly for event founders Jeffrey Zeldman and Eric Meyer. I arrived in Chicago thinking that it would help me with my job (which it did) but I came away from AEA feeling connected with the web design community. I started to look beyond my job and out at the industry as a whole.
I skipped 2009 so that I could attend the 2010 Seattle event. This was a game changer for me. Not only did it introduce me to the city of Seattle (where I would eventually relocate to) but it was the first year that AEA included the “A Day Apart” workshop. Two days of speakers talking about various web design topics and then having the third day to dive deep into a particular area resonated with me as a great way to learn. 2010 was also the first year that I used Twitter as my conference notebook, which led to meeting many attendees and a realization that what I was doing was useful for others. Not only did I feel like a part of the web design community, I felt like I was helping it.
Over the years, I continue to attend AEA whenever I can. What I get out of each conference has evolved from practical code and techniques to inspiring the way I think about web design to thinking about how I can help others in the industry. I’m no longer just looking for ways to implement things, I’m looking for ways to solve problems. I’m no longer just looking for answers, I’m looking for ways to help find the answers. I’m no longer just sitting on the sidelines, I’m getting involved.
An Event Apart is great for learning tips and techniques but I believe the true values lie in the feeling of community, the opportunities to learn from the experiences of others, and feeling empowered to contribute to helping make the web better for everyone.