Note: This post was originally published on Lalawag
Cocktail hours, plastic nametags, breakout sessions and (if you’re lucky) complementary continental breakfast. All of these iconic elements help make the tech conference an industry institution as important as the 24 hour hackathon and the late night pizza after a marathon coding run. Still not a believer? The prototypical tech conference was even immortalized in a scarily accurate scene in 2009’s Oscar nominated film, Up In The Air, complete with techies singing karaoke.Given our burgeoning entrepreneurial scene, it makes sense that the city of Los Angeles hosts its fair share of tech conferences as well. In fact, Eventbrite alone lists over a dozen tech conferences taking place in our “Silicon Beach” tech scene at the moment. Of course, with so many cool conferences on the calendar, it can be hard to decide which events are worth actually attending.
That’s where this installment of our LA Tech 101 Series comes into play. Read on to find a breakdown of some of the most interesting conferences throughout the year along with some hints to help you figure out whether they’re actually worth the cost of admission for you.
Disclaimer: As everyone with a calendar knows, LA has plenty of tech events during every week of the year. It’s nigh impossible to cover all of them at once so this particular guide will touch on a few diverse conferences, with another guide coming soon to break down the other categories of events.
Twiistup is LA’s flagship tech conference, with eight successful events already under their proverbial belt. According to their website, “Twiistup is LA’s biggest technology and startup event — one whose mission is expressly designed to celebrate and unify the world-class entrepreneurial and investment talent found in the Los Angeles startup/tech community, and to grow and to better the Los Angeles startup ecosystem by highlighting innovation via Twiistup Showoffs.” Indeed, Twiistup has a uniquely local focus, serving as an annual meeting point for entrepreneurs, engineers and techies of all types from across the City of Angels.
Attend If: You live in LA, you work in tech and you have an extra few hundred dollars to spare. Admission is pricey, but well worth it for the networking alone if you can afford it.
Barcamp bills itself as an “unconference”, but it still deserves a spot on this list. In fact, its very “unconferenceness” is actually what makes it so well worth attending. It’s collaborative, interactive and open to a wide range of attendees with an equally wide range of skills, experience and interests. But everyone that attends Barcamp LA shares in one very important activity — the requirement that each attendee must at least help put on a demo or session, if not throw one themselves. The result is an unparallelled learning experience that transcends the typical networking grind. Plus, there’s a pretty cool t-shirt too.
Attend If: You’re a hands-on kind of techie who isn’t afraid to speak up and share your knowledge.
Startup Weekend is another conference that isn’t quite a conference, at least not in the typical sense. Instead, it’s a unique mash-up of speakers, presentations and programming. Yes, programming. Startup weekend gets a big group of entrepreneurial folks together in one big building, with the goal of building something great by the time the weekend is over — or at least start to. In their words “Startup Weekend gets everyone in the same room, sometimes clothes and always feeds. What is next is really up to the people that show up, it is your drive and passion that will lead the weekend.”
Attend If: You like getting your hands dirty, and you prefer actually building stuff to just talking about it. Or if you just like hanging out with people who do.
Much like Startup Weekend and Barcamp, the 140 Characters Conference is an event that happens in many cities, with a popular version occurring annually here in Los Angeles. Organized by Jeff Pulver, “The #140conf events provide a platform for the worldwide twitter community to: listen, connect, share and engage with each other while collectively exploring the effects of the emerging real-time internet on business.” In other words, sessions cover everything from the way farmers are using social media to a discussion of entertainment and Twitter with celebrity (and new daddy) Nick Cannon. If it involves Twitter, it’s probably on the agenda at #140Conf.
Attend If: You think in hashtags, you write in 140 characters or less and you’re looking to connect with other Twittaddicts in LA.
Digiday is actually part of a series of conferences organized by DM2 Media, a company that coordinates tech, marketing and communications conferences across the country. In LA, DM2 hosts events like December’s Digiday: Target, which deals with advertising and brand building, andDigiday: Mobile Apps. (You can probably guess what they talk about there.) These are very traditional tech conferences, with speakers, set agendas and plenty of networking opportunities. However, their real strength lies in their unique focus on small subsets of specialized topics, which makes them perfect for people looking to really build their expertise and contact lists in a particular niche of the industry.
Attend If: One of their agendas happens to fall squarely into a category of the industry that you work closely in and you still happen to have an extra few hundred dollars lying around, even after you’ve set aside money for your Twiistup ticket.
Social Media Week is a global network of conferences focusing on (unsurprisingly) social media. Despite its international bent, the LA version has a hyperlocal flavor, where global social media concerns get discussed within the specific context of our particular local industry and issues. From social good to social media for startups, the panels at SMWLA attract everyone from CEOs to amateur social media junkies, who come together for collaborative discussions and some serious social networking of the “IRL” (In Real Life) variety.
Attend If: You can’t get enough of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Reddit and the like, and you’re looking to socialize with your fellow social media junkies in real life.