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Field Notes

Field Notes #038: The Life-Changing Magic of Conferences

the life-changing magic of conferences

It’s tough to quantify the value of attending conferences. I don’t mean attending as a company or sponsoring the event and having a booth.

I mean attending as an individual. What can you get out of attending conferences?

I’ve attended large conferences like INBOUND and SaaStr and smaller events like Growth Marketing Conference and Startup Week as both a speaker and participant.

There’s rarely an immediate return on the travel, time, and money (and in the case of speaking, the extra time it takes to build a presentation, practice a talk, and mentally prepare).

In most cases, you could’ve gotten the same presentation online for free (speakers — that includes me — regularly recycle their talks).

But from my experience, where conferences can really pay off are from the people you meet. The relationships you build often lead to learnings and advice you wouldn’t have otherwise gotten. This is a growth accelerator.

Unfortunately, you can’t predict or plan for these things to happen.

Some examples:

  • Alex and I both spoke at Growth Marketing Stage in Ukraine on separate occasions. The first link builder we hired for Omniscient Digital, Andriy Zapisotskyi, was someone we both separately met at that conference.
  • Joei Chan and I met at INBOUND (this must’ve been in 2017). Now we’re working together and she’s been on the pod.
  • I met Holly Chen at Growth Marketing Conference in San Francisco where she gave a talk on how she scaled Slack. Now she’s someone I regularly reach out to for advice (she made an appearance on the pod too).
  • In 2018, Alex and I were hanging out in San Francisco at the bar of the hotel where Growth Marketing Conference was being hosted (same event). Peep Laja was with us and told us about an agency he was working with and how much he was paying them… that was the impetus for starting Omniscient Digital.

These folks and many others, who I all met at conferences ended up being clients, partners, advisors, and friends.

Many of them had a huge impact on my professional life by sharing career advice, providing guidance on my projects,  coaching me through tough conversations, and playing inside baseball.

Because of their generosity, I learned things I wouldn’t have ever learned on the job.

There’s no way I could have predicted these things would happen. I couldn’t have planned this out even if I had tried.

I like to think of attending conferences as one way of increasing the surface area of luck or creating more opportunities for serendipity.

It all comes down to putting yourself out there.

That doesn’t only apply to conferences. It also applies to meeting coworkers. You never know if introducing yourself to a coworker (on a different team, who you don’t work with, but occasionally run into or attend the same meetings) might result in a new best friend, a future co-founder, or even a client (all three have happened to me).

You could also reach out to people on LinkedIn to get coffee when visiting a city.

Don’t overthink it. People are down to connect.

Want more insights like this? Connect with me on LinkedIn.

1. How to Become Insanely Well-Connected – One of my favorite resources on “networking” and removes all the icky-ness from it. It all comes down to being human and making friends.

2. Podcast: Big Bets in B2B Marketing and Leveling Up in Content with Joei Chan – Joei is the Director of Brand and Content at 360Learning. We get into some spicy topics.

3. Podcast: From Content Manager to CEO and How Content Marketers Need to Evolve with Devin Bramhall – Devin was CEO of Animalz. We talk about content, job titles, and growth strategies. This is one of the interviews I’m most proud of.

David Khim

David is co-founder and CEO of Omniscient Digital. He previously served as head of growth at and Fishtown Analytics, and before that was growth product manager at HubSpot where he worked on new user acquisition initiatives to scale the product-led go-to-market.