Attending conferences

There are so much good conferences around the world, technical and not, that I would like to attend, especially in spring and autumn. I want to go either to learn valuable new skills or just to meet people from my industry. However, living and making an earning in Serbia makes going to foreign conferences a big deal, financially and in some cases logistically.

Conference tickets are rarely below several hundred euros, prior to local taxes which you can’t refund back. Then there’s the cost of travel as most conferences are not in neighboring countries. Again few to several hundreds. Plus accommodation and food.

Logistical problem is related to entry visas. For mainland Europe, things are now fine, as EU has removed entry visa requirements for Serbia. Thus I can travel anywhere on moments notice.

For UK and Ireland though, I still need to plan my travels very carefully as I need to apply and get entry visa for both. Ireland’s visa is 60€ but it still takes about 10 days to get it. Just this March, I applied for it to go to Úll; then got swept up in day to day work and it slipped my mind. Several days later I packed myself to go to Hungary for short trip until I realized I don’t have my passport yet. Really annoying.

In the case of UK, there’s double trouble. First, visa is very expensive: 120€ for 6 months, 460€ for 2 years, 800+ for 5 years or more. The larger problem is that it takes 2-3 weeks to get the visa during which time your passport is somewhere in embassy or in transit and you can’t go anywhere. As I heard, British Embassy in Belgrade is no longer issuing visas so all passports are sent to Poland.

Another example: to get into Canada, I need to send my passport for a month to Vienna which is the nearest office and that’s the time they advise you to plan with. This alone is the reason I never went to Çingleton, to my eternal disappointment as the conference has now retired. Both Canada and US still have another problem – they are pretty expensive to travel to, unless you can get your ticket months in advance. (Don’t get me started on WWDC and insane SF hotel prices).

All in all, it’s a considerable investment. This makes it hard to justify going to conferences just for the fun and socializing. Which is exactly the kind of conferences people are most excited about.

It’s head-scratching Catch 22. To advance in your business you need to get around, meet people, gain valuable leads – conferences are the place to be. But to attend them you need to have a business that will pay for it. Going to just one conference will not cut it (unless you are very, very lucky) thus you need to plan long-term.

After years of avoiding this problem, I decided to risk it. In 2015, I plan to attend as much conferences I can.

Let’s just hope in 2016, I will look favorably to this decision. :)