5 reasons to go to a grassroots web design event

The big-name events might get the headlines, but smaller, local events present many opportunities to the web designer, says Jonathan Brealey of Heart Internet.

Thanks to the hard work of enterprising individuals, the UK web design community has never been stronger or more active. There are dozens of local web design and developer events popping up all over the country featuring the cream of the industry.

Attending them is a way to celebrate and discuss the amazing work that happens in your industry, and an opportunity to network, learn and get inspired.

These events help build a community and present different perspectives. They provide the means to listen to peers and industry legends you wouldn’t ordinarily get to meet. Rubbing shoulders with the best the industry has to offer, listening to their opinions and learning how they tackle day-to-day challenges may just trigger some ideas of your own.

01. They inspire and inform

The Digital Barn is a small event for designers, developers and geeks set in the charming UK town of Barnsley: http://makedo.in/thedigitalbarn/

Speakers at local events are booked because they’re great at what they do. Their insight is worth listening to, and there’s always a chance to ask questions and grab some advice afterwards.

The likes of Rachel Shillcock and Shrop Geek organiser Kirsty Burgoine are heavily involved in grassroots events, and frequently give talks about their experiences and opinions at events such as Digital Barn, sharing experiences that have helped them rise to the top.

02. They refresh your mojo

A common technique for anyone who has hit the wall is to take a break and come back to it refreshed. Attending a grassroots event is an ideal way to overcome such obstacles as creative block.

You’ll be away from that project that’s become tricky, and at the same time surrounding yourself with ideas and topics that may help you finish it.

03. They connect you with the community

Local events are less formal and most of them happen regularly throughout the year, giving you the chance to be part of a community. As they’re more geared towards networking and discussion than larger conferences, there’s a greater likelihood you’ll get to meet some of the speakers and share thoughts and ideas with them.

Some events even offer routes for people to get started in speaking at events themselves. These experiences can be transferred to many more diverse situations. Offering your own thoughts on the industry is another great way to get you noticed and build networks among other influential people.

You may even find that, through doing this, you can begin to put your own event together and continue to grow your reputation among the community, opening up countless avenues of opportunity.

04. They're usually free or cheap

A lot of the events we’re involved in, such as Second Wednesday and MK Geek Night are free to attend, while others such as Shrop Geek are amazing value, so making a point of attending regularly won’t break the bank. Many events can be found through Lanyrd and Meetup, where you can register and find out more about who is attending.

05. You get to meet the sponsors

The main reason these events are cheap, sometimes free, is that sponsors cover most costs in order to get in front of you – their key demographic. This often opens up pathways for gaining more knowledge on the companies and brands that offer services you need. Use it as an opportunity to find out more, and talk to a person rather than a website. Often, representatives from these brands want to know more about you, with a view to improving their products or services.

Attending conferences and events can add a dimension to your job, helping you meet people and surround yourself with inspiration. Talking to industry legends and peers, and engaging in debates, could be a major career step or put you on the right path to creating your very own event.

Words: Jonathan Brealey

Jonathan Brealey is the owner of Heart Internet.

This article first appeared in issue 240 of .net magazine – the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers.