How To Get The Most From In-Person Bitcoin Events
Bitcoin conferences and meetups are great expressions of the Bitcoin ethos and culture. They come in all varieties, from casual drinks meetups, to formalized talks and panels, to small-scale conferences, all the way up to the biggest events that see tens of thousands of attendees.
I’m a believer in building Bitcoin communities and meetup groups, because of the connections you make, the things you learn and the experiences you have. These are highly valuable for many reasons. Newcomers (newcoiners) often don’t even know what questions to ask, so they learn by coming and soaking up the discussion of regulars at the meetup. Regulars enjoy the discussion of various aspects of Bitcoin, whether that is technology, economics, the social and cultural impacts of fiat money or other aspects.
“Just See It For Free Online”
Now, when it comes to conferences with a ticket price, one argument that confuses me is the people who say, “Don’t pay for an overpriced conference ticket, you can just see the talks for free online.”
Yes, it’s true that many Bitcoin conference teams will live stream the event or post the videos online afterwards, but seeing this content is not the only or even the main reason to go. This is like arguing that “you shouldn’t go see that singer live, you can just listen to their music for free on YouTube or Spotify.” There is overwhelmingly an audience of people who want to see it live, and they will happily pay for this.
While there are some who argue that you should just consume material online for free, I think this is missing the point. The benefit for newcoiners is that they’re receiving guidance. It’s a steer in the right direction regarding who to follow, what hardware and software Bitcoin tools to use, what books to read, which podcasts to listen to, etc. By hearing speakers and meeting other like-minded Bitcoiners who have spent time going down the Bitcoin rabbit hole, you can quickly get up to speed on what you need to know. Take advantage of the curation of the conference organizers, who ideally vet and invite speakers who have something useful or educational to say. There’s also a selection bias involved because the more committed people are the ones who will travel for an event.
This is vastly different from merely trusting what is reported about Bitcoin in the corporate media, or trusting YouTube’s recommendation engine. The YouTube recommendation engine will often point you to the overly-excited people who talk about whether bitcoin’s price is pumping or dumping that day, but it won’t necessarily point you in the direction of learning about the philosophy, economics or technology of Bitcoin.
There’s a certain magic to meeting up with a bunch of like-minded people that you get from Bitcoin meetups and conferences. In many cases, people who attend Bitcoin conferences or events soak up the vibe and community ethos, and later go on to host their own Bitcoin meetups and conferences. I’m reminded of how my friend @BTCSchellingpt attended Baltic Honeybadger in Latvia, and went on to become a co-organizer of Bitcoin events in Australia, such as Bitcoin Brisbane and Bitcoin Bush Bash. This is part of how Bitcoin is spreading virally. Without having in-person events to go to, newcoiners who have only been exposed to material online might not feel like they’re part of a bona fide community or group.
Some of the people who argue that conference tickets are overrated are probably the kind of people who have already “graduated” from beginner level. But even here, they might benefit from staying up on the latest tech or business ideas. For them, the benefit might be more about networking and meeting cool people in the space, or it could even be making connections that enable you to work or hire in the space.
Maybe You’re Not Picking The Right Conference Or Event?
For some, it’s just a matter of selecting the right event. The biggest event on the Bitcoin event/conference annual calendar would surely be Bitcoin 2022 by the BTC Media team, with tens of thousands of attendees (disclaimer: BTC Media operates Bitcoin Magazine). But there are definitely a range of events to suit different tastes and interests. Let’s overview some:
LaBitConf is the big one in terms of South America, as this conference has been running since 2013 and regularly features big names. With the bigger audiences, you will find more newcoiners as attendees, whereas the smaller conferences tend to be more ideologically aligned with long-time Bitcoiners and/or with those looking to build their technical knowledge. But if you go into them with the right expectations, then you can have a great time at both types of event.
If you’re looking for a smaller and perhaps more focused event, perhaps BitBlockBoom in the U.S. or Baltic Honeybadger in Latvia (by the Hodl Hodl team) for the European bitcoiners would be right for you. Historically, these tend to have somewhere in the range of 300 to 900 attendees.
Depending on how technical you want the focus to be, you might enjoy technically-focused events that come up, such as Advancing Bitcoin in London, Adopting Bitcoin (recently in El Salvador) or TABConf ( in Atlanta). Or, of course, look for regular Socratic seminars or BitDevs meetups that exist as regular meetups. For instance, you might look to NYC BitDevs, SF Bitcoin Devs, Austin BitDevs, Chicago BitDevs, Sydney Socratic Seminars (started by yours truly, but now hosted by my friend Lloyd Fournier) or London Bitcoin Developers.
If you’re looking for more hands-on events and workshops, you can typically find these as side events to larger conferences, and occasionally done as one-off events by companies or individuals in the space, such as my friends Jimmy Song or Giacomo Zucco.
Some Tips For Attending
Go Early And Make A Week Of It
For larger events, the conference doesn’t just start on the day of, the fun starts beforehand. There will be side events: some official, some unofficial. You’ll get great opportunities to run into interesting people at these, and you might even get a chance to meet people who you might not have otherwise. Keep an eye out for side events that will be fun or educational. These might take the form of a workshop or community meeting, or it could simply be a drinks meetup. You’ll make new friends or see old friends that you can then catch up with later at the actual conference.
Don’t Be Afraid To Say Hello
Don’t be afraid to say hello to new people at Bitcoin events. You’ll have a better time of it once you build up friend groups and connections.
Part of the fun is the shared experience that happens in the side conversations, after parties or over food and drinks while out. So, don’t be afraid, most people there are also interested to meet like-minded individuals. You might find yourself making some random connection or bonding over the shared experience of singing karaoke in a bar nearby.
For all you know, these connections could lead to you finding a job in the space, or making new friends who can help you with Bitcoin questions that come up later down the line. Bitcoin Twitter characters will also be around, so this is a chance to meet them in real life.
Use Group Chat Channels
Most Bitcoin conferences have chat channels, such as a Telegram channel. Join that so you get updates, or you can quickly ping and find out where people are and what’s going on.
Consider Volunteering For A Free Ticket
If the entry price is a bit steep for you, consider volunteering at the event. Yes, you’ll spend time doing errands and moving things, or corralling speakers, but you’ll have an interesting experience and a chance to meet people this way, too.
Bring A Small Amount Of Sats With You
You’ll want to bring a small amount of bitcoin with you on your mobile phone wallet. This will be handy if you want to buy things at the conference, or pay people back for lunch/dinner (it’s typical that one person might cover the bill and everyone else pays them their own shares over Lightning). Lightning wallets are ideal for these scenarios just because of the speed, ease and low cost they provide.
Don’t talk too much about your personal life, especially where you live or where and how you hold your coins/keys.
As Jameson Lopp says, talk about bitcoin, but do not talk about your bitcoin. While at the conference, some attendees prefer to use a burner phone with an eSIM not connected to their personal identity. Security-conscious attendees generally don’t connect to the Wi-Fi and they will use mobile data instead. Don’t leave personal items or devices unattended.
As Bitcoin OG Mandrik once told me, embrace becoming irrelevant at some point. For me as a Bitcoin podcaster, writer, etc., I fully acknowledge that someday, there won’t be much use in solely being a “Bitcoin podcaster.” This makes about as much sense as being a “money podcaster.” But for now, Bitcoin is an “industry” in its own right.
Over time, many sub-fields of Bitcoin today will simply merge into their broader fields of society. For example, Lightning-focused technologies might fold into payments or other entrepreneurial conferences and events. Mining might end up merging with energy conferences, with mining hardware merging into hardware conferences. Decades from now, Bitcoin protocol development might become something like web-protocol and standards-setting boards. Economics discussions will take place at economics events and conferences.
But There’s A Long Way To Go Before That Happens
There will be fortunes won and lost in this industry, and there’s so much to be done. As Ron Paul says, money is half of every commercial transaction. So, whether you’re a developer, entrepreneur, investor or you work in some other capacity, there are lots of opportunities.
There’s work to be done helping people secure their coins, helping people pay in or receive sats as merchants or as employees, there’s privacy technology to be developed and technology that will help Bitcoin scale to billions of users. Conferences and meetups are a great way to get involved, or stay up to date.
Enjoy it while it lasts!
This is a guest post by Stephan Livera. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.
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