[I just learned the early-bird discount deadline was changed. You now have a few more days to get the discount!]
If you live in Silicon Valley it is easy to make technical connections; for the rest of us, regional conferences rule.
I attend many conferences: small and large, invite-only and public, regional and national, vendor-specific and vender-neutral, even some international ones too. My next speaking gig is is LOPSA PICC in New Brunswick New Jersey, which is a small, regional, conference this April 29-30. People there will be from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts and more (last year 4 people came all the way from Virginia!).
I love regional conferences.
Community: All conferences have some feeling of "community" but the regional conferences have a special feeling because of the common geography. It's nice to post a technical question on a mailing list and get an answer from 3,000 miles away, but developing a professional relationship with someone from 20 miles away is so much more powerful.
Local Knowledge: Smaller companies depend on local resellers a lot more than big companies. At last year's PICC I saw a lot of people talking about which local vendors were better than others. You can't pay for that kind of frank opinions. (All the meals are included in the registration because we find that if everyone eats together they get more opportunities to network.)
It makes your boss happy: "Conference" sounds like a company-paid vacation; but a regional conference is very inexpensive. In fact the "early bird discount" of PICC is $125, which more than pays for the one night at the hotel. If your boss isn't impressed by the low cost (and yet, all the training is nationally-known people you usually find at national conferences) point out that you'll only miss 1 day of work even though it is a 2-day conference.
So what can you expect at this year's PICC? Well, about 100 people, more than a dozen training sessions, and all the food is included.
Topics range from:
Half-day tutorials: Grokking Python, Non-Obvious Nagios, Advanced Time Management: Team Efficiency, Backups, Archiving, and Life Cycle Management: Riding the Wave of Data Proliferation, Blitzkrieg Branding, Internal documentation for SysAdmins, Over the Edge System Administration, Volume 1, PowerShell Fundamentals, Security Best Practices and Tools for Linux, Using and Migrating to IPv6, Windows Enterprise Security, Workplace Presentations 101 for IT Professionals
Talks and presentations: Effectively Monitoring MySQL, Stack Overflow Infrastructure, Using http Response Time Histories to Detect Problems, Leadership and Troubleshooting from the Trenches, The Path to Senior SysAdmin, Change Management and the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), Leveraging an Enormous Technology Community, Thoughts on a University-level Major in System Administration, Continuous Integration via Hudson
Plus an awesome Keynote from DevOps guru and general sysadmin mega-mind, Theo Schlossnagle!
(Oh yeah... This will be the only place I'll be teaching Time Management until December, so sign up before the class fills up!)
I look forward to seeing you there! http://picconf.org