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My Intent:
Interested in attending an industry conference to just learn about "other parts" of the same industry but has nothing to do with my day to day tasks at work.

My goal:
Become aware of other opportunities and positions. Create contacts if there is something that interests me. Basically, expand my consciousness of possibilities and horizons, so to speak.

The Issue:
When registering for the conference, they ask for a lot of current job info (and that makes sense) for a profile and conference badge.... but as I stated, I'm not going in context of my current employer or position.

The Question:
Is it OK to go to this conference and register without any company association or will I not be taken seriously? Is it OK to go in the context of just wanting to "grow" and learn and if something happens to spark a new interest, etc.... or does that make me valueless?

Also, how should I introduce myself with my intent and goals?

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it may depend on whether it's you or your company who pays the expenses related to the conference, as well as on whether you attendance comes in company working hours or not –  gnat Jan 7 '13 at 8:53
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sometimes there are different rates charged attendees depending on the individual or corporate connection to the event, it will be hard to not put the name of the company if your are claiming the corporate rate. –  mhoran_psprep Jan 7 '13 at 11:01
    
good points, however, I will be paying for it. –  Greg McNulty Jan 7 '13 at 21:09
    
@GregMcNulty - So just put NA or leave the field blank. Otherwise you could always put Self to indicate your not representing a company. –  Ramhound Jan 15 '13 at 14:03
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4 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Of course it is. How do I know?

Review your LinkedIn contacts. I'm sure that at least of handful of them refer to themselves as 'Software Developer', 'Consultant', or 'Technology Executive' without any company affiliation whatsoever.

Also, consider your own experience at dinner parties. Frequently, when meeting someone new, the conversation will pivot to what that person does for work. Some will say, "I work for company 'X'", but many will say, "I'm a 'Y'" where 'Y' may be a profession (I.e. doctor, firefighter, banker, etc.)

Bottom Line: When introducing yourself, it's totally up to you as to whether you should associate yourself with your current/most recent company or your profession.

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ok that makes sense.... –  Greg McNulty Jan 6 '13 at 22:33
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A couple questions:

Are you presenting?

It sounds like "no". If you were, this would be a bigger deal, as companies may have a serious stake in whether or not you present as a representative of the company - and it can go either way. In some jobs it can even be a big deal to try to present as a private individual if you are presenting in a capacity close to what you do for work. If I'm wrong, and you are presenting, then I'd say talk to your manager and go from there.

It's much, much less of a big deal what your badge says when you pay and attend a conference as a regular attendee. Particularly in a big conference hosted by a conference hosting organization - it's mostly a way of identifying you and helping you find others who are interested or connected to things you are connected to.

Did your company pay or did you?

Since I attend conferences both as a private person (I even run them for fun... perhaps I'm crazy...) and as a part of my job, I'm particularly sensitive to this. My general thought is that if it's on your money, you can (and almost should), skip referencing your association with your company. Most places I work are all or nothing - either they pay for the conference and my time, or none of it - I pay, I take vacation to attend (or go on the weekend), etc.

If your company is paying the bill, check in as a courtesy with your manager to see if there's any strong preference. At times, even when I was just an attendee, tiny companies of mine wanted to make sure that I represented them to show that they were out there in the marketplace. At other times, my company really doesn't care, because they are mostly interested in the information I bring back, not in the reputation of sending me. Either way, my deal is, when they pay, they have the right to choose how I represent myself.

What kind of company?

I've found that different industries are touchy in different ways. Small consulting companies are almost always aggressive in representing themselves. Big companies can be touchy about reputation and image.

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If the company pays definitely ask as there are some cases where the company does not want to show they are interested in the technology –  Mark Jan 8 '13 at 15:07
    
Absolutely - also - it's wise to figure out if it's OK to hand out business cards casually. –  bethlakshmi Jan 8 '13 at 16:01
    
+1 for asking more about the circumstances involved! The answer always seems to be "it depends" on one level or another... –  Rachel Keslensky Jan 11 '13 at 15:43
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Absolutely! I identify myself publicly as "I work for a bank in NYC." I do this because my online activities are not associated with my employer and I don't want them to be perceived as such.

Some conferences require you put something there. I put "CodeRanch" where I moderate. You could put anything in that field though to show up on the badge.

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If this conference is run by a competitor, and you do not reveal your current company affiliation, you could be considered to be there under "false pretenses." That is, trying to get inside information, poach employees, etc. If discovered, you could be asked to leave. I have personally heard of this happening at my company's main conference and competitor's employees were discovered.

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This is a really good point. –  enderland Jan 7 '13 at 16:18
    
@mkennedy: that is a godo point, however, this is a conference with many companies there, more like a trade show,... –  Greg McNulty Jan 7 '13 at 21:12
    
This is a horrible point. Even if this conference was run by a competitor the conference the author is asking about is public. –  Ramhound Jan 15 '13 at 14:05
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