Bitcoin conferences and meetups are great expressions of the Bitcoin ethos and culture. They come in all shapes and sizes, from informal get-togethers to formalized lectures and panels, to small-scale conferences, all the way to the largest events with tens of thousands of attendees. I believe in building Bitcoin communities and meetup groups because of the connections you make, the things you learn and the experiences you have. These are very valuable for many reasons. Newcomers (newcoiners) often don’t even know what questions to ask, so they learn to get through and absorb the discussion of regular customers at the meetup. Regular customers enjoy the discussion of various aspects of Bitcoin be it technology, economics, the social and cultural impact of fiat money or any other aspects. “Just watch it online for free” When it comes to ticketed conferences, one argument that confuses me is the people who say, “Don’t pay for an overpriced conference ticket, you can just watch the lectures online for free.” Yes, it is true that many Bitcoin conference teams will live stream the event or post the videos online afterward, but seeing this content is not the only or even the main reason to go. This is like claiming that “don’t go see that singer live, you can just listen to their music for free on YouTube or Spotify.” There’s an overwhelming crowd of people who want to see it live, and they’re willing to pay for it. While there are some who argue that you should just consume material online for free, I think this misses the point. The advantage for newcoiners is that they receive guidance. It is a steer in the right direction as to who to follow, which hardware and software Bitcoin tools to use, which books to read, which podcasts to listen to, etc. by hearing speakers and meeting other like-minded Bitcoiners at that time After going down the Bitcoin rabbit hole, you can quickly find out what you need to know. Benefit from the curatorship of the conference organizers, who ideally vet and invite speakers who have something useful or educational to say. There is also a selection bias, as the more committed people are the ones who will travel for an event. This is very different from just relying on what is reported about Bitcoin in the corporate media, or relying on YouTube’s recommendation engine. The YouTube recommendation engine will often point you to the overly excited people talking about whether the price of bitcoin is pumping or dumping that day, but it won’t necessarily point you in the direction of learning about Bitcoin’s philosophy, economics, or technology. Building Networks There is a certain magic to meeting a bunch of like-minded people that you get from Bitcoin meetups and conferences. In many cases, people who attend Bitcoin conferences or events enjoy the atmosphere and community ethos, and later go on to host their own Bitcoin meetups and conferences. Reminds me of how my friend @BTCSchellingpt attended Baltic Honeybadger in Latvia and co-hosted Bitcoin events in Australia such as Bitcoin Brisbane and Bitcoin Bush Bash. This is part of how Bitcoin spreads virally. With no in-person events to attend, newcoiners who have only been exposed to material online may not feel like they are part of a bona fide community or group. Some people who argue that conference tickets are overrated are probably the kind of people who have already “graduated” at the beginner level. But even here, they can benefit from staying on top of the latest technical or business ideas. For them, the benefit could be more in networking and meeting cool people in the space, or it could even be making connections that allow you to work or hire in the space. Maybe you are not choosing the right conference or event? For some, it’s just a matter of selecting the right event. The biggest event on Bitcoin’s annual event/conference calendar would undoubtedly be Bitcoin 2022 by the BTC Media team, with tens of thousands in attendance (disclaimer: BTC Media runs Bitcoin Magazine). But there is certainly a range of events for different tastes and interests. Let’s list a few: LaBitConf is the big one in South America, as this conference has been running since 2013 and regularly features big names. With the larger audience you will find more newcoiners as participants, while the smaller conferences tend to align more ideologically with old Bitcoiners and/or with those looking to build up their technical knowledge. But if you go into it with the right expectations, you can have a great time at both types of events. If you’re looking for a smaller and perhaps more focused event, maybe BitBlockBoom in the US or Baltic Honeybadger in Latvia (by the Hodl Hodl team) for the European bitcoiners would be right for you. Historically, these usually have somewhere between 300 and 900 participants. Depending on how technical you want the focus to be, you can enjoy tech-focused events happening like Advancing Bitcoin in London, Adopting Bitcoin (recently in El Salvador), or TABConf (in Atlanta). Or, of course, look for regular Socratic seminars or BitDevs meetings that exist as regular meetings. For example, you can watch 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 usually find these as side events at larger conferences, and sometimes as one-off events by companies or individuals in the space, like my friends Jimmy Song or Giacomo Zucco. Some Tips for Attending Go early and make it a week For bigger events, the conference doesn’t just start on the day of, the fun starts ahead of time. There will be side events: some official, some unofficial. You’ll get great opportunities here to meet interesting people, and you might even get the chance to meet people you might not otherwise have. Keep an eye out for side events that are fun or educational. These can take the form of a workshop or community gathering, or it can be just a get-together. You make new friends or see old friends that you can 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’ve built friends and connections. Part of the fun is the shared experience that takes place in the side conversations, after parties, or eating and drinking while you are away. So fear not, most of the people out there are also interested in meeting like-minded individuals. You may find yourself making a random connection or bonding through the shared experience of singing karaoke at a nearby bar. For all you know, these connections can lead you to find a job in space, or make new friends who can help you with Bitcoin questions that come up later. Bitcoin Twitter characters will also be there, so this is a chance to meet them in real life. Using Group Chat Channels Most Bitcoin conferences have chat channels, such as a Telegram channel. Join in to 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 entrance fee is a little steep for you, consider volunteering at the event. Yes, you will spend time shopping and moving things, or rounding up speakers, but you will also have an interesting experience and a chance to meet people this way. Carry a small amount of sats You will want to carry a small amount of bitcoin in your mobile phone wallet. This is useful if you want to buy things at the conference or pay people back for lunch/dinner (it’s common for one person to pay the bill and everyone else to pay their own shares via Lightning). Lightning wallets are ideal for these scenarios, if only for the speed, convenience and low cost they offer.OPSEC Tips Don’t talk too much about your personal life, especially where you live or where and how you store your coins/keys. keeps. As Jameson Lopp says, talk about bitcoin, but don’t talk about your bitcoin. During the conference, some attendees prefer to use a burner phone with an eSIM that is not linked to their personal identity. Security-conscious visitors generally don’t connect to Wi-Fi and use mobile data instead. Do not leave personal items or devices unattended. Embrace irrelevance As Bitcoin OG Mandrik once told me, embrace it becoming irrelevant at some point. For me as a Bitcoin podcaster, writer, etc. I fully recognize that one day it doesn’t make much sense to just be a “Bitcoin podcaster”. This makes about as much sense as a “money podcaster.” But for now, Bitcoin is an “industry” in its own right. Over time, many sub-areas of Bitcoin today will simply merge into their wider societal fields. For example, Lightning-centric technologies can be integrated into payments or other business conferences and events. Mining may eventually merge with energy conferences, with mining hardware merging with hardware conferences. In decades, the development of Bitcoin protocols could become something like web protocols and standards. Economic discussions will take place during economic events and conferences. But there is still a long way to go before that happens. Fortunes will be won and lost in this industry, and so much remains to be done. As Ron Paul says, money is half of any commercial transaction. So whether you are a developer, entrepreneur, investor or in any other capacity, there are plenty of opportunities. There is work to be done to help people secure their coins, help people pay or receive sats as merchants or employees, privacy technology needs 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 informed. Enjoy it while it lasts! This is a guest post by Stephan Livera. The opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.