THAT Conference: THAT's Where the Best Networking Is At!

THAT Conference: THAT's Where the Best Networking Is At!


21 min read


Networking is a proven method for career advancement, and the most effective way to network is in person!

This article covers a special guest Podcast with Clark Sell, the visionary founder of THAT Conference, the largest family-friendly tech event in the US. Tech industry experts Matt Lawrence and Mike Karan led the exclusive interview, exploring the unique experiences, opportunities, and vibrant community that make THAT Conference a must-attend event for tech enthusiasts and their families.

Whether you want to finally meet the people in your network, the tech celebrities you follow, companies you'd like to work for, or inspire your children to pursue a tech career, THAT Conference is where the best networking is at!

Topics covered in this article include:

  • The unique community and year-round engagement of THAT Conference

  • The Professional and Family Tracks and their benefits

  • Networking opportunities and personal growth at THAT Conference

What is THAT Conference?

Clark describes THAT Conference as an event for software engineers and their families. But it's much more than just a conference! It consists of a group of supportive members that Clark refers to as "a tribe." Although the THAT Conference event happens only twice a year, their community remains active 365 days a year!

Clark's goal is to bring people together and help them network with each other. So, throughout the year, conference attendees will have a supportive community to aid in their growth and progress throughout the year, all leading up to the in-person event, making it feel like a family reunion!

The THAT Conference event includes four days of workshops, sessions, open spaces, family events, and networking activities. It has a camping theme, including camp-style food and festivities, and takes place at Kalahari Resorts in Texas and Wisconsin. All of the digital events are accessible via YouTube.

About Clark Sell

Clark Sell has been in software engineering for over 25 years. He has worked for several companies, notably Allstate, during the "dot-com" boom, utilizing .NET, where he used his architecture and enterprise skills. He also spent nearly ten years at Microsoft in engineering, including two years in an "Evangelist" role, a position once held by his friend, tech celebrity, and conference speaker James Q. Quick!

In addition to creating THAT Conference, Clark founded Unspecified, a company that works with businesses to build software that supports building communities.

Why participate in THAT Conference?

Build your network

I have seen time and time again how a strong network can greatly help navigate your career. From your first job to new opportunities and even recovering from layoffs, your personal social network is an invaluable resource.

In my network, Brian Morrison secured a new job at "Clerk" just days after being laid off, and James Q. Quick received numerous guaranteed job offers from his network after being laid off from PlanetScale. Additionally, I continue receiving many opportunities through my network, including paid writing, speaking engagements, and code review gigs. There's just no substitution for a strong network that can offer the speed and security needed to navigate career transitions effectively!

Participating in THAT Conference is an opportunity to solidify relationships with the people already in your network by meeting them in person, which puts a personality behind the social avatar image. It is also a great way to expand your network by meeting new people.

THAT Conference's rules of engagement foster a welcoming, laid-back atmosphere, making it easy to approach others and start conversations. Clark uses a Pac-Man analogy, where a piece is intentionally left out to create space for others to join, such as leaving empty seats at a table.

During a THAT Conference Twitter/X Space, someone compared the vibe to kindergarten, where a child walks up to another and asks if they would like to be friends, then starts conversing. Another person mentioned he met and talked with someone, only to realize later that the laid-back, approachable individual was actually a tech celebrity with thousands of followers!

Pursue new employment opportunities

Another great reason for attending THAT Conference is to talk directly with company representatives. Companies such as Auth0 often set up booths, providing a chance to discuss job opportunities, industry trends, and potential collaborations.

Bring and encourage your children

A fantastic reason to attend is that you can bring your whole family! The Family track makes THAT Conference unique, encouraging attendees to bring their families for educational workshops and activities. It offers children exposure to the tech industry, opportunities to socialize with peers, and the opportunity to see their parents' presentations, inspiring them to pursue tech careers and even land internships.

Diverse lineup of workshops and sessions

With a diverse lineup of workshops and sessions, you can tailor your experience to match your interests and career goals. Notable past speakers, such as Danny Thompson and James Q. Quick, have shared their invaluable insights, making the conference an enriching experience for all attendees.

Invest in yourself and have fun!

It's never too early to attend a tech conference! Whether you are just getting started in web development, an intermediate, or a seasoned professional, the best time to attend is right now! The faster you can learn from others' mistakes, master networking, and seize unexpected opportunities, the faster you will further your personal growth and propel your career!

Attending a conference lets you connect with others in a way that isn't possible online. The vibe and energy of in-person events, body language, firm handshakes, and randomly meeting new people you "click with" are just a few examples of what to expect (after all, you won't meet random people by them walking into your Zoom meeting!๐Ÿ˜‚)

The people you meet at THAT Conference can be important for your future career! They can provide mentorship, job referrals, and chances to work together, which can greatly affect your professional career path!

Most importantly, you can have fun! They have a waterpark, pig roast, smores, and more for social activities!

Choose your own THAT Conference adventure!

THAT Conference offers many fun activities, from meeting industry leaders in person to hands-on workshops, networking in the hallways, and family-friendly events. It provides a unique environment for both personal and professional growth. You can build your network, find new job opportunities, and even inspire your kids. Invest in yourself and have fun while propelling your career forward!

๐Ÿ’ก Tip: For a more comfortable experience, plan to meet people from your network whom you haven't met in person yet. When you're there, make sure your group creates a welcoming atmosphere for others to join you. Also, split into pairs to explore and meet new people!

Why am I excited about THAT Conference?

I've been learning how to program as a self-taught developer for several years now. During that time, I've had the pleasure of networking with fellow self-taught students, teachers at coding schools, and tech celebrity teachers whom I learn from! Most of these peers are active on what is known as Tech Twitter, and most of them attend and even speak at THAT conference! ๐Ÿคฏ So, in addition to it being an informative learning experience, it is an opportunity to meet everyone I've been interacting with online for the first time in person.

Although I haven't attended THAT Conference in person yet, I have followed it closely on social media and watched the live and recorded YouTube events. I must say, the wonderful vibe of this conference is evident, even on video!

As a passionate writer, I particularly enjoyed Braydon Coyer's presentation on boosting your blog content with SEO!

Conference Speaker: James Q. Quick

(Content Creator, Keynote Speaker, and DevRel Consultant)

This wouldn't be a modern-day article if the topic of AI didn't come up, and THAT Conference tackled that head-on with a vivid and insightful keynote presentation by James Q. Quick!

Will AI take developer jobs? How does AI affect learning? Where does AI fall short? James covers all of this and more as he skillfully teaches and guides us through the ever-changing tech landscape so we can excel in our careers!

I covered James's keynote presentation in issue 97 of my Self-Taught the X Generation blog: AI and Developer Experience: Insights from James Quick at That Conference

Conference Speaker: Kevin Powell

(CSS Evangelist, A.K.A. The King of CSS! ๐Ÿ‘‘*)*

I must say that I was disappointed to miss Kevin Powell's debut presentation at THAT Conference because, and I quote, it never occurred to him to record it until he saw others at the conference doing it??? ๐ŸŽฅ๐Ÿ˜‚

Oh, well! Hopefully, he will record his upcoming presentation at the Wisconsin Dells 2024 conference (July 29th to August 1st, 2024)!

Various conference speakers

Although there are many speakers at THAT Conference events, I noticed that not all of the YouTube presentations are available on the official conference website. So I posted on Twitter/X asking if speakers recorded their presentations so I could watch and share them.

So, without further ado, here is a curated list of the exclusive presentations shared by the speakers who recorded them:

- Brian Morrison: I did!

- Nick Nisi: I recorded mine!

- Braydon Coyer: For those who missed my talk at @ThatConference, you can now catch it on YouTube!

- Emmy Cao: I didn't record my THAT conference talk, but here's a shorter version of the subject I did at @jsheroes ๐Ÿ™‚:

Shashi Lo - Senior UX Engineer at Microsoft ( THAT Conference Texas - 2024 )

๐Ÿ’ก Tip: Shashi didn't record his presentation and told me I would have to come in person to hear it! So, if you're fortunate enough to catch one of his invaluable live presentations and want to get on his good side, he absolutely loves pizza with pineapple topping! ๐Ÿ•๐Ÿ๐Ÿ˜‚

The Professional Track

The Professional Track at THAT Conference is designed for tech professionals eager to deepen their knowledge and expand their skills. This track features a diverse lineup of sessions, workshops, and keynotes led by industry experts. You can expect to explore cutting-edge technologies, best practices, and innovative solutions that are shaping the tech landscape.

Participants will have the opportunity to engage in hands-on workshops, where they can dive deep into specific topics and gain practical experience. These sessions are tailored to different skill levels, ensuring that everyone, from beginners to seasoned professionals, can find valuable content.

Networking is a cornerstone of the Professional Track. The conference fosters a collaborative environment where attendees can connect with like-minded professionals, share insights, and build lasting relationships. The hallway conversations, open spaces, and social events provide ample opportunities for meaningful interactions.

In addition to technical sessions, the Professional Track also addresses soft skills essential for career growth. Topics such as leadership, communication, and personal development are covered to help attendees become well-rounded professionals.

Whether you're looking to stay ahead of industry trends, solve complex challenges, or simply connect with peers, the Professional Track at THAT Conference offers a comprehensive and enriching experience that will propel your career forward.

The Family Track

The Family Track aims to create exposure for S.T.E.M.-related topics (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education).

Clark highlights the benefits of bringing your children to THAT Conference via the Family Track. He explains that it offers them exposure to the tech industry, opportunities to socialize and learn with other children, and even the chance to see their parents' presentations if they are speakers. This positive exposure at an early age can inspire them to pursue a career in tech!

Young adults have even secured internships through THAT Conference sponsors! Clark also mentions that sponsors have the opportunity to convince your family as a whole why you should work for their company, rather than the traditional interview process where you come in alone. This sounds like a much better hiring process to me! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Family Track's social activities include Happy Hour and the waterpark, which are excellent opportunities for families to meet!

Children even have the opportunity to become THAT Conference speakers and give their own presentations!

Scratch: A programming language used in STEM education

I can personally recommend a great way to encourage your children to get involved in tech: teach them Scratch, a programming language designed by software engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

My daughter completed an online course on Scratch through Create and Learn and earned a coding certificate with high-performance honors! Maybe you'll see her giving a Scratch presentation at a future THAT Conference. ๐Ÿ˜Š

You can learn more about Scratch and see some of our creations in my article: Review: Scratch (programming language)

Call for speakers

THAT Conference holds open calls for speakers twice a year, during two-month periods. (The submissions for the upcoming Wisconsin 2024 were held Saturday, December 30, 2023, through Monday, March 4, 2024)

THAT Conference seeks sessions that last an hour, half-day, or full-day and keynotes that provide value to the community. The topics should interest developers, designers, testers, business owners, site builders, community organizers, and others.

You can apply to speak for the following audiences and formats:

  • Professional & Family Formats

  • Standard Sessions

  • Pre-Conference Workshops

  • Keynotes

Professional & Family Formats

THAT Conference is a professional tech conference offering a great experience for kids and families. Your session can be for the professional track or the family.

Standard Sessions

Standard sessions are 60 minutes long, including time for questions. A 30-minute break between each session encourages important hallway conversations.

Pre-Conference Workshops

Half-day (four-hour) or full-day (eight-hour) workshops are scheduled for the day before THAT Conference. You will need to provide attendees with a clear schedule of your topics.


Can you give a 90-minute speech on something you're passionate about? You will have a live audience of over 1,000 people! They seek topics that will inspire, energize, and help attendees appreciate the world's diversity.

What does THAT Conference look for in potential speakers?

To become a speaker at THAT Conference, you will need a presentation that includes your unique perspective and experiences. Clark tells us to "be what you can't Google!" For example, a presentation on 15 things you wish you knew before learning React, including your ups and downs, wins and losses, and other advice you can provide from your personal experiences, will be valuable for the audience.

Additionally, you can get creative and teach a well-known topic from a new angle or perspective, such as Sara Shook's upcoming "Decoding Color" presentation!

Decoding Colors: "A Deep Dive into Hex and RGB(A) Color Models." Expand your knowledge of two of the most commonly used color models - Hex and RGB, learn how to convert the models programmatically, and discover how these concepts can be practically applied to your projects.


The workshops at THAT Conference are hands-on sessions where you can engage deeply with specific topics. They are offered as half-day (four-hour) or full-day (eight-hour) pre-conference workshops.

These workshops offer a space where participants can work together, interact, and follow practical steps to improve their skills. The content is designed to be engaging and hands-on, making sure attendees gain real-world experience.

Clark illustrates how the workshops function by discussing the upcoming "Mastering Vue.js - A Comprehensive Introduction," taught by J.D. Hillen (WISCONSIN DELLS 2024). This workshop offers a hands-on exploration of Vue.js's fundamentals and advanced concepts. It covers the essentials for getting started and compares it with other popular JavaScript frameworks like React, Angular, and Svelte. The session includes code examples and interactive exercises for a practical learning experience.

In the workshops, you will:

  • Get your hands on the keyboard

  • Work together with your "tribe" of people

  • Interact by going through tutorials step-by-step

These collaborative and interactive workshops can help you and your fellow participants bond and work together, enhance learning and growth, and better prepare you for the fast-changing tech world!

๐Ÿ’ก Tip: Follow Clark, THAT Conference, and the conference speakers on Twitter/X for discounts! I've even seen FREE tickets given away in Twitter/X Spaces!

How to participate

There are plenty of ways to participate in THAT Conference, even if you can not attend in person.

Ways to participate:

  • Create an account

  • YouTube channel

  • Be an attendee

  • Become a speaker

  • Become a sponsor


Create an account

THAT Conference offers a networking system to help attendees connect with each other. By creating an account, you can increase your visibility among other campers through a shared profile. This profile can be shared with sponsors or other attendees, making networking easier. You can request to connect with another camper at any time, either through the website if their profile is public or by using their badge number at an event. The goal is to make connections simple.

Additionally, having a profile allows you to save sessions you want to attend, create a custom iCal of your favorites, and even purchase tickets.

Feel free to connect with me! Michael Larocca

YouTube channel

You can watch the speakers' presentations on the THAT Conference's YouTube channel. You can also follow the speakers on social media as they often record and share their presentations.

Be an attendee

The most effective way to network is in person! Attend one of the conferences in person to meet the people in your network, the tech celebrities you follow, and the companies you'd like to work for! If you have children, there are plenty of activities and opportunities that can inspire them to pursue a tech career!

Become a speaker

Can you articulately share unique perspectives and personal experiences that will benefit others through your insights and lessons? Then consider becoming a speaker at THAT Conference!

Perks for selected speakers:

  • Conference Ticket: Attend all 4 days for FREE! It also includes all conference meals, the Pig Roast, and all social networking activities!

  • Hotel Accommodations: You will be reimbursed for your room at the resort, up to a maximum of 3 nights per family!

  • Camp Swag: Got swag? THAT Conference literally got you covered!

Become a sponsor

Do you work for a company, own a start-up, or run an organization looking to promote itself and connect with its target audience? Then consider sponsoring THAT Conference!

Check out the following insightful video from previous THAT Conference sponsors to learn more about it:


The best and easiest way to participate is to help spread the word about THAT Conference! As a not-for-profit event, THAT Conference relies heavily on word of mouth. Please support the grassroots movement!


Join the upcoming four-day summer camp for developers passionate about learning all things mobile, web, cloud, and technology!

Keynote Speakers:

The Hallway Track

Clark started a live stream called The Hallway Track on THAT Conference's YouTube channel. The stream aims to capture the vibe of meeting people in the hallway during a conference and striking up a casual conversation. Be sure to check it out!

HTML All The Things

Be sure to listen to the Podcast episode!

Listen here!

Be sure to check out HTML All The Things on socials!

Learn with Scrimba!

  • Learn to code using Scrimba with their interactive follow-along code editor.

  • Join their exclusive discord communities and network to find your first job!

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This article contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission on any purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you. This helps support our work and allows us to continue providing valuable content. Thank you for your support!

Sponsored content: The original publisher kindly sponsored this article, allowing me to share my expertise and knowledge on this topic.


THAT Conference is a unique, family-friendly tech event with a camping theme that provides valuable networking opportunities, educational workshops, and a supportive community. It's held annually in Texas and Wisconsin, making it accessible to a wide audience.

The conference offers both a Professional Track for tech professionals and a Family Track to engage children and families. Attendees can build networks, explore new job opportunities, and inspire their children to pursue tech careers. The community remains active year-round, fostering continuous growth and connection, making it feel like a family reunion when you attend in person!

One of the standout features is the inclusive atmosphere, where everyone from beginners to seasoned professionals can find valuable content and make meaningful connections. The hallway conversations, open spaces, and social events provide ample opportunities for networking in a laid-back environment.

Additionally, the Family Track offers children exposure to the tech industry through educational workshops and activities, encouraging them to socialize with peers and see their parents' presentations (if they're speakers). This positive exposure can inspire them to pursue tech careers and even land internships!

The community stays active year-round, so you're never alone on your professional journey. Whether you want to stay ahead of industry trends, solve challenges, or connect with peers, THAT Conference offers an enriching experience to boost your career. Invest in yourself and have fun! Join us at THAT Conference and become part of this vibrant community!

A special thank you to Clark Sell and all of the THAT Conference speakers and attendees. You are all responsible for creating this amazing community and helping all of us through personal, professional, and career growth!

But don't just take my word for it! Be sure to read the testimonials below from THAT Conferenceโ€™s speakers and attendees! โฌ‡๏ธ

๐Ÿ† Testimonials

"Spoke at, and so happy that I did, but not even for the speaking opportunity, but for all the people I met while there.

I connected with a bunch of people I'd only known online, but also made new friendships with people I'd never have known if I didn't attend."

Kevin Powell

"Gosh, Iโ€™m not sure where to start. I started attending That Conference at their very first conference when I was 9 years old. The family track has always been amazing, but a few years later, Clark Sell wanted family speakers, too, which became me when I was 13.

Iโ€™ve presented at every THAT Conference since. Texas and Wisconsin. This will be my 9th year presenting at THAT Wisconsin, and it has led me to find success in competitive speech, school, and work opportunities I never could have imagined as the THAT intern."

Savannah Boedie

"That Conference may be the only tech conference where you go for the content but stay (often long into the night!) for the people.

Worth every penny of the ticket price"

Braydon Coyer

"THAT is a rare tech conference. Clark does a great job creating opportunities to network with others. The majority of the people who attend and speak genuinely want to connect and make new friends.

You may attend alone or only know a few people attending, but you come home with a family."

Shashi Lo

"I've been to every THAT Conference except one, and it's been great watching it start and grow over the years.

  • The content is good with people who are actually shipping code instead of just talking about it

  • The vibe is great where it feels more like an odd family reunion than a normal tech conference.. that includes the geekling (kids) track where they can play with and see the concepts that make our world work

  • The open spaces give us a chance to continue topics and explore new ones with high signal and little noise

  • I've been able to meet & spend time with former colleagues, meet current customers & users, and even meet future coworkers at THAT to understand them as more than flat faces on a screen

  • There's a bar in the hot tub

Other than that, it's pretty boring ;)"

Danger Casey

"THAT is more than a conference. Youโ€™ve probably heard that, but itโ€™s true. When I spoke at my first THAT in 2023, I was struggling silently. And because of my experience with THAT, my life changed. It wasnโ€™t about networking, it was meaningful connections. It was about making tech a good space for everyone. It was about making space for me even when I felt broken. I wish I could give back to THAT in the way it gave back to me. I made connections at THAT who I still consider collaborators and friends today that have enabled me to find new and more ways to succeed in my career. I encourage everyone out there to make it a priority; because THAT recognizes people before tech and thatโ€™s the only way to grow."


"I had never spoken at a major tech conference, but the first time I attended, a speaker suggested I consider speaking. Since then, I've given a variety of talks, and I've enjoyed it all. When I first attended, I had no idea that I'd find such a great community, but I'm thankful!"

Ross, Son of Lars

"That Conf is a rare breed of conferences where you step into the conference and feel like everyone is family. There are always 'vibes' for a conference and THAT Conf vibe is so amazing and family friendly. The content and speakers is top notch as well!!"

Taylor Desseyn

โ€œOne of my favorite events of the year! The people, the conversations, the water park!! Itโ€™s just different than any other event Iโ€™ve been to. Everyone needs to experience what THAT has to offer!โ€

James Q. Quick

Let's connect! I'm active on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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