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What is the first thing you do upon returning from a conference, seminar, or other event? Quickly update your LinkedIn network with new contacts from the event? Draft a presentation that you promised as part of the business justification to attend the conference? Prioritize a list of products you want to implement, and why?

Me? I add my latest conference badge to my collection. The collection started simply enough. I packed my badge with other conference materials, so there it was staring me down when I returned home.

It didn’t belong with the business cards I exchanged at the conference, it didn’t belong with the product brochures I collected for further review, and it certainly wasn’t a reference asset needing space on my desk. But it felt wrong to just toss it, as well.

After all, it represented a significant investment of time and energy to create and execute a proposal just to attend the conference. So, I hung it on a decorative mannequin.

When looking at each badge, I remember my role at the conference, seminar, or other event – attendee, booth staff, guest and speaker. To me, each badge is a merit badge of sorts, representing different accomplishments and/or aspirations.

The two badge types that I am most proud are booth staff (SE giving demos) and speaker. Both remind me of how far I have come from being a curious by-stander to a recognized expert.

So far, I have badges from BlackHat, DEFCON, RSA, SANS, and many small regional events; I look forward to adding a badge from my first non-US show (Infosecurity Europe) later this year.

While attending a technical training course, I was chatting with another student when they showed me a picture of their most current prized possession: the electronic DEFCON badge. My reaction was instant jealousy, as I got my attendee badge too late and only got a lame laminated one. There is a whole culture around DEFCON badges, especially the electronic ones.

Yes, the primary purpose of conferences, seminars and other events are to acquire new knowledge, share information and network. The price of admission is more than just financial – it’s hard work, perseverance and the deep-seeded need for growth.

My conference (merit) badge collection reminds me of this when I am facing down a technical challenge.

What do you do with your badges?