Wow, the SharePoint 2012 Conference in Las Vegas is almost here and this years conference is sure to be a great one. I’m excited to see old friends again and to make new ones! I’ve been attending Microsoft Conferences for several years (SPC since 2007) and as with any conference, it’s always best to be prepared. And preparing for a conference of this size can be a bit overwhelming, so I decided to put together this quick SPC12 Survival and Readiness Guide to offer some tips I’ve learned to make the experience more productive and enjoyable.
Also, I’ll be sporting my custom @SPHotShot twitter tag plate on my conference badge so look for me and say hello!
What Are Your Goals?
It’s important to think about what you want to accomplish while at the conference, so planning ahead makes you much more likely to accomplish your goals:
- Looking to network with other professionals? Then don’t be shy. Talk to everyone you can. You’ll be surprised what tidbit you’ll pick up from others just by having a short conversation! However, remember that attendees are arriving from all over the world so don’t always automatically assume that English is their first language. So if you are an ADHD candidate, don’t start off with a 100-mile-hour intro greeting. Also, don’t forget to bring lots of business cards.
- Looking to learn new and emerging technologies? You’re definitely in luck! You’ll see a collection of well-rounded (and some somewhat bleeding-edge) sessions and demos that focus on the latest and greatest of Microsoft products and services, so this conference should meet or exceed expectations in this area. Also, don’t get stressed out about choosing between two or more sessions that may occur at the same time. We fully expect Microsoft to post full session videos after the conference.
- Looking to find out about vendor services? The exhibit hall will be filled with top-shelf vendors as well as Microsoft reps who are more than happy to demo their products and answer questions. Take time to visit all of them. However, try not to burn too much time at a vendors booth just because they have a few ‘booth babes’. Just enjoy the eye candy and move on ..
Be sure to vote on what your main goals for SPC12 are!
- Create or Update your MySPC and Attendee Profile - For connecting with other people, it’s important to take a few minutes to make sure your information is up-to-date. Be sure to include what you typically do with SharePoint and what you want to accomplish while at the conference. Upload a (recognizable) picture of yourself so that others will make the connection when they see you. While you’re at it, update your other social profile pics too.
- Set your schedule on MySPC - This will help the SPC organizers ensure adequate capacity for sessions. You aren’t required to go a session that you schedule, but it will help you plan ahead of time (you may discover that you chose two consecutive sessions that are across the conference building from each other).
- RSVP for Parties – There are sure to be many this year (several on some nights). Most require that you RSVP or stop by a booth so be sure to look into this before hand. Joel has also posted an SPC12 activity planner on his blog.
- Logistics - Have copies of all reservations in the event of confusion at your point of check-in, and secure ground transportation ahead of time. Taking a taxi can be costly but drivers often know about good places to eat or what other happenings they are aware of during your stay.
- Communication Device(s) (e.g. – Laptop, Notebook, Tablet, Phone, etc.) - You’ll want to think about which type of connected device you want to carry around based on how you intend to use it. And don’t forget chargers for all devices you may bring (extra batteries too if you are able).
- Stay Connected – Once you decide on your primary device(s), use them to keep up on what’s going on at the conference via Email, Twitter, Gowalla, FourSquare, or other social application. Being connected also means you’ll find out about any last-minute or spontaneous events that might be happening. In addition, particular sessions may offer incentives for filling out evaluations immediately, so be ready to complete yours at the end of each session you attend. Vendors will also be promoting Twitter posts for entry into specific drawings and give-aways. Also, keep #SPYAM on your radar for places to watch for conversations and what’s happening. See http://yammer.com/spyam.
- Pre-Configure the #SPC12 search scope in Your Twitter Device - This will help you discover any updates on sessions or events and will keep you connected on what’s happening at the conference. Also tracking the posts for @SPConf will help as well.
- Cellular Wireless Card - With so many active devices present, wireless networks at conferences are often congested and rarely offer satisfactory network speeds, so possessing a cellular wireless card can offer a real bonus.
- Camera - Bring one (or more for backup). Memories are made at conferences like this. But beware: what happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but there are sure to be many camera-carrying geeks taking potentially reputation-changing pics that will last for an eternity.
- Dress Comfortably - You’ll be walking and standing ALOT! Good shoes and comfortable clothes will leave you with more energy to last for the nightime events.
- Foreign Germs & Hygiene - This isn’t something that’s usually at the forefront of the attendee thoughts, but keep in mind that this is a conference where people from all over the world are mingling in rather close quarters and are exchanging as many handshakes as they are conversations. Avoid getting an illness from a foreign germ by the liberal use of hand sanitizers. You will find that many of the conference vendors will be handing out small Purell bottles. And it’s typical to see portable sanitizer stations stationed around the conference areas as well. Take advantage of this. No sense in having your conference time cut short by an unexpected illness.
- Cash - There will be a lot of no-cost events and gatherings, but you might want to join up with others before or after particular conference events. Cash is always quicker to process (and always well-received) at busy restaurants and bars, and it’s the preferred medium of exchange for Las Vegas Bail Bondsmen ..
- Pre-Plan Space for Conference Swag - You are going to end up with a lot of conference ‘stuff’ (product information sheets, T-shirts and other goofy swag). Be sure to allocate extra room in your bag to get it all back home. Don’t put yourself in the inconvenient position of either having to hand-carry them onto the plane, leaving it behind, or being forced to ship it home (I had to do this for SPC09).
- Check With Your Local SharePoint User Group - Find out if they are conducting a special event while at SPC.
- Pace Yourself - These conferences are known to leave even the best of conference pro’s exhausted. Think you’re gonna survive partying into the wee hours every night without missing the next days sessions? Unless you happen to have completed Navy SEAL school, think again. Plan to choose a few nights to go home early (or at least earlier than most).
- Post-Party Morning Kit - Vegas hotels are notorious for furnishing absolutely no ammenities (coffee, water, etc.) without a significant upcharge to your hotel bill. Keep some snacks, aspirin and water in your hotel room. This will help you get going in the morning after the inevitable all-night bender.
- Stay Nourished - Eat when you can. Conference food tends to be buffet-quality at best. Get a good meal before heading out for nightly events. Also, be sure to stay hydrated.