I've turned up to conferences with no idea who would be there or what sessions to go to... So now I'm looking at practical ways to prepare for a conferences, after experiences of SQL Bits, SQL Saturdays, DDD Southwest and Umb UK 7.
The follow-up post applies this list to CodeGarden 2017, the main Umbraco conference.
For conference first timers, Scott Hanselmann has great advice
1. Plan Sessions Ahead
Take a look at the schedule for the event, making a note of sessions you want to go to and backups if these are full.
Keep in mind
- If the session videos are available post-conference, it's okay to miss stuff
- Try sessions on tech you don't normally encounter or use in your day job
- Keep any eye out for speakers you enjoyed in the past.
- Keep an eye out for workshops with limited spaces or that need pre-conference sign up
2. Contact People Beforehand
If there are people you want to talk to then make contact with them before via email, blog comment, twitter or linkedIn! Arrange to meet them or explain what you might want to talk about. Prepare a question for each person you want to meet And if you haven't managed to talk to them beforehand then try to find early on before the crowds gather.
3. Clear your work schedule
Conferences are places of great opportunities, so keep your work to a minimum while you are there. Clear you work schedule ahead of the conference so you aren't thinking about your email while taking in new ideas or connecting with people.
4. Take Business Cards
Take business cards so that others can remember you, with company business cards if not looking for a job and personal ones if you are.
5. Social Media
Find the social media (twitter) hashtags for an event and find out who else is going that you might know. Keep an eye on ad-hoc gatherings if you are going early or reach out to people using the hashtags.
6. Have Some Questions
Prepare some questions before you go about tech you want to know more about, problems you have or people who interest you.
See if your team has any pain you can tackle If your team has some pain then think about having that as one of your questions. If you are part of a team, see if there is any pain you can help them with or tech that might interest them. Maybe they can recommend people to talk to or look out for too.
7. Scout the Venue
Make sure you've sorted how to get there and where your staying. Think about places you might want to go for food, coffee or a break.
Have a search online or ask other people who have gone before where is good to go. Having a place you can suggest if a group of you want to go somewhere different isn't a bad idea either.
(Optional) Prepare a Talk
If presenting is your thing take a 10-minute lightning talk or something longer with you. Something you want to try out or have given before.
Conferences often allow 10 minute slots for lightning talks, and you can offer your services if a speaker is unavailable. If it doesn't happen at least they know who you are and that you are willing to speak.
Next up, CodeGarden for Umbraco
In the next article I'll look at how I used these to prepare for CodeGarden! What conferences are you attending? Leave a comment or tweet @DuncanThom