I started doing SharePoint Conference readiness checklists back at SPC11 and I wanted to continue the tradition with Ignite. This list may look similar to previous lists, but I have made lots of updates and additions.
What to pack:
- Chargers / Power Supplies – I remember when I went to PDC05, I forgot my laptop charger. I was quite bummed. Don’t forget the chargers to your laptop, netbook, Surface, phones, etc. I have gotten a few of these new emergency phone chargers at conferences lately and they are very handy here. Especially when you have a Nokia Lumia 920 and the battery life is terrible. Keep in mind your average day can be 16 – 18 hours plus and you don’t want to be left in the dark and miss that big gathering because your phone died.
- Backup power – If any vendors are giving out backup power supplies, grab them! You know the portable chargers that you can take with you. We have several of them and they are a life saver.
- Tablet / Laptop – You’ll want some kind of computer whether that’s a tablet, laptop, hybrid of whatever. You want something with a keyboard. This makes it easier to send e-mail or post tweets. Besides, the more you are on this device, the less you have to rely on your phone and use its power. You also can use these to fill out session evaluations. There are usually incentives for filling out evaluations so I try to complete each evaluation right before the end of the session so I don’t forget.
- Bring your own Internet – The wireless networks at conferences are rarely good. They are jammed with geeks trying to post updates on Twitter and check out what’s happening on Facebook. If you have access to a wireless AirCard, MiFi, tethring, etc, bring it. See if your company has any that you can check out temporarily. Conference organizers really don’t like you using these during keynotes because the more hotspots you create, the slower the Internet gets. The slower the Internet gets, the more hotspots people turn on. It’s a vicious cycle. I'd still bring your one if you can.
- Cash – There are a lot of free events but you might go do something before or after the conference and I am not a fan of running tabs at busy restaurants and bars. Don’t take it all with you every night. Leave some in the hotel safe.
- Snacks and Water – After a long night, you will want something to eat. At the minimum, you might want something to eat in the morning. The hotels will likely have stuff in your room, but it will cost you dearly.
- Business Cards – Even if you are not in sales, bring twice as many as you think you will need. You will go through them faster than you think. It’s amazing how many people forget these at a conference. Don’t be one of those people!
- Bail Money – The Houston SharePoint Users Group has a running joke about always keeping a stash of bail money around when attending a #SharePint. You never know what is going to happen. 0
- Headset – If you think you are going to have to take any calls during the week, don’t forget your Bluetooth headset. This will make it easier to do your calls for sure.
- VPN Tokens - If your work network requires a VPN token or Smart Badge you might want to bring it if you think you might need to use it. Otherwise, you might conveniently forget it, to ensure you can focus on the conference. :)
Before you go:
- Arrive early – Come in early and have some fun in Chicago before you get into the conference grind. Many of us will be arriving Friday or Saturday. I tend to arrive on Saturdays while most of the foreign nationals I know, tend to arrive Friday or earlier.
- Don’t leave early – Normally I say this, but they have extended the conference by a day. Come Friday, I’ll be ready to be on the first plane out of Chicago.
- Set your schedule on MyIgnite - This will make your Ignite organizers happy when it comes to capacity planning. You aren’t required to go to that session you schedule, but it will help you pick from the 10+ sessions going on at any given time slot. Go to MyMignite and set your schedule now. Not sure about a session, watch the teaser video on YouTube.
- Create your Bio on MyIgnite – Whether you are an end user or a rock star, take a few minutes to write about yourself. Include where you work if you want along with what you typically do with the Microsoft stack and what you want to get out of the conference. Upload a picture of yourself to make things more personal. Be sure and set the privacy settings as desired. Set your MyIgnite bio now. Be sure and edit your profile on Yammer too.
- Connect on MyIgnite - If you go to the Communities tab, you can search for other attendees.
- Get on Yammer - The conversations have already begun about Ignite on Yammer. This is a great way to find out what other people are doing, network with others, and talk with people with similar issues. Most importantly, you can have a conversation about the sessions while they are occurring. Speakers will be watching Yammer before, during, and after their sessions. Be sure and follow others in Yammer to have more show up in your social feed.
- Create a #msignite Search in Twitter – Twitter hasn't gone away by any means, so keep an eye on the activity of the #msignite hash tag. However, this year, I think Yammer is where you are going to find the most info and conversations. Twitter will still be good to find out about sessions, events, and it will generally give you an idea of what is happening at the conference. Be sure and include the #msignite hash tag on anything you post and help get this conference trending!
- Follow @MS_Ignite on Twitter – @ms_ignite is the official twitter account for Ignite. This account often posts useful stuff about the conference. I’ve also used it to ask questions or provide general feedback and I’ve had very good luck getting a response. Keep in mind this twitter account is effectively manned by one person, so if you have an inquiry, take it to Yammer.
- Download the Ignite Mobile App – Whether you use iOS, Android, or you are one of the last few Windows Phone users, be sure and download the Microsoft Ignite App before you go. Download it now while you still have good Internet!
- Reach out to your local User Group – Find out what your local User Group is doing while at Ignite. Many of them are having meetings or socials.
- RSVP for Parties – Unfortunately, if you haven’t RSVPed for parties by now, you’re probably out of luck. However, being persistent can get you in. Talk to the vendors in the exhibit halls hosting the parties. Sometimes you can just show up and talk your way in. Check the Events at Ignite Yammer group. Also check Vlad’s Ultimate Party List regularly. Be sure and follow @SPCPartyPatrol to find out where the parties are too!
- Arrange for Ground Transportation - Don’t forget to arrange for ground transportation. You really don’t need a car in Vegas, but you do need a way to get there. Taking a Taxi usually isn’t too expensive and there are plenty of shuttle options as well. This may be less of a concern on arrival but more for your departure.
- Leave space in your bag – Between the conference materials and the vendors you are going to end up with a heap of product information, trinkets, and T-shirts. Make sure you have room in your bag to bring them home. Otherwise you’ll be hand carrying them on the plane or leaving things behind.
- Update your devices - Now is a great time to make sure your devices are up to date with the latest security patches. Make sure they are charged too!
- Set your out-of-office - You're at this conference for a variety of reasons, you need to focus. Try to stay out of Outlook and let people know that you will be slow to respond. If you need to stay connected, I recommend picking one time of day, such as in the morning before sessions, to catch-up on what's happening back at home.
What to do at the conference:
- What happens in Chicago, will not stay in Chicago – Nerds have gadgets and they like to take pictures. Do something stupid and you can rest assure it will be on twitter within seconds. :)
- Ask questions - Don’t be afraid to walk up to the mic and ask a question. That’s what you’re here for. If you don’t want to ask it in front of everybody, wait in line and talk to the speaker at the podium just be mindful that the speaker has to clear out in a hurry. Don’t be afraid to approach speakers outside the room either. Most of them are friendly and are easily engaged using beer and cocktails. :) It's not uncommon to find them at the official SharePint bar.
- Make friends – You may run into lots of people you know, but many people aren’t active on twitter and aren’t familiar with the SharePoint community at all. Find a friend if you didn’t come to the conference with any one. It’s much more fun to go do all of the activities in a group rather than by yourself. If you have coworkers there, feel free to hang out with them, but don't feel that you are obligated to.
- Go to the evening events - I can't stress this enough. Try to avoid team dinners that overlap with the events. Get them rescheduled. The evening events are where the real connections are made, friends are found, contracts are signed, and new jobs are discovered. If you just go to the conference and nothing else, you are missing out on half the experience.
- Remember to eat - This one sounds obvious but it’s not. You may be going to lots of parties with nothing but light appetizers. This does not give you a good base to work upon before embarking on a night of massive consumption. Pace yourself!
- Don’t worry about writing everything down – Remember the slides and content will be on Yammer before the session. Don’t stress out because you weren’t able to write down a URL or code snippet on a slide. You can also take pictures of slides as well.
- Visit the Exhibit Hall – The exhibit hall is a lot of fun. Besides all of the SWAG and drawings, you are likely to find out about evening events that way. Make a point of going there every day. I spend a good majority of my time there during the conference. You'll never know who you run into.
- Be on the lookout for the SharePoint Monkey – The word on the street is that the SharePoint Monkey will be making an appearance. You'll never know what that silly monkey is going to be up to during the conference. Be on the look out for him throughout the convention center. Follow him on twitter @TheSPMonkey for clues!
- Attend the sessions – Don’t skip out on the morning sessions. If I have to get up early so do you. :)
- Attend the Hands on Labs – If you haven’t had a chance to get your hands on the latest technology, get down to the HOL and check it out. This is a great way to experience the product without having to take the time to install it. It opens at 9:00 am on most days (after the keynote on Monday).
- Take a test – Go roll the dice and find some time to take a test.
- Don’t underestimate travel times – It’s a long bus ride to the convention center. It can be between 15 and 30 minutes if not more. Even within the convention center, there are long walks between sessions. Plan accordingly.
- Set your alarm before you go out for the night - Before you go out for the night, set your morning alarm on your phone. You may not remember when you get back to your room.
- Arrive early to sessions – Many sessions will fill up and entrance will be denied, especially futures sessions. Don’t get left out by showing up late.
- Don't be afraid to leave a session - If you decide in the middle of the session, that this one isn't for you, don't be afraid to quietly step out and go see something else. A few speakers might call you out for it, but most won't. :)
- Learn hash tags for the sessions you are attending – Every session you are attending has an associated hash tag that you can follow.
- Don’t wear your badge outside of the convention center – Nothing says you don’t have any game like walking out of the convention center with your badge on. Take it off as you exit the area. Don't lose it though as it may cost you a lot to replace it.
- Don’t forget your badge (and lanyard) at the attendee party – You’ll need your badge everywhere you go. Bring it and the lanyard.
- Keep your phone charged – The battery life on LTE phones is horrible and even worse when you are tweeting non-stop all day. Keep an eye on your phone’s battery life and charge up throughout the day.
- Don’t be afraid to leave for lunch – I’m not a huge fan of conference food and it rarely gets along with my diet. Usually by the second or third day I am grabbing anyone I can find and going off-site. Find me at the conference and you can join me.
- Fill out your evaluations – These really are important to the speakers. Let them know they did a good job and take the time to leave actual text comments in them.
- Establish rendez-vous points – Establish meeting spots in advance with your group and set a time to meet.
- Go to the attendee party – Go to the attendee party. If you are expecting to meet people there, meet them before you leave the hotel. If you don’t walk in with the people you want to see, you will likely not see them that night.
- Hydrate - Drink lots of water throughout the day. This is especially important if you have had a lot of late nights.
- Silence your phone during sessions, turn it on as loud as possible everywhere else - Don't be "that guy" who has your phone ringing in the middle of a session. That's guaranteed embarrassment. When you're not in sessions, turn the volume up on it as you probably won't hear it go off otherwise when you get a message.
That’s my list. I’m sure there are other things to remember. Do you have anything else to add? Leave a comment. This probably goes without saying, but if you are not on Yammer and Twitter, now is the time to join. It’s the best way to keep up with what’s happening at the conference.
I’m also presenting a session with Matt McDermott at this year’s conference and we would love for you to come see it.
- #BRK4124 – Search Extensibility in SharePoint 2013 (Second Screen) (Thursday, May 7th, 5:00p) – Come on a tour of the common extensibility and development tasks needed to take advantage of the full power of SharePoint 2013 Search Service. Ingest content from external sources through the BCS. Enhance content prior to indexing via Content Enrichment. Pinpoint relevancy and enhance user queries through contextual targeting with Query Rules. Make the most of the new Keyword Query Language improvements. Finally, customize the end-user experience and make your search results shine!
Enough with the shameless plug. :) Get ready and I’ll see you at the conference.
Follow me on twitter: @coreyroth.