In 10 days I board a jet-plane for VMworld (HOLY CRAP!) which means the excitement is starting to ramp up. There are meetings, demos, events and of course parties to plan for, but how you approach a major conference is something that is very particular to the individual and that’s what I’d like to spend a few minutes discussing today. There are about as many ways to approach a major conference as there are attendees. Really? No, but let’s just pretend so that I can share a few lessons learned from my conference experiences.
The Lab Guy
My first major conference I spent the majority of my time sitting in the lab soaking up as much hands on experience as I could. I would go hit the expo floor, grab a snack and an adult beverage, hide said adult beverage and hit the lab for hours. Not to say it wasn’t valuable but it damaged my spirit a little when late in the conference I learned that all of the labs would be available online after the conference ended… Oof.
After hearing this bit of spirit breaking news I learned that there is a really valuable reason to be in the labs: the guided sessions. Any time you can sit down with an expert, pick their brains, while gaining hand’s on experience, well… that’s just a win right there.
The pros to this are pretty obvious, you get to spend dedicated time learning, which is never a bad thing, but the fact that HOL will have the labs available on-demand after VMworld Europe diminishes the value somewhat.
The Expo/Party Guy
These strange beasts are very closely related to the Party People. Tech conferences are fun. There is a lot of beer and a lot of free stuff. But there’s always the person who devotes themselves strictly to these endeavors. A lot of really great information can be gleaned off the floor, but at a price… the dreaded badge scanners! If you’re ok with that, then you have a really great opportunity to learn about emerging tech.
Now the expo floor is great, and I have my fair share of headaches/swag to show for it, however there are some folks who make this the primary objective of their conference. The expo floor should be one tool in your conference bat-belt, but if it’s your bat-mobile… maybe it’s being overdone a little bit.
Yeah ok, that sub-title is horrible, but I couldn’t think of a fun (and appropriate) way to label the folks who are all breakouts, all the time. This one is usually me. Attending conferences isn’t cheap, even if it isn’t coming directly out of your pocket. I usually want to return some value to my sponsor and that historically has taken the form of trying to take away as much directly applicable knowledge as possible. Next to the labs, this might be the most effective way to soak up as much technological knowledge as possible. In my mind, Breakouts are the meat and potatoes of a conference, so it’s hard for me to find a downside here. But like all things, including meat and potatoes, take it in moderation.
“Active Participators” may be another way to frame this and it’s a new one for me. At Dell/EMC world 2017, I made it my mission to blog as much as possible. Going into VMworld 2017 I’m really making it my mission to get involved as much as I can. There are so many events that you can get involved with, I’d urge you to get out there and broaden your horizons a bit. On top of the parties located on the gatherings page, you can find opportunities to play games, get into the hackathon, blog in the village and a whole host of other activities.
Whatever your approach, I hope you find the right balance of activities to make your conference amazing. See you in Sin City!
PS: If you need more things to do, come check out my sessions.