I have determined that if I go to the Summit with a little bit of preparation that I get a lot more out of it, than if I don’t. Now granted that sounds pretty obvious, but then again what do you do to get ready for the Summit? For me there are a number of steps and, well I thought I would pass those along and maybe you can get something out of it. If you are a seasoned professional I would love to hear what you do to get ready for the Summit. I will add notes here with credit. As I was putting this down I saw that Jen McCown has a great entry on this as well. (By the way Jen and I had the same first point, but I stopped reading hers because I didn’t want it to influence the points I was making, I will be going back to look at it.)
Get a Twitter Account – No matter how much planning that you do I think everyone is surprised how fast things can change at the summit, maybe a speaker had to be moved to a different room, maybe a laptop has crashed, heck maybe the party you planned to go to was a bust and everyone picked up and went to another party. Make sure you are in the know and get a Twitter account, and then learn how to follow the hash tags. You will be in the know and current.
Pick your sessions, and your backup sessions – The session list is out there, you can decide what session you want and you can build your schedule here. A number of people decide to do this when they get on site, but then you risk sitting in the back of the room for a session you really want to see. You may have to sit on the floor or stand. Make sure that in the sessions you believe you will get the most from that you are sitting in the front row. Then make sure you pick a backup session. I can tell you from a speaker standpoint we spend a lot of time trying to get our abstracts spot on so that you the attendee have all the information that you need to make a decision on the session. But we make mistakes, so maybe the session is not what you thought it was. Make sure you have a backup plan.
What vendors do you want to talk to – There are always a number of people in the Vendor hall, and the hall in the past has not been opened the whole event. There are a number of vendors that I think you should stop by and see, even if you are not ready to buy something there is always something to learn. Make a list of what vendors you would like more information from, and seek them out. Make sure you save time to see what else is there. I use to be very adamant about not buying other tools, if I could create the same functionality, but the end result was they could do it quicker and it would look better. Learn what is out there.
Bring some snacks – The schedule gets hectic, sometimes parties don’t have food, sometimes you may not like the food for lunch. Or if you are like me, you can only eat certain things. Make sure you bring some snacks. There is lots of food there, but I always find myself in a spot where I am hungry I don’t have anything I can eat.
Look at the Afterhours schedule – There are a ton of events after the normal schedule. I know that SQL Server Central has a party one night that is a huge hit. I know a number of other vendors that have events, and most years everyone from Colorado try to do dinner one night. End result is you should have an idea of what you want to do, but again like the sessions, make sure you have a backup plan and make sure you save some time for sleep and rest. Jen McCown one of the Midnight DBA’s (who I enjoy spending time with her and her husband Sean) had a great entry and a great list of events on her Pre-Conference Blog post.
Determine who you want to meet – Is there someone whose blog you follow? What about someone who Tweets with a number of things in common? Make sure you seek them out and introduce yourself. As I sit and think about the many people I have meet over the years I don’t think I have run into anyone that is not approachable. There are a couple of people that are super busy, so be respectful of time, but I think everyone there is great. Go shake a hand and make a real friend.
Camera – If you are into pictures, there is a photo walk that happened in the past, what a great way to get some great photos, If you’re lucky you can find a friend that will help you find some of the really kick butt spots. I have a friend that I make sure I spend time with and we spend a night driving around in an awesome car, just checking out the sites.
Here are some other great Blog entries on Pre-Summit Prep.
TJay Belt Part 1
TJay Belt Part 2 (He said some really kind things about me, Thanks TJay)
I knew it would happen, I have already forgotten a great resource. Denny Cherry has this webcast that you will find helpful as well.