Tips for building your Microsoft Ignite schedule from IT Pro and conference veteran, Scott Ladewig--2016 edition

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It's late on a September evening, and I've just wrapped up one of the more challenging tasks I perform annually in my life as an IT Pro. This tasks usually involves some late nights staring at a glowing screen in a dark room, wondering how it's all going to come together, and hoping that it just all works.

Of course, I'm talking about building my schedule for Microsoft Ignite.  The Schedule Builder went live last month, and all over the world attendees have been sifting through 1,262 sessions (as of 10:52 PM on September 12) to find a combination that will make that week in Atlanta one to remember.

Last year, the good folks behind the Microsoft Ignite blog asked me to share my schedule along with the approach I take building it. Someone must have found it useful, because they've asked me back for a 2016 edition of that blog post.

I put a lot of thought into my schedule every year because I like to have a plan when I go to a conference. If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know I'm a huge Disney fan. When I'm going to visit the parks, I do a lot of advance planning to ensure that I make good use of my time. Playing everything by ear works for some people, but a Disney theme park can quickly overwhelm you if you're not careful. Microsoft Ignite is the same way.

The Microsoft Ignite schedule you build now gives you path to follow once you hit the ground in Atlanta.  You're going to deviate from the path at times. Sometimes a session just doesn't live up to expectations, or maybe you strike up a conversation with someone you met at lunch, or maybe you just need a break to rest your brain and grab some swag at the Expo. You might even throw out your schedule completely and blaze a new trail. No worries. At least it gave you a start.

So enough of that, let's get to the good stuff. Quick background on me:

  • I'm an IT Pro in higher education.
  • I'm a generalist and have worked with most parts of the Microsoft stack over the last 20+ years. Server, Desktop, Exchange, SQL, System Center, Azure, etc.
  • My main focus these days is on desktop and server infrastructure at my school. All of which is made more challenging by a multi-year IT "shared services" (a.k.a. centralization) initiative at our university.

Here is my approach to building my schedule for Microsoft Ignite in bullet form:

  • My focus is on breakout sessions. I can watch sessions on demand after Microsoft Ignite is over, but it can be difficult to make time to do so. So I aim to see my top-priority sessions live and in person whenever possible.
  • I split my schedule between what I'm doing today and what I think I'll be doing when next year's Microsoft Ignite conference rolls around. One foot in the present, and one in the future.
  • I make multiple passes, selecting by different criteria in order, first by topic, then by product, and lastly by speaker.
  • When making the speaker pass, I look for my favorite speakers to make sure I didn't miss anyone. Everybody has their list of not-to-miss speakers, and some of these are probably on your list too. Some of mine are: 1. Johan Arwidmark & Mikael Nystrom (both awesome individually but together... priceless). 2. Paula Januskiewicz (always terrifying when she shatters any sense of security you may have in your systems). 3. Jeffrey Snover (Do you use PowerShell or Windows Server? Of course you do. 'nuff said.). 4. Michael Niehaus (More Windows client deployment goodness. Mr. MDT). 5. Mark Russinovich.
  • I always double-book... triple-book, etc. There are always more interesting sessions than there are open timeslots.  So I select all of the sessions I want to see, knowing that I have one or two top choices, and the rest are backup. It makes for a cluttered schedule, but a new feature in the Schedule Builder year is helping reduce that problem.

    The Playlist is new this year, giving you a place to store sessions without adding them to your schedule. Playlists can be shared, and once shared, it's a snapshot of the list at that time, even if you change it later.  I'm still double-booking in spots when there are strong alternative candidates that I'll realistically consider attending.  For all of those other sessions, however, I'm adding them to a playlist that will be my on-demand to-do list after Microsoft Ignite ends.

All of that leads to the "finished" product, my schedule for Microsoft Ignite 2016:

Monday, September 26

9:00 – 10:30 AM

  • Microsoft Ignite Keynote – Microsoft is splitting the keynotes this year, with Scott Guthrie kicking things off this year. They say they're keeping it short and sweet (we'll see).

1:00 – 1:50 PM

2:15 – 3:30 PM

Enhance Windows 10 deployment: what's new with Windows 10 deployment? – I live and breathe Windows deployment. Always want to hear what's new.

4:00 – 5:00 PM

  • Innovation Keynote – Keynote number two is our opportunity to hear from Satya Nadella. Don't want to miss this.

5:40 – 6:00 PM

6:10 – 6:30 PM

Tuesday, September 27

9:00 – 10:15 AM

10:45 AM – Noon

11:30 AM – 12:15 PM

2:15 – 3:30 PM

4:00 – 5:15 PM

4:30 – 5:15 PM

Wednesday, September 28

9:00 – 9:45 AM

9:00 – 10:15 AM

10:45 AM – Noon

12:30 – 1:45 PM

2:15 – 3:30 PM

4:00 – 5:15 PM

Thursday, September 29

9:00 – 10:15 AM

11:30 AM – 12:15 PM

12:45 – 1:30 PM

2:15 PM – 3:30 PM

4:00 – 5:15 PM

Friday, September 30 (Yes, some of us go to sessions on Friday.)

9:00 – 10:15 AM

10:45 AM – Noon

 

If you made it all the way to the end, congratulations. I hope you've found this either useful or interesting or both.  If you haven't assembled your schedule yet, head over to MyIgnite and give it a try. Be sure you share it with everyone when you do.  See you in Atlanta!

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The Discussion

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    DavidCarr

    Great post. I have known Scott for a long time. I follow a similar process. My schedule is done but probably will be tweaked a bit before ignite

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