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Tips for planning your Ignite experience from speaker Fabian Williams

Ignite is upon us...here is my Go strategy

Before you hit the road to Chicago 
Yes, at the time of this writing, we are less than one month away from Microsoft Ignite 2015 and the excitement is palpable. This is the conference that in the United States replaces MEC, TechEd, and the SharePoint Conference, but what does that mean? It's going to be a bigger, better, "experience" [Bingo!], than you have ever accomplished in one of Microsoft's yearly trademark conferences. And yes, expect to play "buzz word bingo"... a lot, with the understanding that these words carry deep meaning in the overall narrative, from the Keynote Speakers all the way to the Breakout Sessions.

So, you have registered for Ignite, hopefully by now you have booked your ticket, secured your hotel room, and got that part of the logistics out of the way. In this "before you hit the road" section of my piece, the take-away is that if you don't master this section, you are already setting yourself up for failure... remember the 6 P's – Proper Planning Prevents P#!$ Poor Performance

So with that, here are my "Top 5 To Do's"

1. Set your Expectations of the Conference and Plan what you expect to have or achieve by May 8, 2015
What do I mean by that? It may seem simple, but at times folks enter these conferences without a "Takeaway Plan" and quite often get overwhelmed with information and run the risk of just getting frustrated. We don't want that to happen, and yes, there is going be a TON of content and "experiences" to be had. When I checked last there was six hundred and twenty (620) Sessions in the agenda... do the math. It's impossible to even pick one session per time slot, even in one discipline, and get all the available material. That said, as you will see in a few screen shots before, what I do is double book and even triple book sessions and as the day goes by, I make a determination on what I will end up going to see LIVE, and what I will watch on Channel 9 after the conference is over. When you log into MyIgnite, you are able to book session on a calendar right there on the site. Use it.

2. Stay Connected on Social Media
This cannot be overemphasized. Watch Joey Snow and Rick Claus Microsoft Ignite Countdown Show on Channel 9, follow @MS_Ignite and the HashTag #MSIgnite for starters, but don't forget about Yammer, FaceBook and other social venues. Don't be afraid to ask folks what their thoughts are on particular topics, speakers, etc. We all love to share. Remember, #ShareingIsCaring, and when it comes to staying connected, please, please, don't forget to keep your devices charged. Take not one but a couple of those portable charges, and I can all but guarantee you that some of the Vendors in the Expo Hall will have a few to give away as SWAG.

3. Dress for the Occasion
No, this is not a Job Interview... then again, maybe it is. But, what I really mean here is:

  • It can get either bone-chilling cold or sauna-rificly hot in these breakout sessions. Dressing in layers is your friend, and please wear comfortable shoes, you will thank me later.
  • Take your backpack with you, you can stow clothing, your laptop, tablet, or collect SWAG as the day goes by, and this will cut down on perhaps trips back and forth to the hotel which may be a considerable distance away.

4. Participate in the Galas, Parties, Meetups, etc.
It cannot be overstated that a large component of these conferences is the people you meet, and where you meet them when they are the most receptive and happy... you guessed it... at the FREE events with food and beverages. This ties back to #2 and #1 above.

  • You may have folks that you only know on Social Media, take this time to drum up a conversation.
  • You may have followed some of these speakers blogs, webinars, shared code and slide deck on the internet... take this time to say hello and buy that guy or gal a drink! That always works with me. J
  • And as I mentioned in #3, maybe this can be the gateway to firming up your current employment when you get back home and tell everyone all the connections you made at Ignite, or perhaps, this is the job opening you were looking for.
  • In those sessions, in the Q&A section, ask your questions... please, this is the perfect "time and place" for it.

5. Have Fun with it
Yes, absolutely have fun with it. Let your hair down, absorb all that content, and enjoy the night life "responsibly"... I have always believed that learning should be fun, if it isn't fun, you are less inclined to do it. If you don't know where the fun is, you aren't looking hard enough. Follow the folks that you always see on Social Media having a good time at night and sitting in the front row in the breakout sessions in the day. They are not too hard to find. There are some MEC, TechEd, SPC veterans out there, let them be your guide.

Day of Arrival at Ignite
So the big day is here, you are either:

  1. Arriving on Saturday May 2nd – For MCT Days, resting up before the Pre-Days, or just enjoying the weekend in beautiful Chicago
  2. Arriving on Sunday May 3rd – A mad dash to attend a Pre-Day, or just squaring yourself away for...
  3. Arriving during the Conference May 4th and beyond

Whenever you arrive, with all the planning you did ahead of time as I mentioned above, this should be the day you take a deep breath and watch it all play out accordingly. One thing I emphasize here that I purposely didn't go into detail on in the planning phases is: get the lay of the land. I am a visual person, no matter how much I read a map, check my phone, until I can see it with my own eyes, and walk the path myself a few times, it won't sink in. I won't have my timing down, i.e.:

  • What frequency does the shuttle run between conference center and hotel?
  • How long does it take me to get from my hotel room to the lobby?
  • Where is the closest coffee shop?

...you get where I am going with this right?

If you can get here before May 4th, these are some of the activities to put on your list on "Day Zero."

Pre Cons, Breakouts, HOLS, etc.
As I mentioned above, you will want to have already mapped out your schedule and I know other speakers, Ignite Roundtable members will do this better justice than I can ever do, so I am going to just show you how I do mine. My strategy in priority when I attend conferences is:

  1. Learn ALL the stuff I can on what is coming down the pipe that leads to a better Professional Development Plan for me.
  2. Go to as many sessions as I can to gain knowledge but more so to ask questions of the speaker/product group of technologies and tooling I am currently using.
  3. Meet as many people as I can who are on my "brilliant minds list," or seem knowledgeable in a technology I am keenly interested in.

I approach this using the tools that I have been given. Log into MyIgnite and either

  • Browse
  • Search
  • Filter

To find the Speakers, Topics, Areas of interest.

Here you can see, I am filtering on a Speaker... make sure you come to this session, Just look at that AWESOME line up!

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