#1 – Unless you have to be there, spend as little time on the vendor floor as possible.Â Last year I did a â€œwalkthroughâ€ for about 25 minutes and that was it â€¦ and I didnâ€™t feel later like I missed anything. The glitz and freebies are tempting but what you generally find is you get bags of freebies that weeks or months later you realize you mainly just threw out. Most software trials are available online anyhow.
Some good friends of mine gathered so much â€œstuffâ€ at the National Science Teachers conference years ago that they paid over $25 to ship it home because they had no room left in their baggage. They were ecstatic at all the â€œgreat stuffâ€ they got. You guessed it, 99% of everything ended up thrown out unused over the next 2 or 3 years. Besides, there is so much else going on that you will miss a ton being collared by sales people that want you to see their stuff and listen to their pitch.
The vendor floor has always been where you went between sessions at any conference. If there werenâ€™t any sessions that appealed to you during a time that is when you visited the floor. Well at NECC the Bloggers CafÃ© and various other venues are constantly abuzz and full of people to have conversations with and see Impromptu demos of software and techniques. When I would stroll into those venues after being at a session last year something was always going on. I also skipped sessions I had planned to attend because of getting caught up in what was going on in the Cafe.
#2 â€“ Make a schedule of all the sessions you want to see â€¦ then be ready to ignore it â€¦ or at least a lot of it.Â If youâ€™ve been to any conference you know that figuring out which sessions to attend is hard because how a session is described too often isnâ€™t what you expected, or it ends up being way over your head or so introductory as to be worthless to you, and by the time you figure that out itâ€™s too late to get into another.Â
Last year there were times that, via Twitter or Skype, someone already in a session that wasnâ€™t even on your radar screen would Twit that they were in an awesome session with empty seats in room ____.
#3 â€“ Donâ€™t be afraid to hang out and put your 2 cents in. My experience last year was that all those people whose blogs you read are pretty approachable. Use common sense and if they look busy leave them alone. You could tell when someone had just been in a session or had a conversation they wanted to blog or whatever â€¦ they would sit off to the side and be obviously totally focused on writing on their laptop â€¦ get a clue and leave them alone. Anyone you see sitting with the group â€¦ mosey on over and look for your opening. Nobody was a bigger no body last year than me (or shyer), and I felt included throughout. I did read blogs from people later that stopped by and were afraid to inject themselves (understandable â€¦ it can be intimidating), but give it a shot. If you see me â€¦ come say hi.
#4 â€“ Bring a cheap plug strip. I forget who exactly â€¦ it was one of the WOW2 women (Cheryl or Jen I think) had one last year and we would all moan every time she left the cafÃ© and took her strip with her â€¦ there were only so many plugs. AND if you have an extra battery, BRING IT!
#5 â€“ Donâ€™t stress â€¦ YOU ARE GOING TO MISS SOME COOL THINGS YOU WISH YOU HADNâ€™T MISSED! Itâ€™s OK â€¦ you will see and learn so much that you wonâ€™t be able to process it all … it wonâ€™t matter!
If I think of anything else Iâ€™ll pass it along. And those of you that have more experience than I … pass it along in the comments.
Learning is messy!