How to Have a Great Tech Conference: Tips from the Experts

How to Have a Great Tech Conference: Tips from the Experts

Going to SPC14? SharePoint Saturday? IT/Dev Connections? Here are expert tips for doing it right.

Whether you're kicking off the season with Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2014 (SPC14), or waiting for IT/DevConnections Conference in September, every conference has its benefits and special moments. How do you take advantage of them?

To help, we cornered these technology experts and asked for tips.

SharePoint content chair Scot Hillier, and his fellow Windows, Exchange, SQL Server, and developer content chairs are anticipating some great session proposals for the IT/DevConnections Conference. Editorial director and conference lead Megan Keller reports that the call for speakers will be open soon.

Until then, take a look at these tried-and-true tips for getting the most out of your tech conference experience:

Sean Deuby, technical director, Windows IT Pro:

"For me, whether I’m attending or presenting it’s about pushing outside my comfort zone and meeting (and eventually establishing some kind of relationship with) the influencers."


Michael Otey, senior technical director, SQL Server Pro and Windows IT Pro:

Keep up with the latest. Dig deep in to your favorite areas."


Joe Panettieri, vice president, content and user engagement, Penton IT Group: "Watch the keynotes online (if available) — You'll often get a better view of the big keynotes right from your mobile device, freeing you up to head to meetings faster while avoiding the large entrance/exit crowds that come with keynotes.

Leave 30-minute gaps between meetings — otherwise, you'll never be on time.

Respectfully decline breakfast and dinner meetings — unless there's money on the table or a key networking opportunity to be had. You'll need the downtime to get your day job (remember that?) done."

Paul Thurrott, Senior Technical Analyst, Windows IT Pro, and Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows:

"Learn something. Go to the sessions. Interact with the speakers. Interact with others around you.

The point of this conference isn't a few days off from real life. It's to learn. Do that."


Rod Trent, IT Community Manager, Windows IT Pro:

"Blog from the event. Blogging helps you remember what you learned, and helps others who couldn’t attend.

Find a buddy.  If you attend with a co-worker, work out a schedule where you can both attend separate sessions and take notes. If you are attending alone, locate a friend from a past event, or even a stranger in a similar track.

Twitter user? Take a marker and write your Twitter profile name on the badge."


Jason Bovberg, Systems Management, Exchange Server, Outlook editor, Windows IT Pro:

"My best successes at shows involve writing up blog posts in which I can insert a photo of the meeting.Whether that’s a conversation with a vendor or a meeting with a speaker, I’ll take a quick photo at the booth or even an impromptu pic in the hallway, then post it along with a write-up. It’s a fun addendum to the whole notion of “networking,” both reminding myself of the meeting and letting me explore more about that vendor or person in my write-up."


Jayleen Heft, website and social media manager, SQL Server Pro:
"Make an effort to be social and meet as many new people as possible.You’ll obviously gain news skills from seminars and presenters, but by also connecting with other conference attendees you’ll likely find colleagues facing the same professional challenges, maybe learn a few new tips or tricks, and perhaps even make a new lifelong friend."

Lastly, a practical point: This SharePoint observer has learned in eight years of technology conferences to bring instant coffee to Las Vegas-based conferences. Yes, it's gruesome to drink, but it offers enough of a jolt to get up, get dressed, and go downstairs for the good stuff.

For newbies, attending a technology conference is not a trivial undertaking. Riding the wave of new software, talking heads, colorful vendor booths, and backpack-carrying, acronym-spouting strangers--without drowning—can be an accomplishment. But you can do it!

For veterans, what tips have worked for you?

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