Symposium survivor

With some of the bigger software conference and events just around the corner many of us are braced for a week or two of technical briefings, keynotes and – wait for it – ‘birds of a feather sessions’.

With some of the bigger software conference and events just around the corner many of us are braced for a week or two of technical briefings, keynotes and – wait for it – ‘birds of a feather sessions’. So whether you are headed for JavaOne, IBM’s Rational User Conference, Microsoft’s PDC, Adobe’s MAX or Red Hat’s Boston shindig I thought a quick user-guide might be in order and possibly generate some discussion among those of you who delight in ‘pressing the flesh’ at these get togethers.

So, here’s my top 10 guide to being a symposium survivor:

1 – GO EARLY: Avoid the registration queues, tour the facility and find out where you need to be and when you need to be there, sleep off your jet lag, take some pictures and generally get yourself together. A lot of these things start on a Sunday with pre-conference sessions, so arrive on the Saturday if you can.

2 – DON’T TAKE A LAPTOP BAG: Obvious I know, but true. You know you’re going to be given a bag, a couple of extra T-shirts, pens, paper and a water bottle. So don’t bother packing them!

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3 – PLAN WITH MILITARY PRECISION: Get your conference guide and form an attack plan to underpin your personal schedule. Don’t just sit in sessions, go and meet some of the people you know you ought to meet. Accommodate for some time touring the cheesy exhibition centre stands.

4 - WHEREFORE ART THOU Wi-Fi?: Work out the best areas for WiFi coverage in the exhibition centre. Forget it in the keynote, there’s always a bunch of jokers setting up peer-to-peer networks and the whole thing goes into meltdown. If all else fails, take a tip from a journalist – go and sit outside the press room. They always make sure the press has WiFi so they can file their stories.

5 – STOCK UP ON SODA: Avoid expensive room service charges by taking as many extra bottles of soda, fizzy pop, water and choccy bars as your laptop bag can handle.

6 – KEYNOTE CALAMITY: Don’t miss day two and day three keynotes. They are typically better and more in depth than the “hello I’m the CEO and we’re all jolly glad you’re here” backslapping on day one.

7 – DEAR DIARY: Write up your show notes as you go along (it’s so much easier), that way when your team leader or project manager asks you to justify the expense of sending you away next year he or she is super happy as they already have a tidy little report to refer to.

8 – MINGLE WITH YOUR PEERS: Even if you are not the most naturally gregarious person try and chat to some fellow developers, DBAs or other software engineers. Find out about the different tools, techniques and workflow methods they are using. Who knows, you might even be able to find out whether you are being underpaid!

9 – SLEEP: It’s all too easy to go crazy working and partying over the first couple of days, take it easy and pace yourself.

10 – STAY LATE: If you’ve gone all the way to Vegas, Boston, LA, Barcelona, Amsterdam or San Salvador for a conference then chill out afterwards, take a dip in the pool, walk around the city, eat a hamburger – whatever, feel like you’ve walked around the block at least.

… and finally – don’t believe any of that “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” rubbish they spin you with (or Orlando or Barcelona etc…) – I went to a database conference four years ago and chased the pretty Java developer I had ever seen… and now she’s my wife!