So you finally made it to Microsoft Ignite. Congratulations!!!! Now, what do you do?
Whether it is your first time or you are a veteran, Microsoft Ignite is a weeklong marathon of information and networking. Having a plan going in and executing a successful week can take some work so I wanted to share my thoughts and tips for making your week a success.
Keep your Goal in Mind
Everyone should have a goal for Microsoft Ignite. If not, check out my blog post on successful guidelines for an Awesome Conference. This will be your North Star for the conference. It will help you to determine what are the most important activities to engage in. Along with your schedule, this will help determine who you want to network with, what you want to visit in the expo hall, and where you need to be. If you still haven’t set up your schedule, get to it in the MyIgnite portal.
Pick up Your Badge
One of the great options for Ignite is early badge pickup. You can get your conference badge, your ticket to everything, at the airport in the Baggage Claim area. This is the best way to get this out of the way as lines can be longer at the conference center on Monday morning. If you can’t make the airport, try to pop by the OCCC or the Hyatt Regency on Sunday and get it taken care of. You’ll need your registration email w/ barcode (paper or electronic), and a picture ID. Once you have your badge, you can pick up your backpack anytime you like. Early is better if you want the best choice of backpack colors. See a sneak peek of the backpack here.
Don’t give in to FOMO
You will not be able to do everything you want so don’t beat yourself up for missing out on things. Between sessions and networking opportunities, you may feel overwhelmed. Don’t let it get you down. Just remind yourself what your goals are for the week and have fun. You’ll meet amazing people and learn a ton of new things so just go with the flow.
Over the last few years, this has become the most important component of my conference experience. As I get older, lack of sleep and poor nutritional decisions wreak havoc on my ability to function well. So I make a conscious decision every day to watch all the things I need to watch. Here’s a quick list for success (at least for me):
- Try to eat like normal. Yeah…this is a hard one. I make a conscious effort to not over-eat on things I’d be limited back home. Also, I try to have real meals, and not just eat free food at a Vendor event. In the past, I’ve gone as far as bringing/buying protein bars, shakes, or other foods to help with keeping normalized.
- Listen to your body. You’ll be spending a lot of time on your feet, walking as well as sitting. Your body may not like this so listen to it. If you need to take a break, find a comfy chair or head back to your hotel early.
- Stay Hydrated. It will be hot outside, you’ll be doing a lot of walking, and the OCCC will be dry with all the AC.
- Call home. Remember, you aren’t the only one who is putting in the extra effort. Chances are you have family back home who is people in extra because you are gone. Make sure to re-connect with them regularly. This also helps ground you back into reality as you can lose touch with the outside world quickly with all the conference stuff.
For me, that is one of the top reasons for going to Ignite (or TechEd previously). The connections I’ve made throughout the year have provided many personal and professional growth opportunities. That is where The Krewe got its start and I look forward to catching up with old friends, along with meeting new ones. Many people forget that relationships are such an important part of our work, and this is an opportunity to build great ones.
The Microsoft Showcase and Vendor Expo are great places to meet with vendors and Microsoft experts. I know many people who get their conference worth by visiting with the product groups and asking questions.
For the more social side of Ignite and the IT Pro community, check out The Krewe. We have an active Facebook community that will be buzzing with all the happenings at Ignite, and how to get the most of out your “Evening Sessions”.
It’s not always about being in the room
There is a chance the session your chosen session will be full, and there may not be an overflow room. I and many others will stream sessions from a mobile device. I like this option since you can find a comfortable place to view, and can easily switch to another session if needed. Also, check out the Hangout Area where you’ll have 16 big screen monitors streaming all the sessions w/ comfy chairs and room to lounge. All you need to stream the sessions is a mobile device and Tech Community account. For more information, check out this great blog post.
Random Tips from the Field
I asked The Krewe for their tips for Ignite, and I got a lot of great responses. Here’s a collection of a few from them, and a few of mine over the years.
- Get out of your comfort zone, and meet new people. Very few people bite so say hi to that speaker you see in the expo hall, or someone standing in line at breakfast.
- Wear comfortable shoes. While the footprint of the conference is more condensed, there is still a ton of walking so plan accordingly.
- Leave time for hallway sessions. You can always re-watch a missed session but you can’t re-do a missed networking opportunity.
- Get to the bus early on Monday as everyone will be trying to make the keynote. What early is depends on where your hotel is about the OCCC (Orange County Convention Center). If you want a good seat at the keynote, you probably need to be done with breakfast and in line 45 minutes before the start.
- Ask yourself if you need your laptop. Power can be sparse, and it’s a lot to drag around.
- Make good decisions at Night. Vendor parties are fun. I get it. I’ve seen many people over the years ruin their conference because they let the night events overwhelm them. Just be a good adult and remember why you are here.
- Leave work at work. I get that many of you work in roles that require you to help when something big goes down. But your employer sent you here for a reason: to learn and grow, not work remotely. Try to set the expectation that you are truly OOF (Out OF Office).
- Do you need all that swag. Generally, I stopped ‘swag hunting’ many years ago. First, I worked in a position where I was not going to be buying anything from vendors so why scan my badge, and deal with all the phone calls. Second, it’s a lot to drag home. If you do swag hunt, make sure you have an extra bag, or you can always ship home.
- Have Fun. For most this isn’t a vacation, but it’s not your regular work so take some time to have fun. Visit some stuff in Orlando, get out at night to network or even a movie if you need a break. Just remember, it’s just a conference.
- Ask for Help. Even if you are a veteran, I think you’ll find the layout is different and you’ll probably have questions. Just look for the Purple Shirts. These are the event staff who are here to help you have a great experience. If you have a question, ask one of them. Or ask your question on twitter with the #MSIgnite hashtag for a possible answer.
Well, that should set you up for a great week full of fun and networking. Make sure to say Hi if you see me around the Community Lounge.