Maximize your next conference with these tips

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AtlasCamp 2015

AtlasCamp is fast approaching, June 9-11 in Prague, Czech Republic. AtlasCamp is our developer Super Bowl, World Cup, Stanley Cup, or whatever sports metaphor that works best. I’m looking forward to meeting new people, learning new techniques and building new partnerships. I wanted to offer my experiences in how I make the most out of developer conferences. Here are a few of my suggestions for getting the greatest value out of a conference.

Prioritizing your time

At any conference your time will compete with many activities. How can you maximize your time while you’re there? Here are some things to consider before you arrive.

  • Are there many tracks going on at once?
  • Will you have access to video recordings after the conference?
  • Will there be a lounge or hack area outside the sessions?

Check the conference web site for answers. You may need to contact the organizers to determine these answers. The organizers may not have considered answers to these questions yet. To show that there is demand you should contact them early.

The most important question to answer is the availability of video recordings. Without video recordings attending the sessions is the priority. With video recordings, attending the sessions is secondary. Video frees you to talk, hack, build relationships with others in the “hallway track.” A lounge or hack area will make the “hallway track” more enticing to others as well.

The Hallway Track

With video, you can take the choice out of which session to attend. You can stay put in one track and catch the other track later on. Without video you’ll need to plan ahead and choose the session that is best.

At AtlasCamp, we will have two tracks this year. Track 1 will center around add-on development and track 2 on developer tools. We will record each session and they will be available after the conference. Finally, we will have a network lounge and developer breakouts for attendees.

Attend the Keynote

The one session you should not miss is the keynote. All conferences have a keynote. It dictates the rest of the conference with high profile speakers or major announcements. Yet, the keynote is the single common session for the entire conference. You can use the keynote to break the ice while networking.

Mike Cannon-Brookes - Keynote Speaker

For AtlasCamp, we’ll have Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes giving the keynote address. He’ll sure to have great information about Atlassian products that you’ll talk about later.

Network the Parties

There should be at least one networking event or after party to meet others. Make sure you go and bring lots of business cards and a pen, to jot a note about the person you just met. Then go out and talk to people. Join in their conversations, listen and ask questions. Learning how to network and connect with other people is a great skill to learn. Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People defines those skills. He provides a few simple rules (that are covered more in-depth in the book) that apply:

Fundamental techniques

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six ways to make people like you

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other persons interests.
  6. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

I familiarize myself with these rules anytime I’m going to meet people. It helps me condition my thinking into that of the other person. I want to leave the person with a positive experience of me and the company I represent.

Talk with the sponsors

Conference sponsors are the life blood of any conference. Their monetary contributions are what allow organizers to do the extras. In exchange, they’re hoping for a moment of your time. They’ll even give you swag.

Spend some time in the exhibition booth. Use the network skills above to talk with the sponsors. You may find a service or product that interests you. Have your business cards with you to hand out. Think of sponsors as eager networkers who jumped the line to talk with you.

Enjoy yourself

Remember that attending a conference is more then sitting in sessions. The real value is talking with others and building relationships. AtlasCamp 2015 is coming up fast and is the perfect event to get the most out of with these tips. Make sure to talk with me at AtlasCamp. You can find me @RedWolves on Twitter.

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