Tech Conference Survival Guide

December 19, 2014 Kevin Hulse

You just hit submit and registered for the conference. Visions of large convention halls, bright lights, and jet-level audio can make your head spin. It’s time to map out your game plan. We’re here to help. Here are some insights that will make your visit to JavaOne a productive and more enjoyable experience.
 

Start Your Research.

 

o   Jot down a list of questions you want to find answers to and/or a list of subjects you want to learn more about.

o   Install the conference “app”. Sometimes it’s just a mobile enabled website schedule and other times it is a full-blown application with tools and schedules allowing you to get the most out of the convention. Either way, it is a great way to organize your time.

o   Plan your schedule: Using the app, list exhibits/exhibitors you want to visit including scheduled speakers and presentations. So if a last minute a new opportunity comes up, you can change your plans while you know what you are missing in exchange.

o   Find the event hashtag and follow the conversation. #JavaOne Things happen in real time at a tech show. You’ll want to know about the coolest swag and opportunities to meet, mingle, and celebrate with passionate tech people.

o   Sign up to learn something completely new. Go to a session or demo on a topic that you know little or nothing about and just listen. It’s surprising how a new topic can revitalize you.

o   If possible, bring a co-worker or friend, so you can tag-team overlapping sessions or events.

Get Packing.

 

o   Wear comfortable shoes - Dressing sharp can make a good impression on anyone you meet, but you will be walking a few miles a day. An entire show can be ruined after one day if you can’t walk painlessly for the remainder.

o   Bring a development quality laptop - You will see cool things and get inspiration to take action at a show. Having your laptop, you will be able to act on that impulse in a show lounge, or your hotel room, or even on the plane ride home.

o   Bring business cards. You’ll never know when you will need to have your contact information ready when making an introduction.

o   Stash some non-perishable snacks in your bag, like protein bars or trail mix. Even though many conferences will offer meals, you may not have the time to stop and eat.

The Exhibit Visit.

 

o   Before you walk into an exhibit, stay in the aisle, look around, and get a feel for the company and its own brand personality. What do the graphics and screens look like? How is the booth laid out? Is it open and inviting? Are people congregating around a particular demo? Is it busy? Do attendees look engaged with staff or are they looking down, shifting their weight, and looking like the want to leave?

o    In speaking with exhibitors, you might find out they solve the exact problem you are encountering. On the other hand, it’s possible in the future that you or someone you know will have the problem they can solve. At the very least they typically have giveaways, contests or various mixer invitations you can enjoy. In the exhibit, you’ll want to walk around on your own, but it’s a safe bet you will be approached by someone working the booth who will greet you.

·         Ask questions about them. Have they been to this show before? What do they do? How long have they worked at the company? Are they a developer? If they are wearing a name badge, include their name in the conversation. This helps build rapport quickly.

·         Ask questions about the company. How did they get started? What makes their technology better and faster than everyone else does?

·         Reference something you've seen and ask their opinion, such as “I saw demo X at this booth, do you have technology like this?”

·         When all else fails, ask, “What’s new?” This tried and true question will get the conversation going.

o   After visiting an exhibit, or attending a session or event, take a moment to jot down down at least one key takeaway from each session or conversation. Evernote is a great app to take notes and photos to capture information you’ll want to refer to later on.

o   Eat with new people at included meals. You never know whom you could meet or what they know. The worst outcome of sitting at a random table is that you end up having met new people.

o   Charge your batteries.

·         If you stay up too late on day one, it will have a cascading effect on how much you are able to accomplish on remaining days.

·         Set aside time for yourself - If you are introverted like many technical individuals, set aside a lot of alone time before the conference and set aside recharge time during the show.

·         Get some exercise: go for a walk outside or workout in the hotel gym.

·         Don’t forget to charge your device batteries as well.

o   Return to your favorite exhibitors on the last day:  After a long show on the last day, there are less people in the exhibitor area. These folks will be less overwhelmed and willing to spend more time talking topics within their expertise like how their demo is put together, career advice, or open job opportunities.

o   Ship Swag home - Most hotels will help you with this and then you can accept all kinds of swag from exhibitors without dealing with the burden of taking them on the plane.

The Recap.

 

o   Go through the notes/photos that you took during the event. Put together a presentation of what you learned at the trade show for the rest of your team. Include some of your Swag, so you have a show and tell for your audience.

I hope that these tips make your JavaOne experience the best it can be. Please stop by our Kiosk #6001 and see our document web controls demo.  We will be giving away collapsible water bottles (useful for staying hydrated at the show and then easily collapsed and stored), conducting a survey, and giving away an iPad each day of the show.

 

About the Author

Kevin Hulse

Kevin is the Associate Solutions Enablement Specialist (a Technical Marketing position) at Atalasoft. He has worked prior in both engineering and support at Atalasoft. He also runs the company sponsored softball team and is an avid game player.

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