A Few Tips & Tricks on Attending Microsoft TechEd 2010

As a technical professional, it's a safe bet that you will attend a conference (or two) during your professional career. Given this reality, it's a good idea to have a plan that outlines what you should do before, during and after each conference. With Microsoft TechEd 2010 less than a week away, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of my tips & tricks when attending this conference.

Before Attending Microsoft TechEd 2010

  • Have a plan. Review the Agenda and Sessions thoroughly and use the Schedule Builder to plan out your itinerary. Consider talking to your manager/mentor to sort out your schedule and goals for the event.
  • Bring a large and durable backpack (i.e. Brain Bag by Tom Bihn). You'll likely accumulate a considerable amount of "stuff". You'll need a bag that's strong/supportive enough to withstand a week's worth of packing and unpacking.
  • Bring comfortable shoes. You should expect to walk a great deal when attending TechEd.
  • Consider bringing a smaller laptop; a netbook makes for a great conference machine. You're going to spend a great deal of time sitting and walking around. You will want to pack light.
  • Bring a lot of business cards. Stick them behind the name badge of the lapel that the conference organizers will be providing you so they are easy to access and hand out to people.
  • Plan for not-so-great wireless at the event and at your hotel. Think about it: You'll be at a conference with thousands of wireless hungry professionals, just like you. Put your 3G card into your bag before heading out.
  • Set your out-of-office reply in email, letting folks know that you're unavailable and how to escalate items in your absence.
  • Schedule some "recovery time" before leaving for TechEd. This is time you'll need to catch up on email and voicemail that will accumulate while you're attending the conference.

While Attending Microsoft TechEd 2010

  • Dress appropriately for the event. New Orleans can be pretty hot and humid at this time of year. Be prepared.

Ugh. Today's weather (May 31, 2010) in New Orleans. To a Canadian, this equals "NOT FUN".

  • Arrive early for breakout sessions (i.e. 15 minutes before start time). Generally-speaking, they are well-attended and finding a good seat 2-3 minutes prior to the start time is next to impossible.
  • Eliminate distractions. TechEd is a wonderful opportunity to learn and connect with your peers. Switch your mobile off, close Outlook and pay attention to the presenter.
  • Visit the Track Areas section of the Technical Learning Center (TLC). In my based, this is the absolute best place to get answers to questions you have about Microsoft-related products and technologies. This area will be filled with product team members from Microsoft and should be considered a must attend/visit part of your itinerary.
  • Keep an eye on the #TechEd hashtag for information and news relating to the event. Many ad-hoc meet-ups are scheduled on Twitter and are great opportunities to connect with like-minded individuals.
  • Participate, get involved and most importantly, ask lots of questions. Your TechEd experience (from a learning perspective) will be much better if you take the initiative by engaging and talking with others.
  • Don't worry too much about taking detailed notes. Most breakout sessions will be recorded. Record the "ah-ha!" moments but don't stress about writing down everything you hear in a session.
  • Submit evaluations and more importantly, let speakers know what you thought of their presentations. Believe it or not, most speakers (including myself) read EVERY SINGLE COMMENT that's written/typed on an evaluation. Use that opportunity to provide feedback.
  • Charge your laptop and mobile phone as soon as you get back to your hotel room. It's easy to forget given how busy you'll be at TechEd. Believe me, you'll thank yourself when you're not having to spend time between sessions charging your devices the next day at the event.

After Attending Microsoft TechEd 2010

  • Take some time and mentally review what you learned at the conference. There will be a lot of information to absorb and you'll need some time to synthesize it. (More often than not, I come home from a conference and my brain hurts. Note: Not from alcohol but rather, from all of the ideas I have.)
  • Report what you learned to your colleagues. Did you see something cool? Did you discover a solution that will dramatically impact your business? Let others know. Write a quick email or organize a "lunch & learn" where you can recap the week's events.
  • Send an email to the TechEd organizers and let them know what you thought about the conference. Believe me, they'll want to know.

Some What-You-Should-Do-While-Attending-a-Conference Resources

Oh, and there's one more thing...

Yes, I'll be attending TechEd. I'll be there with Mack Male and members of the Canadian DPE team. If you happen to see me wandering around, please stop me to say hello. I always love meeting up with folks from the technical community, especially Canadian developers!