Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Girl's Survival Guide to the Microsoft SharePoint Conference

Microsoft hosts a SharePoint Conference every year. They are most often in Las Vegas, run for about 4 days, and include 10,000+ attendees. Listen to the best speakers providing you with the latest information on SharePoint currently, and what may be in store for future releases. Sessions are about an hour and fifteen minutes each and run from 9am to 6pm on most conference days. Breakfast, lunch & small snacks are provided for you. Microsoft & their sponsors/vendors plan evening events/parties for attendees as well. If you want to survive the daily grind at SPC (short for the SharePoint Conference), follow the tips I have listed below...

Things to pack:
1) Tablet device with some sort of keyboard attachment (Laptops are too heavy for your tote bag or messenger so just leave it at home! I have an iPad with the Logitech bluetooth wireless keyboard.)
2) Smart phone (duh)
3) Personal Wi-Fi hotspot (the wi-fi provided by the conference is always flooded and mostly hard to get onto)
4) Chapstick (the weather is really dry out here but even if you forget, a lot of vendors have them for you too)
5) Layerable clothing (sometimes the rooms can be hot OR cold)
6) Comfy shoes! (You will be walking, so leave the business attire at home and just go CASUAL! Heels can be great for going out at night but trust me, those toes will be hurting and you will opt for comfort.)
7) Oil blotting sheets for your face (easier than touching up all of your makeup)
8) Backpack, messenger, or tote bag (if you go the tote bag route, just remember that your bag will become heavy with all of the swag from vendors so be prepared for shoulder/back pain)
9) Business cards (bring a ton! you will go through them all...)
10) Luggage lock for your suitcase (to keep all of your valuables safe while you are out of your hotel room)
11) Mobile battery pack (to charge your devices during the day because your phone/tablet will run out of juice!)
12) Charging cables (duh again)
13) Long wearing makeup (ex: waterproof eyeliner, foundation primer, waterproof mascara, etc.)
14) Small wallet/wristlet (minimizing the amount of weight that you carry in your bag during the day of the conference)
15) Cash for gambling
16) Hair ties
17) Cheaper jewelry/accessories (you don't want to bring anything too nice in case you lose it & make sure to lock it away when you leave your hotel room in the morning)
18) Twitter pin (if you don't have one, you can buy one from jenheartsart.com)
19) Neck pillow for the flights
20) Ibuprofin/Acetaminophen for those headaches (we women have more chances to get headaches than men!)
21) Shoe inserts (I love Superfeet)
22) Dry shampoo (for those mornings you are too tired to re-wash your hair)
23) Nail file in a pouch/case (so that it doesn't scratch the other items in your bag)
24) Turbie Twist (if you have long hair and want to speed up the drying process)
25) Expandable suitcase (pack with the expanding portion not utilized so that when you do finish the conference, you can use the expander for all of the sawg)

Things you don't need to pack:
1) Hair Dryer (hotel usually has it)
2) Shampoo/Conditioner or Body Lotion (also provided by hotel)
3) Pens/Paper (vendors have a plethora of pens and notepads if you need them)
4) Reading material (let's face it, you won't have time)
5) Sunglasses (again, a lot of vendors seem to have those too)
6) Alarm clock (you can get a wake up call from the hotel or just use your phone)
7) Anti-bacterial hand gel (most conference areas have them available in the hallways or vendors have small bottles as giveaways too)

Things to do about 2 weeks before the conference:
1) Log into myspc.sharepointconference.com and sign up for sessions
2) Export those sessions to your smart phone AND tablet (this will create a calendar you will be "subscribing" to. Add/remove sessions on the myspc site and the subscribed calendar on your device(s) will update. Plus, I love the reminders I get about where I need to be next!)
3) Create and save a search in Twitter for the SPC hashtag (ex: #SPC14 for the 2014 conference or #SPC15 for the 2015 conference). Look at it as much as you can! Vendors will be tweeting contests and parties.
4) Download and set up a note taking app such as OneNote to take notes during sessions
5) Grab the OneNote data from the myspc web page listed above. This will have general conference information and maps that can be accessed offline after the initial download. 
6) Sign up for any vendor parties (google it, you never know what others may post.)
7) Follow @SPConf on twitter (they are the main twitter account for the conference)
8) Set up your Yammer account and app on all devices
9) Like SharePoint Conference on Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/wwspc
10) Follow @WomeninSP on Twitter to see what events they are hosting during the conference (usually a lunch)

Things to do as soon as you arrive at the hotel (preferably fly in a day or two before the conference):
1) Buy large bottles of water to keep in the hotel room (you will get dehydrated)
2) Buy snacks (the snacks provided at the conference are limited and may not fulfull every dietary restriction)
3) Register and pick up your badge
4) Look through the conference swag provided during registration. You will see vendor advertisements which may include some raffle entries. Fill those out before you hit the Exhibit Hall.
5) Visit the vendors the night before the conference starts. The Exhibit Hall is usually open for a few hours. Get in on the free swag & giveaway contests early!
6) Check out the Microsoft Store because they will run out of products quickly
7) Figure out how far your room is from the conference location (if the conference is in the same hotel, try the walk to estimate time in the morning)
8) Write down or take a picture of your room number
9) Go to bed early!!! (Because you will not be sleeping the rest of the week.)

On Conference Days:
1) Order room service for breakfast if you are short on time in the morning and want the extra rest (lines for the provided breakfast can be long)
2) Arrive at sessions early (seats can fill up fast and they do limit the amount of people per room capacity)
3) Find the snacks! (There are usually mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. Sometimes they are in the classroom hallways, sometimes they are in the exhibit hall. Check both places and hoard extra snacks if you need to.)
4) Follow your speakers on Twitter and mention them in your Tweets when you can
5) Fill out session evaluations after attending each one (You may win a prize!)
6) Drink lots and lots of water
7) Talk to others at your breakfast or lunch table and see what sessions they plan on attending or how their SharePoint environment is set up. You never know what you might learn from someone else. :)
8) Note the "Community Area" to find out more about SharePoint User Groups
9) Keep the business cards from people you meet and make notes on them so you remember who they actually were

After the Conference:
1) Check myspc.sharepointconference.com for downloadable content from each session
2) Play with the Hands On Labs (even if you didn't attend any of those session in person). The links to the Hands On Labs should be on the myspc site.
3) Connect with all of the people you met on LinkedIn or on Twitter using those business cards you kept!

Remember, PACE YOURSELF and HAVE FUN!!!!

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