Surviving TechEd

TechEd 2011 is drawing near, so I thought I’d share my personal list of “Rules to Survive TechEd”. Perhaps they will help you this year in Atlanta or at another multi-day conference you might have coming up.
  1. Register Early; Your Hotel is Key – Unless you have some special requirement or reason to stay at a particular hotel, you should register as early as possible so that you can pick a hotel within what you would consider walking distance to the conference center. I hate being at the mercy of the shuttles every morning.
  2. Prepare to Walk a Mile in Your Shoes – Most conference centers are large sprawling venues, last year TechEd spanned over a mile within the New Orleans Conference Center. Wear comfortable shoes and expect to get some exercise.
  3. Food and Beverage – Conference fare varies from year to year and location to location and it’s not always the highlight of the event. While some previous TechEds provided a hot breakfast and lunch, that’s not always the case. Also, depending on the contract of the venue, you may not find the soda brand of your choice provided. So you might have to make other arrangements or be flexible. The reality is that no matter what food is provided, not everyone is going to be happy.
  4. Know Where You’d Like To Be (but don’t expect to be everywhere) – Every year I as I work on building my schedule, I find that I want to be in several sessions at the same time or attend a session in every possible time slot. With over two dozen learning opportunities during the course of TechEd, my brain is simply on track to seize up and crash if I don’t pace myself. Take advantage of the content that will be posted online post-conference and skip a session or two. It’s amazing what a little down-time can do for you.
  5. Don’t Jump Sessions – It’s annoying when you have multiple sessions to choose from in one time slot and the one you decide on is a dud. However, don’t try to run over to your next pick. By the time you walk to the session, you’ll have missed a good portion of it and will likely not get as much out of it as you’d hope. Either stick with your first pick (since you’ll likely find at least one “jewel” to take away from it) or bail and take that time to hit a TLC or community lounge area – you might find an answer to a burning question there instead.
  6. How Much Swag Do You REALLY Need? – Seriously, a dozen vendor T-shirts? That flying pig? Another plastic thingamabob that glows green? I managed to get to the conference with only carry-on bags and I like to save those checked baggage fees for something other than branded pens and blinking buttons. Until vendors start bringing a stash of shirts smaller than an XL, I’ll keep swag collection to a minimum.  I prefer taking away new ideas for implementing technologies in my work or making new contacts for future conversations.
I’m looking forward to another great conference full of networking and learning opportunities.  If you don’t pass me tearing from end to end between sessions, look for me at the MDOP booth in the TLC.
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