Microsoft Ignite is described as “the world’s largest conference on the planet focused exclusively on IT.” Since Ignite 2017 in Orlando is sold out, it’s possible that this year’s event might break attendance records.
When a conference is that large and has so much to offer, it can also be overwhelming. If you’re new to Ignite or you feel like you could have gotten more out of it in the past, we’re here to help. 10th Magnitude’s been attending Ignite for years. And, over those years, our engineers have learned a lot from the experience. So, like they say in the insurance commercial, “We know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two.” Or, in this case, it’s 10 tips for having the best Ignite experience possible.
1. Schedule your sessions beforehand and pick more than one for each time slot
You can use the MyIgnite App or the MyIgnite website to explore sessions and create your schedule. Because the Orange County Convention Center is a very big place, you want to have a plan before you arrive. Not to mention a backup plan. That’s because the sessions are first come, first serve, so even if you schedule a session, you’re not guaranteed a seat. Choosing two sessions per time slot will ensure you have another to go to and aren’t disappointed or wandering around aimlessly. If a session is really important to you, try to get there early, even if it means leaving another one early.
2. Think presenter, not content
When setting your schedule, keep in mind that you’ll always learn and retain more from great presenters. A great presenter can make any content valuable, attainable and applicable. To determine the best, look for the videos of previous presentations online. Bing their names and check out a few minutes. If you’ve cut your scheduling close and don’t have a lot of time, research the featured speakers. You can also chat people up at lunch to find out who they are most excited about. People will always talk about their favorite presenters.
3. Go to at least one chalk talk
For technical questions and content that best fits your role, go to a chalk talk or two. These talks feature technical speakers and experts who are almost always willing to answer questions and even share their contact information. That contact could come in handy the next time you’re in a bind on your job.
4. You don’t have to go to every session you schedule
If you are already at a 101 level on a topic, there will be sessions that cover a lot of what you already know. Or, you might find yourself in a session that’s much more advanced than you were ready for. Instead of attending the session just to have something to do, you can choose not to go. Or, rather than sit in a room feeling completely lost, just leave quietly. Save your time and energy. Go to a birds of a feather session or chat with the product teams in the Expo.
5. Consider a “Hangout” visit when you need a break
If you couldn’t make it to a session, you’re tired or if you’re suffering from information overload, check out the “Hangout” room, which made its first appearance at Ignite 2016 in Atlanta, GA. It’s a giant room full of comfortable places to relax or get some work done. Plus, they have giant TV screens that are live streaming every session. Grab some wireless headphones, sit back and relax as you hop from session to session without moving an inch.
6. Don’t get so deep in the technical weeds that you forget to socialize
Ignite isn’t just pure technical content. And you shouldn’t treat it like that, either. This is a great time to network with people you know or don’t know—people who have a lot in common with you. So, don’t hide in your room after the sessions. Go to the evening activities and be sure to visit the Expo floor whenever you can. Offer to buy your favorite product owner a drink. Sometimes you can learn more over a beer than you ever would in a session.
7. Visit the Microsoft Showcase
While you’re getting to know people and companies on the Expo floor, stop by the Microsoft Showcase. There you can meet representatives from your favorite Microsoft product team.
8. Prepare to take home parting gifts
Ignite attendees receive a free backpack and water bottle and that’s just the beginning. Exhibitors in the Microsoft Ignite Expo will have plenty of awesome swag on hand. And, their freebies get more creative and interesting every year, so you’ll find yourself collecting more than you thought. Don’t be like the attendee who had to pay to ship her free gifts home because she didn’t have enough room in her suitcase. Leave space in your luggage for your freebies and prizes.
9. Dress comfortably and wear good shoes
Expect to walk several miles each day to and from meals, sessions and the expo hall. So, bring clothes that are suitable for walking and shoes you’ve walked in before. Microsoft Ignite is not the place to “break in” a new pair of shoes.
10. Pace yourself and remember to eat
Ignite can be draining. It’s tempting to take in all of the after hour events and network until the wee hours of the morning. That takes a special kind of stamina that not many people have. You want to make connections and the events are there for that, but it’s okay to leave before the event ends. You don’t want miss the super impactful session the next morning because you closed the event down. Also, when you’re rushing around, trying to make it to your preferred sessions, you can forget to eat. There’s plenty of food and drink scattered around the conference floor, so grab a quick bite and stay hydrated. You’ll get more from the sessions that way.
See you at Microsoft Ignite!
With these tips, you should be ready for an amazing Ignite experience. Don’t forget to look for us there We’d love to know if these tips were helpful.