It’s time to start planning for Connect 2014, and there are a few things I want to share, based on my experiences previous years, which will make the conference more enjoyable and beneficial. Since Andy Donaldson has been a slacker this year, I can’t link to his excellent guide to Connect-o-sphere yet… You can of course read his guides for 2012 and 2013.
What to bring
In addition to the obvious items, there are a few things you should bring in order to save you money, hassle or both.
- Chargers – don’t forget to bring chargers for all your devices. In addition, bring a portable changer/battery pack to recharge your tablet and/or phone during the day. With the amount of Twitter and Facebook messages being posted/read during a day at the conference, the battery tend to drain already around 3pm for me. I have been using a 6000 mAh portable charger for the last few years, it gives me two charges of my Samsung phone. I get a full charge in about an hour. If you, like some, are bringing a portable wifi hotspot to use instead of the conference network, one of those battery packs is perfect to get through the day.
- Power strip – the Disney hotel rooms don’t have an abundance of power outlets. A power strip with a few feet of extension cord goes a long way when you have perhaps half a dozen devices to charge. Andrew Pollack recommends the Power Strip Liberator Plus, which seems like a very smart complement to a traditional power strip. Just remember, you are not allowed to have devices plugged in during the sessions, so you have to charge devices in your room. This is another reason I prefer to stay at Swolphin (Swan/Dolphin), I have quick access to my room if I need to put a device on charge for an hour or two, like the above mention battery pack after I drain it. Then it is ready for the evening when I need it again.
- Batteries – bring spare batteries for cameras, phones, etc. If you have devices that uses AA or AAA batteries (like an external flash for your camera), bring plenty of extra batteries. You can buy batteries at the small convenience store on the Boardwalk, but they have a very limited selection and are expensive. I usually get Lithium batteries, as they last longer.
- Medicine – in addition to any prescription meds you use, bring some headache pills/pain killers, Pepto-Bismol and/or Tums for stomach issues, some band aids for blisters, etc. Items like this are either hard/impossible to find on Disney property, or way over-priced.
What to wear
- Bring at least two pairs of comfortable shoes. Make sure they are not brand new, walk them in for a couple of weeks before Connect to avoid getting blisters. Alternate between the shoes while at the conference.
- Dress code at Lotusphere was always casual, and despite the name change to Connect, that has not changed. You will se a lot of jeans and t-shirts, as well as slacks, polo shirts and casual dress shirts (often short sleeve). One thing you will not a lot of is ties, unless the Kenexa World attendees will be wearing them…
- Bring a jacket, the Florida evenings can be cold. I usually bring both a thicker hoodie as well as a wind breaker. Some years the Sunday poolside welcome reception has been very cold, once the temperature adjusted for wind chill was 27° F (-3° C). That was cold…
Meet the Developers
One of the most beneficial parts of Lotusphere was always the opportunity to meet the developers behind the products, in the Labs (usually located in Asia 1 and 2, to the right of the escalators down to the showcase area in the Atlantic hall).
Some preparation here will be a huge help for you. The standard advice for years have been to bring a flow chart of your environment, with all servers listed, information about software and operating system versions, etc. This chart probably already exists at your company, otherwise you can create it using Visio or one of the free alternatives.
What I started doing a few years ago was to designate a small notebook to questions to the IBM developers. Each question get it’s own page, with a question section and an (empty) answer section to be filled out when I got the answer. I also took screen shots of error messages or other things that would clarify details for the developers.
This ended up being very handy one year. I told (I believe it was) Maureen Leland about an unusual error message and she said she had never seen that one herself. I could then show her a screen shot of the exact error message, which helped her pinpoint the issue.
An additional benefit to use a notebook like this is that before I leave the office, I talk to my colleagues and ask them if there is anything they want/need to know, I write down their (detailed) question and when I get the answer at Lotusphere/Connect I write that down. Back at the office I can then just hand them the answer.
Make sure you put aside time at least twice during the conference to go ask the developers questions. Once in the beginning, on Monday, and then once towards the end of the conference, as you most probably have new questions by then. Don’t try to squeeze in some time between session, you don’t want to be rushed. Skip a session to spend the time in the labs, there are additional labs which are also very interesting. The UX lab (usually in Asia 3 and 4 next to the developer lab) is also worth visiting.
This brings us to the planning of what sessions to attend. As this is a fairly substantial subject, it will be covered separately in an upcoming blog entry.