Tech conferences offer IT Professionals a great opportunity to learn new skills and about new products. The other thing that conferences offer IT Professionals is a way to meet and create relationships with other IT Professionals. They can be pricy for companies or individuals to attend them, but the payoff of the information and relationships makes it worth it.
For IT Professionals, taking a week off work can mean even more work when one comes back and makes most consider heavily before taking off the time. I can only say that it is important to get in the mindset to attend and leave work behind. Do what you can to ensure that work does not interrupt your conference experience. I was lucky to be on furlough when I attended TechEd 2011 in Atlanta. Work could not call me without then having to pay me for the week and possibly reimburse some of my expenses as I was attending on my own dime. Work with your peers, employees and boss to ensure all of your duties and systems are covered by someone else so you can focus on the learning and the activities around the conference.
Now, one of the other sides of tech conferences is the parties in the evenings. For instance, the pre-conference "Meet and Greet" hosted by The Krewe is tonight. I am getting myself ready to go to it as I write this. These events are great to build those friendships and spend time together. Many people see the drinking aspects but the great thing is you don't have to drink heavily. Some folks don't drink at all. The key is to be comfortable and have fun. Attend the evening events and build those friendships. If you do end up drinking, make sure to hydrate before going to bed because that will help to make sure you are set for the next day of the conference.
As I have said if you have heard me speaking about Microsoft's TechEd, to say that I have been looking forward to TechEd 2012 in Orlando is an understatement of major proportions. I enjoyed TechEd last year in Atlanta so much and learned many things from the sessions but more so I met some great people. This is the venue that we all get together at, making it a special time for all.
I headed over to the Orange County Convention Center, the venue for this year, and got myself checked in. The process for check-in has been easy in my opinion. I have heard from various people that this was not the case. Check-in consisted of entering in your information on the computer and processing, heading over to get your badge from their desk, then off to get the conference bag and materials. This year, they had 3 different designs but it was clear that 2 of them are clearly the favorites. The third looks like it came from NASA direct.
After getting through my check-in, I got to do something I couldn't do last year … head over to the Alumni Lounge. This is an area that people who have been to multiple conferences over the years. In there, they offer seating with power, food/snacks and drinks for folks looking for a rest stop. It is a great idea for any conference and I highly recommend it. Slipping into the lounge, I ran into several friends from The Krewe and we started getting acquainted in person, either for the first time in real life or again in real life. This networking is a great part of TechEd but as Fredrik Nilsson said it, "I don't want to hand out business cards to network. I want friends." That's it to me! I want people that feel they can call on me and I can call on them too.
In the end, find a conference that meets your background, learning desires and you can afford to attend and go to it. You will not be disappointed.