TechEd 2013: Advice for First Time Attendees

Sunday, June 9, 2013
by jsalvo

I attended TechEd North America for the first time this year.  This was my first technical conference, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Overall, I had a great time, met many new people and learnt a lot.  I thought I’d pass along a few of my observations and suggestions for other first time TechEd attendees – to help you get the most out of the conference.

Tip 1:   Plan Your Schedule Before Arriving

Review the Content Catalog to identify the sessions and labs you want to attend in advance.  You can use the online Schedule Builder to add sessions to your schedule.  I recommend planning your schedule at least one day in advance.  It is also worthwhile to review the entire schedule before arriving at TechEd to prioritize the sessions, labs and other events that interest you the most.  I found the Channel9 Events App very helpful as I was attending the conference, since the content is up-to-date (changes, cancellations, etc.)  and you can view and search the schedule from your phone.

Tip 2:  Wear Casual Attire and Comfortable Shoes

I brought mostly business casual attire to TechEd and felt overdressed.  If I attend this event again, I plan to dress more casual (e.g. shorts, jeans and t-shirts).  The attire worn by attendees ranges from t-shirts, shorts and jeans through khakis and polo shirts.  I recommend wearing whatever you feel most comfortable in, because the days are quite long and can extend late into the evening.  In addition, you’ll want to wear shoes that are comfortable for walking, since you’ll be walking a lot during the conference and to other off-site events (dinners, parties).    Also, I found the conference building to be quite cold, so you may want to bring a light sweater or jacket with you as well if you tend to feel cold.

Tip 3:  Leave Space in Luggage or Bring Extra Bag

At TechEd 2013, all attendees received a back-pack, water bottle and t-shirt.  Many attendees also collect give-away items during the TechExpo.   In addition, there is a conference store where you can buy a wide range of gifts.  At TechEd, I purchased a Surface RT and Surface Pro in addition to the free items I collected during the conference.  Fortunately, I intentionally left space in my suitcase when packing to bring these items home.

Tip 4: Bring Minimal Items to Conference

Since all attendees are given a backpack, water bottle and notepad, you can leave these items at the hotel or at home.  As I observed the other attendees, I noticed that they all packed very lightly for the conference.  I also tried to bring as little as possible since the day is quite long and it can get tiresome carrying many items around.  One item I do recommend bringing along is a tablet or laptop.

Tip 5: Network

I recommend networking with as many people as possible, including speakers, vendors and other attendees.  TechEd is a great opportunity to learn from others.  If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, I highly recommend creating one before the conference so you can easily connect with other individuals you meet.  You’ll also want to create a Twitter account if you don’t already have one and follow the event on Twitter via the #msteched hash tag.

Tip 6: Experience As Much As You Can

TechEd can be overwhelming, especially for first-time attendees.  There are many different events: sessions, hands-on-labs, instructor-led labs, birds of a feather, parties, TechExpo…to name a few.  It is impossible to cover everything, but I recommended trying to attend as much as possible to get the full experience.  You may feel exhausted after a long day at the conference, but definitely attend any evening events you are invited to as well!

Most Importantly – Have Fun!


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