You drew the lucky straw at work, maybe you applied for travel support and received it, or maybe your talk was accepted. Either way, you’re lucky enough to be going to a conference – but now what? Here’s what you should remember when preparing for a conference:
The first order of business will be to get your conference pass purchased – and for some conferences the earlier you purchase, the cheaper. Even if you have access to a free pass, getting it earlier is better, and ensures your spot at the conference.
The next step, if it’s an out of town conference, is to get your room. Check cancellation policies just in case something happens. Many conferences will let you transfer your pass, but if you choose a hotel with a stricter cancellation policy, you could be stuck. Also, a looser cancellation policy usually means you can adjust your arrival and departure days if anything changes.
Your pass is taken care of and so is your hotel, so next is flights. If the conference already has a schedule, check and see when the first thing and the last you want to attend is. In general, you should plan on getting there the night before and leaving either the day after or the evening of the last day.
Pick Your Sessions
Travel is taken care of, and you have your pass, which takes us to the schedule: If the talks are videoed, that leaves you a lot more freedom when choosing what you need to attend; but if they don’t record the sessions, pick what’s of the most interest and make note of the backups. Don’t be afraid to walk out of one session and go to another if it’s not what you expected. If the talks are videoed, give a priority to anything that is hands-on, an open discussion, or is not videoed, as those will either have the most value in-person or not be available later.
Prepare to Participate
If you went to a session, have questions later, and see one of the speakers in the hall – go up to them and ask your questions! Or if you’re involved in an open source project and see someone you need to talk to again, go up and talk to them. Hallway conversations can actually be more important than your next session. Meet people, make contacts. You never know when that contact might come in handy.
And, lastly, have fun! Don’t be afraid to go to events yourself; if you’re there alone, you’ll meet other people who are there alone and many conferences have activities where you will meet others.