Summer is almost here and with it conference season! We asked our Senior Director of Marketing, Tiffany Diehl, to share a few tips and tricks to getting the most out of live events.

Industry events and gatherings are an invaluable way to learn about emerging technology, network with like-minded professionals, and of course, score some cool swag. If it’s your first time attending an event (large or small), here are five tips to help you make the most of the experience.

1) Get Involved

DevOpsDays events are unique in that they are entirely volunteer-supported, and not hosted by an industry vendor or for-profit entity. If you’re interested in donating your time before, during or after a show – reach out to the organizers and volunteer! They will appreciate your help and you can feel good knowing you are contributing to the community.

If volunteering for the event isn’t your thing, look for other ways to get involved. Part of the DevOpsDays methodology is allowing time for Open Spaces, where attendees can propose topics of discussion and break out into small groups. If you aren’t familiar with this format, take a minute to read up on it and think of a few topics to bring to the table.

2) Familiarize Yourself with the Agenda

Most events post schedules online ahead of the event. Take a few minutes to look over the schedule and familiarize yourself with the content of the event. This is a good way to get a feel for the focus of the event– common themes are vendor promotions, hypothetical proposals, or actionable information. Depending on your current needs, you may learn that the event isn’t the right fit for you and your time is better spent elsewhere!

With multi-track sessions, it’s common to become overwhelmed with the content and choices. Take a step back and think about your business and personal goals for attending the event. Consider the following questions:

  • Is the content personally interesting to me? Why?
  • Which sessions will help advance my goals?
  • Will the content solve a current challenge?
  • Is this important information for me at this time?
  • Is the presenter someone prominent in my industry I should follow?

If you’re going to a conference with multiple colleagues, the best bet is to divide and conquer. Sit down to coffee with your peers, map out your individual interests, and split up to get the most out of each session. Plan a debriefing meeting after the event to share notes and insights.

3) Take Quality Notes

Don’t get too hung up on taking down every single word of the presentation. Most presentations are recorded and slides are available after the show (although you should always check beforehand to make sure.) Remember, you are at a live event to benefit from the experience of hearing the information in an interactive, personal environment. If you spend the entire presentation trying to capture everything word-for-word, you will keep yourself from being able to process the content.

As a rule of thumb, try to take down 3-5 key bullet points for every 30 minutes of presentation. This allows you to remember important takeaways without distracting you too much from the other content. This also makes sharing information with your colleagues post-event much easier, since your notes will be streamlined and easily digestible.

4) Don’t Be Shy

Networking is one of the most valuable aspects of a professional event. If there aren’t participatory sessions built in to the schedule, many events also offer social gatherings or networking time. Don’t make excuses to skip out or check in with work. Use these opportunities to spark conversations with others around you. If you’re terrible at small talk, here are three easy conversations starters to help you out:

  • Hi there. Are you here with your company/Where do you work?
  • So what did you think of that presentation? Did you agree/disagree with insert presentation point here?
  • I liked your presentation/topic/question. I have some opinions on that topic too.

Make sure you have business cards so that you can connect later and continue the conversation. If your company doesn’t provide business cards, there are several websites and local print shops that provide affordable cards. Make sure the cards link to your personal email and LinkedIn profile. Personal business cards are most helpful if you are looking for job opportunities as they are more professional than scrap paper.

It’s important to note, also, that DevOpsDays conferences follow a code of conduct ensuring a harassment-free conference. All presenters and attendees are required to read, understand, and follow the policies of the conference they’re attending.

5) Speak with the Vendors

Many conferences subsidize attendance costs by inviting vendors to sponsor and participate. This is your opportunity to build personal relationships with companies you’re interested in working with and score a private or personalized demo of their solution. Often, vendors will follow up post-event to see if there is an opportunity to further the conversation. If you’re genuinely not interested, feel free to say “No thanks!” and opt out of their communications. However, if you plan on attending other industry events in the coming year, stay in touch with the company! You never know when you’ll get a personal invite to the next happy hour or party at larger conferences in the future.

Metricly is traveling the country this summer attending conferences – come chat with us! We’ll be at DevOpsDays in Austin and Washington DC as well as Monitorama, and we’ll update our events page with future appearances. Hope to see you soon!

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