Way back then the community wasn't as solid as it is now. Facebook wasn't as dominate in the online world and the TechEd website didn't have the community it has now. I have to give the TechEd team a lot of credit. From 2010 to 2011 there's been a lot of great changes.
Even with all of the improvements I thought it might help to have some information from someone who is new enough to remember what it was like the first time but has some experience. Here are my tips in no particular order.
- Wear comfortable shoes. I've seen this said many times and many places, but I'd be remiss to leave it out. The first year I went I thought I was good bringing my old gym shoes, but I got blisters on my feet that were pretty deep. There will be a lot of walking just inside the convention center, let alone if you enjoy what Orlando has to offer.
- Wear comfortable clothes. Florida in June will be pretty hot and humid so dress accordingly. No need to wear anything dresser than a T shirt and shorts. That being said, the air conditioning will be on full blast so you might want to bring along a sweatshirt or sweater. Last year it was a bit chilly in Atlanta for the first part of the week and I bought a nice hoodie from the Microsoft store there so that is an option if you forget something warm. Or you can put on a couple of T shirts you're gonna get from all of the vendors.
- Bring a big suitcase. At the TechExpo there will be the chance to get all kinds of swag. Some of it's even pretty good. I've gotten some free books, nice T shirts, and toys for the kids. You will want to make sure you have plenty of space to bring back your loot.
- Talk to people. Take advantage of the opportunity to talk with the people who are experts with the products you use everyday. In many cases you can rub shoulders with some of the people that create these Microsoft products, not just sales people. Through the TechEd website you can even contact many of the speakers. It has been my experience that they are really accommodating. Beyond the Microsoft people, there will be thousands of other techs just like you to learn from or they can learn from you. Connect with your fellow geeks.
- Use Social Media and Email. To stay in the loop of all of the TechEd happenings use all of the social media and email outlets. The ones I connect with is the Krewe's Facebook page and twitter their handle being @TheKrewe, TechEd's official Facebook page and twitter their handle being @TechEd_NA, and The Springboard Series Insider Newsletter. The MyTechEd site is one of the best direct connections that gives access to the official blog and discussions. I would also recommend that you join my blog and follow me on Twitter. My handle is @FMcButter. I know, shameless plug. As I learn of more I'll post links here.
- Have backup sessions. One of the problems I've had the past two years is that in every time slot there were at least two sessions I wanted to go to. I fast realized that was actually a good thing. Sometimes the session isn't everything you thought it might be and it pays to have a backup.
- Don't stick to one track. Take this rare opportunity to learn about something you never would be able to learn. The fact that you're not locked into one track makes TechEd a great investment. I have gone to tracks on Windows Client, Server, and Windows Phone to name a few. Learn as much as you can about as much as you can.