Following on from prep before a conference and then applying them to CodeGarden I have a look at what to do at the actual conference.
Remember to dress comfortably, you may be spending hours on your feet, in uncomfortable chairs or hot rooms so wear something you can happily spend the day in.
Remember to sleep, as socialising until 4 in the early hours may hurt if you have to give a talk at 9.30 the morning after.
Don't rely on the conference wifi as it may break or be slow. Either download what you need first or make sure your mobile internet can do everything you need for online access. Or find a friend who can do this for you.
If there's a popular session you really want to go to, turn up early. You might get a chance to speak to others keen to go, the presenter. And there may also be a limit if it is popular and you may not get in at all.
Talk to the people around you, as they will share many interests and challenges. Speak to attendees in the workshops, in the queue for coffee, the sponsors or the speakers.
Ask people what sessions they liked or speakers they rate. Who they came with or what parties they are going to afterwards. If you have nothing else to start the conversation with then try "what do you work on"
You can keep track of events on social media by looking at the hashtags for the event, and join in with your own experiences.
Talk to the sponsors. The organisers will like it, the sponsors will like it and they might even have something useful for you. They often have free swag too, some of it fairly good. I always look for new stickers to put on laptops.
Keep gaps in your schedule or know what talks you can sacrifice if a better opportunity comes up. You may meet old friends, start an interesting conversation or need 30 minutes away from people somewhere quiet.
Be at the Right Session
Find the talks that interest you, and if one isn't what you wanted or expected then don't be afraid to quietly leave and find another one or do the Hallway Track.
This is also a chance to try out new tech or ideas, especially ones that you won´t be introduced to in your day job. If there is nothing of particular interest them maybe go the opposite way and go to a talk you have no idea about. It may give you a solution to a different problem or mean you can talk
If you are enjoying the session then take some notes to remind you what you wanted to follow up on later.
Try the Hallway Track
A valid option is to not go to any talks at all. If there is nothing you want to talk to then consider staying in the main area where the sponsors are and talking to the sponsors or whoever is around.
The sponsors will probably be happy to have someone around and some of the most interesting conversations can happen in this time. Gives you a chance to recharge before you go off to another talk.
Go to the Social Events
Try the events put on before/after the conference, either official ones or put on by other attendees or sponsors.
Many have free drinks and food if that's important to you, and there is a chance to continue interesting conversations you have already started earlier in the day.
Mingle outside of your Group
Think about mixing it up with some different people! Expand your horizons and see who you can meet. People from different cultures or sectors Different cultures, people with the same problems, people in the same talks, in the food queue etc
I'm quite often bad about this, but consider filling out the feedback surveys. How else will speakers learn to get better. I gave a talk at relay and got some feedback that was useful. Also for the organisers they will want to know if they are doing well or what the pain points are to fix next time. A little bit of appreciation can go a long way.
This should possibly be first but remember to enjoy the event! Comment or tweet your tips or experiences at tech conferences!