I'm Ammar Hasayen
Husband & Father | Microsoft MVP| I do Office 365 and Azure | Speaker and blogger | I Love music and exploring the world.
How to build your Microsoft Ignite schedule like a PRO?
How to build your Microsoft Ignite schedule so that you won’t miss anything, while giving yourself time to rest and connect?
Whether it is your first time to attend such big conference, or you have been before, it makes a lot of difference know some time management tips and know how to discover Microsoft Ignite news and updates.
Microsoft Ignite is about connecting and sharing knowledge, whether you are in one of those deep dive sessions, or even connecting with other peers in the Expo showcase and connecting with partners. Wearing comfortable shoes makes all the difference, so do not forget that.
Check out 10 things not to do while at Microsoft Ignite and the Microsoft Ignite Safety tips blog posts. You can also check out How to pack for Microsoft Ignite blog post.
How to build your Microsoft Ignite schedule?
While everyone has his unique way to plan what sessions to attend at Ignite, it is obvious that with the big number of sessions, session types and activities happening during such big conference, things can be tricky.
Things become more difficult if this is your first Microsoft Ignite, as you will feel lost and confused when planning your sessions and choosing what to attend.
I will start by giving you couple of tips. First, most of Ignite sessions are recorded, and you can get back home, and watch all sessions on demand. In other words, you will have the chance to watch online each session when you have time.
Second tip, do not try to fill your schedule with sessions. Give yourself time to rest and refresh during the conference. Do not forget to always drink water, and go out to get some fresh air from time to time.
Ignite has a lot to offer beyond just attending sessions. It is a must to dedicate time to the expo showcase. It is the perfect place to meet the product group and ask all your questions. You can also walk through partner booths, and engage in conversations with different partners, and learn their solutions.
Final tip is to dedicate some time to connect with other tech peers. Remember that you will be attending the conference with thousands of tech people, from different backgrounds and industries. So, make sure to give yourself some time during the conference to meet new people and do some networking.
There are a lot of sessions types in Ignite. Breakout sessions are the big ones, with a lot of attendees and a PowerPoint and demos style. This session type is the most popular and obvious choice when planning your schedule.
Theater sessions are usually 20 minutes long, and you can find them in the expo hall. They provide a quick way to learn about a topic, and you can just walk in the expo hall, and choose a session to attend there. What I do usually, is to give myself sometime to rest in the expo hall, and by walking around, I would find an interesting theater session to attend.
There are also the workshop, Microsoft Studio and the podcast session types. You can have a look at them in Microsoft Ignite Session Catalog.
How to choose your sessions?
It depends on what you are looking for in Ignite. If you are a deep technical guy, then you would focus a lot on sessions that are Level 300 or 400. If you are a decision maker, then you would focus on general sessions talking about a roadmap on specific technologies.
My advice to you, is to get out of your comfort zone a little bit. Even if you are a deep technical guru in a specific field and you want to attend all sessions on that field. I usually choose 60% of my sessions, with a focus on a technology of my choice like Office 365 and EMS for example. I then pick 40% of my sessions with overview of new technologies like Azure stack, IoT or BI.
By doing the 60/40 rule, you will get back with a good information about the technology of your choice, and you would also have learned about Microsoft roadmap on different technologies.
Tip: Do not forget to write down all your questions that you have in your work, so that you can meet the product group in the expo hall and ask them all questions in your mind.
Remember, when you choose a session to attend, make sure you write down the session code, and room number. This will become handy at the conference when locating your next session room.
Hunt your big and favorite speakers first
Everyone has his own favorite speakers. There are big names that you just cannot miss. Mark Russinovich, the CTO of Azure, does not need any introduction of course and his sessions are always full. Start with searching for speakers you want to hear from, and then look for their sessions. This will give you a head start.
Plan for expo hall time
Check the expo hall opening times, and remember that expo hall will be closed on Friday, the last day of the conference. You want to include time in your agenda to visit the expo hall, and perhaps see when Microsoft product groups are available there, so you can meet them. Most Microsoft product group guys will publish when they will be available in Microsoft solution area in the expo hall, so make sure to check these timing also.
Give yourself time for lunch
No matter what, remember to dedicate time to rest and have lunch. There could be a lot of things happening at lunch time, and you might miss lunch. You should not overbook your schedule so that you will have time for lunch. Remember that lunch is a golden chance to meet new people!
Use the Microsoft Ignite Session Catalog filters
Remember that Microsoft Ignite session catalog comes with a lot of filters. You can use filters to narrow down your choices and make it easy for you to pick you sessions.
Pick your sessions
This is the most important part. I will share my way of choosing my sessions. I like to start by filtering by day and then by time slot, and move forward till the last slot of the agenda.
So, start with sessions from 9:00 AM – 10 AM on Tuesday. You can filter by session type here also in case you want to focus on breakout sessions [ you can add a filter so that only breakout sessions 75 minutes and 45 minutes are selected].
Now, open your OneNote, and create a new notebook, call it Ignite Agenda Notes. Next, go through your filtered session list [ From 9 – 10, breakout sessions]. For each session, decide quickly whether this session is within your area of interest or not. If it is, then quickly add it to your schedule.
Of course, you will end up with a lot of session choices for that time slot, but never mind. Keep doing this, until you are done with all session time slots in the conference.
Doing this, means you have filtered all sessions that you would like to attend or sessions talking about technologies you like to know more about. What I do next is to decide if this session is worth attending, or I shall write it down so that I can watch it on demand later after the conference.
There are cool sessions talking about nice technologies, but I cannot attend due to conflict with other more priority sessions. What I do is to write down the topic that this session is talking about, and perhaps I will be meeting the product group in the expo hall, and I will ask them to brief me about that topic.
This way, I will end up with very selective sessions to attend, and I will have a play list of sessions I would like to watch on demand after I am back. I will also have in my OneNote, a list of technologies to ask the expert about, taken from sessions I could not attend, although they are talking about interesting new technology.
At the conference, make sure you have business cards with you all times. Do not over spread them, and remember it is about quality not quantity.
You have the Ask the Expert time at the expo hall, where you can meet with the product group. While at the expo hall, make sure you visit couple of the many partner booths out there.
Give yourself time to reset and refresh, and remember always to drink water. Do not miss lunch time, and remember that lunch time is the best time to connect. Make sure to pick a busy table at lunch, break the ice and introduce yourself.
Microsoft store is another stop in the expo hall. You will find cool gadgets and T-shirts from Microsoft. Make sure to visit the store in the first days, as some sizes get sold quickly.
It is also a good tip to keep following the #MsIgnite twitter hashtag. People tend to post interesting updates and news while at Ignite.
When you are back home, make sure you bring value back to your colleagues and company. You can do some sort of presentation or meeting to update them about what you learned at the conference. Remember all those sessions you could not attend at the conference? Well, you can watch them now on demand, so make sure to check when the videos are available.
Finally, make sure you keep in contact with people you met at Ignite, and start planning for the next Microsoft Ignite !
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