The Advoteam’s Advice on Making the Most of DrupalCon

We’re so excited to be headed to DrupalCon next week! It’s one of the rare times the whole Advoteam gets to be in one place, and it’s great to be able to take time out of the day-to-day to learn all about what’s new in Drupal, what everyone’s working on, and to talk to other folks about we’re working on. 

What makes DrupalCon so amazing is the sheer amount of information available and enormous number of brilliant, interesting people. This also can make DrupalCon very intimidating.

But fear not. This is not the Advoteam’s first time at the rodeo. 

From optimal note taking to optimal friend-making, we’ve got all the advice you need to get ready for an awesome DrupalCon. 

Senior Front-end Developer Jack (@jerseycheese):

  • Want to make friends? Bring a surge protector for when the power outlets get few and far between.  
  • Don’t try and convince yourself you will get to every single session you want to attend – save your energy for the ones you REALLY want to be at.

Technical Manager Dave (@communitca):

  • Find a balance between hanging out with the people that you haven’t seen in forever, with meeting new people.  I always come away bummed if I’ve done too much of one or the other.
  • Don’t do work while you’re in a session.  It can wait (unless it’s a terrible session). 
  • If you find out 5 mins into a session that it’s not going to be useful to you, don’t be afraid to leave.  The presenter won’t even notice, and you won’t hurt their feelings.
  • Stay for the sprint day if you can, even if you’re not a coder, there’s always some way that you can give back to the community.

Senior Front-end Developer Amanda (@mndonx):

  • I prefer not to lug around my precious laptop, angling for an outlet at every turn. I would rather add quick notes or photos in Evernote on my phone, jotting down things to come back to later. Session videos and slides are almost always posted online, so you can go back and watch anything that seems useful later. Without the buffer of a laptop screen, you will be more engaged with your surroundings and more mobile. But you might still need a charger for that, too! 

Tech Lead Oliver (@otseld):

  • I’m not sure I could say this better than webchick, so I might as well have her tell you: “#DrupalCon pro-tip: Sessions are all recorded, so pick those where it’s important to be there. Spend rest of the time in halls/sprints/BoFs.”
  • Don’t try to do too much! Limit your expectations and your itinerary. Leave ample time to get to the important items on your list and to account for things like bumping in to people in the hall along the way. When I went to DrupalCon London, I had this idea that I’d go wearing multiple hats (core conversations, regular sessions, networking, documentary photography, coding). In the end, I found I wasn’t able to do any of them well until I focused on just one at a time. Carrying all the gear alone was a burden. See Amanda’s note above and bring as little equipment as you can survive with.
  • Check Twitter. There’s a vibrant (and vocal) Drupal community on Twitter. It’s a good way to find out up-to-the-minute info about the event (like where the after after afterparty is) and any trending topics of conversation.
  • Visit the coder lounge. Ideally, you’d plan to contribute in some way, but it’s worth going even just to listen. I’ve learned a lot, heard juicy gossip, and made new friends hanging out in the coder lounge. Also, go at different times; the afternoon crowd is usually different from the 1am scene.

Front-end Developer Andy (@the_hart):

  • This will be my first DrupalCon, so I don’t have a lot of advice for this one. I’m hoping to tag along with the DrupalCon veterans, learn the ropes, and hopefully be introduced to some new friends. From the previous Drupal Camps I’ve attended, I think that you want to make sure to attend any session that sounds interesting, but don’t completely fill your schedule with them. Sometimes, the conversations you have outside of the sessions can be where you learn the most!

Developer Sarah (@hey_germano)

  • Take notes, but don’t bother copying every bullet point on every slide since those will most likely be available afterwards. I collect bookmarks to references/examples shared during sessions and tag them all with keywords (I use for this) for easy searching later.
  •  Wear comfortable shoes. Convention centers are ginormous.
  • Go to a session that’s not entirely applicable to what you do. If you’re a back-end dev, go to a front-end session, or vice versa. If nothing else, it can give you more appreciation for work that other people on your team do.

Senior Developer Jim (@jimbof35)

  • When choosing which sessions to attend, focus on quality, not quantity. If on a 5 session day there are only 3 or 4 interesting sessions for you, attend those. Use that extra time to grab a coffee and write some code.

Digital Strategist Allen (@allenfear)

  • Reach out in advance. Let people you want to meet know that you’re going to be there in advance. Send them an email to say hello and share your contact information. This raises the awareness level that you’ll be there and makes it easier for you to connect while you’re there.
  • Take better notes by starring your action items. If you’re like me, your conference notes get filled with a lot things that may or may not be of much use later – comments you thought were interesting, free association with no immediate practical application, and things I should take action on after the conference ends. I put stars next to things that need to be done soon after the conference ends so that I can find them when I’m scanning through my notes.
  • Get to sessions early. I like to show up early to events and try to strike up a conversation or two before grabbing a seat. That gives me the opportunity to connect the session with a new acquaintance. It also saves me from grabbing just any available seat at the last minute and leaving the session without speaking to anyone. If you don’t connect with anyone during the session, you may as well have watched the session video.
  • Bring something to snack on. It can be hard to handle a drink and a plate of food while you’re shaking hands and exchanging business cards. While it isn’t always possible, eating in advance or bringing a snack can help you spend more time connecting.

My advice? Come find the Advoteam! We’re front-enders, back-enders, technical leads, project managers, and strategists. We’ll be wandering the halls, BoFs, sessions, and of course, happy hours, and we love meeting new people. Just shoot a tweet to @Advomatic or anyone on the team, and we’d be super happy to meet up. See you there!