If you’re still with me, you might be wondering where I’m going with these articles.  They make for a nice travel log, but what’s the point?  The point I’m trying to make is that there’s more than one way to get to Ignite and you don’t have to be sitting on a fortune to do it.  I’m also providing some tips and tricks you can use to maximize your time and experiences while there.

Getting there:

As I mentioned in my first article, you can pay, you can speak/train, or you can volunteer.  My approach was to volunteer and I highly encourage this method since it got me there four times.  The disadvantage is you have to wait to see if you’ve been selected; if you aren’t, you likely will not have a full price, paid entry available, since they sell out fairly quickly.  The cool part is, you don’t really need a full show entry pass to get there.  Enter the “Expo Floor Pass”.  These still cost money, on the order of $200 or so and they only allow you access to the display floor, no sessions or the like.  The important part is they get you in the door and there’s much you can do and learn with one.  This, by the way, is how I was able to help JP Clemente at the Microsoft Communities booth during TechEd 2013 in Houston.  UPDATE:  I’ve learned that the Ignite folks no longer sell Expo Floor passes.  These are now the province of the Expo vendors, themselves, and are still available at their discretion.  You’ll have to make friends with a vendor.

You’re in the door.

Here’s where all the fun begins.  If you’ve volunteered, you’ll be assigned some sort of job, usually helping out at a booth.  My assignments were the MVP booth on three occasions, the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit booth, and the Technical Communities booth.  If you’re a speaker or MCT, again most of your time is spoken for…but not all of it, so these tips and tricks will work well when you’re in between sessions.

First of order of priority

Get down to the display floor and locate the Microsoft MVP booth. This will be your center of operations for the whole event. The MVP booth is information central for a number of reasons:

  1. You’re an MVP standing in front he the MVP booth. If this is during session presentation time, when the floor is quiet, you'll find staff to talk to;  if this is in between sessions, they’re swamped. Ask if there’s anything you can help with, it will be appreciated!
  2. There’s a GOOD Chance your CPM will be present and they, too, migrate in and out of the MVP booth. Make friends, engage with them, the better they know you as a person, the better they are able to provide positive input at re-certification time
  3. Make good use of the in-between-session rushes. Many folks will stop by; those that are MVPs will be happy to see you and will want to know all about your primary award category, what you do, and what forums you hang out in.  Some will offer help on issues, others will ask for help, ALL will be happy to meet a fellow MVP!  Those that are not MVPs will be full of questions on how to become one, give them your best MVP Spiel!
  4. Another big advantage is the speakers, themselves. These folks also gravitate to the MVP booth in between sessions to collect their thoughts an get material ready for the next one.  Here’s your chance, head over to said speaker and ask, “How did your session go?”  If he doesn’t blow you off immediately and starts talking instead, you’re pretty much IN!  A few tasteful, well placed question will likely get you the whole presentation with embellishments!!
  5. Then, there are the Display Floor booths themselves. They’ll be hosted by a number of vendors with add-on applications and devices, their presentations are usually well worth hearing  Microsoft, themselves, often have display booths on the floor and also have presentations, so there’s a TON of learning to be had without ever attending a session.

More good stuff!

Another item to bring with you is a Twitter device; you should start following two Twitter Handles, @MS_Ignite, and @TheKrewe.  @MS_Ignite is the official Microsoft feed.  @TheKrewe is a group of 100 or so TechEd/Ignite veterans who attend virtually all the time, They know all and see all, seek them out if you need help with anything  They maintain a WhatsApp channel you can join, the main point of contact for them is their Facebook channel

With all this in mind there’s absolutely no reason for you NOT have a wonderful time at Ignite!  If you’re going to pony up the entrance fee, do so quickly, they sell out fast, if they already haven’t.  They put out the call for speakers and reporters several weeks ago and that has also come and gone.  I’m happy to report that the call for volunteer staffing came out and I’ve volunteered.  If I’m selected, I’ll be seeing you in Orlando!

That’s it for this week, be sure to check back.  I’ve got another big conference in mind to talk about that you likely haven’t considered, but maybe should.