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I get that arriving to the session early (at least on time) and paying full attention is a given. I sit on the front row when I can to lessen distractions & help me focus. Also I get to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

I ask because:

* I don't want to listen to product sales pitches disguised as information sessions given by "experts."

* I have signed up for breakouts only to find the content was so high-level, it could have been given at any conference. In other words, I attend the breakout with expectations as per the description. However the content, while loosely aligned with the description, was not unique to my testing needs and the setting is a testing conference so how could it not relate to testing?

* Excellent breakouts are scheduled at same time & I can't attend both. Is there a way to make this a win-win for an attendee?

* Let's say I see industry experts chatting in the lobby. I have read their books, blogs and tweets for years. And they tweet, e-mail, comment on each others' blogs regularly, and will see each other at the next conference in 6 months (if not sooner). I go to 1 conference every 2-4 or even 5 years and am thrilled to be around such a great pool of valuable knowledge. Knowing that I may not get this opportunity again, and, as a professional, I would like to say "Hello" and introduce myself. What is the best way to do this?

Those are a few ideas to get thoughts rolling, but generally speaking, I am looking for tips on how to get the most possible benefit from attending a testing conference.

Thanks in advance.

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+1 for the first bullet alone. –  corsiKa Jul 13 '11 at 21:41
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@glowcoder That's why it was the first bullet. I'll never get those 2 hours back. –  Laura Hensley Jul 13 '11 at 21:49
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4 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

When in sessions, along with what you mentioned, don't be afraid to ask questions.
Also, if you have something specific or a bit deeper than can be covered in a 60 -90 minute presentation, stay after and talk to the presenter (and anyone else hanging around). This may mean no scheduling back to back sessions, but it is worth it to have the time to talk to industry experts.

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+1 I was recently at a convention (last week actually) that, while it was not a technology convention, was more than just your standard "fanboy" gathering. And I'll say that, when it came to actually getting something out of sessions, networking with the presenters afterwards and then continuing conversations via e-mail and other contacts afterwards really helped in making the con meaningful and useful. –  TristaanOgre Jul 15 '11 at 20:41
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Let's say I see industry experts chatting in the lobby. I have read their books, blogs and tweets for years. And they tweet, e-mail, comment on each others' blogs regularly, and will see each other at the next conference in 6 months (if not sooner). I go to 1 conference every 2-4 or even 5 years and am thrilled to be around such a great pool of valuable knowledge. Knowing that I may not get this opportunity again, and, as a professional, I would like to say "Hello" and introduce myself. What is the best way to do this?

I've met absolutely not even one person who presents in testing who doesn't regularly talk to anyone and everyone. Even the biggest names aren't famous for real. We're all nerds! Just say something interesting that relates to testing and jump on in the conversation. Authentic enthusiasm is always appreciated.

By the way, I didn't know who Doug Hoffman was and the first time I met him I asked him for his card. Well, I guess I owe a Happy Birthday to Mr. President for that one!

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Personally I find that I get the most value out of conferences between sessions. I.e. it is the new people that I meet and the interactions that I can have with industry leaders that I get the most value out of.

The sessions are then just a bonus, if they are being recorded and published later, I will go to very few (unless of course I am presenting the session myself :-) )

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"I would like to say "Hello" and introduce myself. What is the best way to do this?"

The best way is to go up and introduce yourself! Go for it!

I have spoken at many conferences around the world and I always enjoy meeting new people and listening to their thoughts and ideas, hearing issues they may be facing, and learning more about what's happening in different parts of the industry outside of MS.

Sometimes, there is a lot going on at the conference, so I and many of my colleagues are quite open to folks contacting us via email after a conference if there isn't time during the conference.

Bottom line, don't be afraid to reach out. Despite the different opinions and personalities running around the conference circuit I think most speakers and even the attendees are there to network and share ideas.

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