By Michael Davis, contributor
I’m no stranger to the business conference life — spending hours in panels, breakout sessions, networking with industry folks and listening to keynotes. Over the years, I’ve gained a lot by actively listening, bouncing ideas off people I’ve never met before and checking out new products.
For the past three years, I’ve had a really great time attending Dell World. This year I’m excited to hear about how the company is doing after being private for two years — how it has impacted products and technologies that are in development. I anticipate the usual announcements around 14th-generationservers, updated desktops and laptops all making use of the latest CPU offerings Intel has released. I’m really interested to hear how that will impact the business in the future. Clearly, this year’s Dell World will be action-packed.
If this is your first Dell World, there are a couple things you should know before you head to Austin. I’d like to share some tips for how to make the most of the three-day event based on my experiences attending the last three years.
1. Don’t overbook your schedule.
One of the mistakes I’ve made in the past was trying to cram in every possible session. It’s OK to miss some of them — many are recorded and livestreamed. And you can go back to these sessions weeks later in case you’d like to revisit the action. Plan a bit, but try to go with the flow each day. Go to the sessions that you’re most excited about. As a first-time attendee, I highly recommend going to the opening and closing keynotes — seeing Michael Dell on stage is an experience you won’t want to miss. Same goes for hearing John Mayerbreak out into one of his spontaneous jam sessions. Don’t feel obligated, though, to sit through every single session at Dell World. Because you can replay those later, but you can’t replay the conversations you have with people you’ve never met. This leads me to my next tip.
2. Give and you shall receive.
As an engineer, I’ve gained a lot from giving feedback on products at Dell World. I’ve enjoyed participating in user-interface feedback testing sessions, where I’ve had the chance to share my thoughts on how to better products that are in development. A few years ago, I gave my opinion on the usability of a few of Dell’s EqualLogic products, when they were in the early design stages. We’ve been using EqualLogic for the past seven years, and I’ve seen the impact of some of my feedback as the user experience has improved. I recommend that everyone at Dell World tests out the products they use — being involved in these sessions makes you feel like you’re giving back to the rest of the community.
3. Network. Really network.
Sure, everyone knows to network at conferences like Dell World. Not everyone does it the right way, though. Now I’m no networking expert, but in my experience, you want to go further than having surface-level conversations. For me, what that means is talking to people in similar roles about the systems they work on, problems they’ve encountered and how they’ve resolved these issues. I’ve helped others fix issues and they’ve helped me see my own missteps. As a community, let’s come together to problem solve and share our wins.
4. Prep your social media presence.
Before you arrive at Dell World, make yourself visible online. Give yourself a social media makeover. First, set your avatar on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to a recent photo of yourself. Then familiarize yourself with official (and community-created) event hashtags. Throughout the conference, post tweets and Facebook updates in real time, with quotes from speakers and people you meet. Upload photos and videos on platforms such as Periscope and Instagram. Really become part of the online conversation. And if you see someone you recognize from social media, go up to them and introduce yourself politely. No matter how prominent you are in the tech community or within Dell, we’re all people, so let’s be polite and friendly.
5. Don’t be shy!
Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to people you’ve never met. As long as the person isn’t engaged in a conversation already, waltz up to them and say hello. Often, people who attend Dell World don’t know too many other attendees. And it’s good to branch out from the people you know if you do go with colleagues. So we’re all in the same boat. I always try to have a few meals with people I’ve never met before, and my goal is usually to talk to five new people each day. By approaching the conference this way, you can gain some invaluable contacts, (and friends of course).
Have a wonderful time at Dell World! Looking forward to seeing you there.
Michael Davis has more than 16 years of experience in educational IT. He specializes in virtualization and data center technologies and is a member of the Dell TechCenter Rockstar. As a member of the Rockstar program, Davis’ registration to Dell World were paid for by Dell. His opinions are his own and he is not obligated to promote Dell or the Dell World.