As a former Board Member, on behalf of COMMON, I want to thank you for choosing to attend the upcoming 2017 Annual Meeting and Exposition at the amazing Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando. The fact that you are investing in yourself and your future by attending says a lot about you. COMMON is committed to ensuring your return on this investment by providing the best possible conference. Try and make sure you take advantage of everything the conference offers.
I’ve been attending COMMON conferences for what seems like decades, both as an attendee and as a volunteer. Here, I want to share tips that have resulted in great conference experiences.
- Dress comfortably for the conference and wear comfortable shoes. Bring a light jacket (or a long-sleeve shirt) as session rooms can be chilly at times. Remember, the typical dress code is business casual for the conference. You will do more walking than you realize, so I can’t stress comfortable shoes enough.
- COMMON will provide a backpack at registration that can be used to carry the items you need with you each day. If possible, register on Saturday so you can go back to your room, read everything inside the backpack and then fill it with some of the items below.
- Don’t forget your phone charger. You’ll find that your battery is drained by the end of each day. If you have a portable charging unit, they are great as well.
- Bring a few breakfast bars with you so you will always have a bite to eat if the day gets a little hectic or if you can’t find a quick lunch.
- Go online to www.common.org/sessions and create your session grid before leaving for Orlando. This gives you plenty of time to map out which sessions are interesting to you. I always choose two sessions for each period so I have a primary and a backup session. Then, I can decide the day of the conference which sessions I am going to attend. Sometimes I make my decision by the speaker, by the topic or just what I feel like.
- Even if it’s not your first time to the Annual Meeting, stop by the First Timer’s Session on Saturday evening from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Trevor Perry leads this very informative session. You’ll get great nuggets of information to enhance your conference experience. It’s also a great way to start making friends that will explore Universal with you afterwards.
- Put your phone on vibrate during sessions so you will not be the person everyone looks at when the phone starts ringing, interrupting the speaker.
- Arrive to sessions 7 to 10 minutes early to find a good seat and to settle in before the speaker starts. This is also a great time to start a conversation with others since they are interested in learning about the same subject. You already know you have something in common. Also, once the speaker is prepared, it can be a great time to ask a question.
- Bring business cards with you to exchange contact information with your peers and experts. Plus, some vendors have raffles that you can throw your cards into.
- Take advantage of the Exposition and learn about the latest products and solutions in the industry. If you want to receive additional information, just have your badge scanned. It’s a quick and easy way to connect with exhibitors.
- Before going to the Exposition on Sunday and Monday nights, I like to go back to my room, drop off my backpack and then return to wander the expo. I find it easier to walk the expo without my bag, but the drawback is not having it available to put things into. Another option is to just lighten your bag in your room and then come back down. Perhaps leave your PC or tablet safely secured in the in-room safe.
- Try to get a good breakfast before Opening Session on Sunday morning where Jeff Carey, our President, will kick-off the conference promptly at 9:00 a.m. I recommend getting there no later than 8:45 a.m. to get a seat. Make sure you stop at the restroom beforehand as this session goes until 10:30 a.m. Lunch is not provided on Sunday, so those breakfast bars come in handy. Otherwise, you have 45 minutes to get a little something during the midday break. The Welcome Reception starts at 5:00 p.m. in the Exposition on Sunday and will include food and drinks. Come hungry and thirsty. There is enough there for dinner.
- On Monday and Tuesday, lunch is served in the Exposition. It’s a good lunch. Arrive early, eat quickly and then spend the remaining time walking the expo. Make a friend or two at your table and ask if they want to walk around the expo. They wanted to ask you the same thing but were too shy.
- After the sessions are done each day, don’t just go up to your room and stay there. Take part in the evening events. These are great opportunities to continue your learning by getting one-on-one time with the experts and your peers. It’s amazing how much you can learn by just talking to your fellow attendees. If you are a little shy, don’t worry. Everyone is friendly and just as shy. They want to talk with you just as much as you want to talk with them. Take the first step. Walk up, introduce yourself and tell them what you do. In fact, go to the Exposition on Monday night and meet up with people you saw in your sessions. Take advantage of the many restaurants and bars at Universal’s CityWalk afterwards with your new friends.
- Be sure to attend the CEF Closing Reception on Wednesday night. The evening starts with dinner at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. (Don’t forget to bring your island/beach inspired apparel to wear.) This will be followed by dessert, rides and entertainment in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. Explore Hogsmeade and don’t forget to try some of the butterbeer (don’t worry it is non-alcoholic). We will be able to ride attractions like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff without the daytime lines! While in Hogsmeade, don’t forget to stop at Ollivander’s Wand Shop, which will be open for your wizarding needs. Remember, the wand chooses the wizard. You will have a great night relaxing and having fun after four days of learning. It’s a memorable way to end the conference.
- The COMMON staff will wear shirts with the COMMON logo on them. If you have a question, they can help you. Just ask. The COMMON Board of Directors will have purple ribbons on their badge holders. Don’t hesitate to tell them what you need to make COMMON more effective for you.
- On Wednesday is the Meeting of the Members, held at 12:45 p.m. Get your lunch beforehand and then come listen to what your association is doing for you. This session is all about what COMMON is doing now and where it is going.
- Have a piece of paper available to jot down notes regarding things you learned at each session. When you get back to the office, talk with your management to show them what you learned and how it will help the company. This is your ticket to the 2018 Annual Meeting in San Antonio.
Remember, these are just a few of my own personal tips on how to get the most out of your investment and have a kick-ass conference. The goal is for you to learn new things, expand your horizon, meet new people and have fun.
Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you in Orlando. Safe travels.
About the Author
Pete has been working with the AS/400, iSeries, IBM i since 1989, focusing on systems management and technical support. He has held numerous technical positions through out his career. Pete is the President of iTech Solutions Group, an IBM Premier Business Partner delivering solutions and services to IBM i shops throughout the world. He is a member of IBM’s certification test writing team, an IBM Certified Systems Expert with certifications in IBM i Design, Administration, LPAR, Virtualization, Implementation, and HMC management. Pete has a BS in Computer Science from Hofstra University, and an MBA from the University of New Haven. He was President of COMMON from 2010 to 2012, and again in 2014. He is a COMMON Hall of Fame speaker and a frequent speaker at user groups all over the world. In 2011, IBM established the Champions award for Power Systems. Pete was one of the first recipients. Recently, Pete was re-nominated as a Power Systems Champion in 2016.