Editor’s Note: This was written by my lovely wife, Jennifer Bryson, after a frustrating few days of reading the same hackneyed advice for convention goers.
I have been reading a lot of different tips people are posting for Cisco Live, and while some of them are great, a lot of them are incredibly generic. Bring comfortable shoes? Anyone who has ever been to any sort of convention should know that. Bring sunscreen? Um, I would hope most people know they should bring sunscreen to Florida. Bring a portable charger? I don’t know a single self-respecting geek who goes anywhere without one. I decided to add some of my own tips. Keep in mind, I am not one of the geeks, or at least, I am not a computer geek, so when it comes to tips and advice on sessions you should read some of the others. This is my 9th year attending with my husband, and so far we have survived each year, so here are my newbie survival tips:
- Say hi. There are a ton of really nice people, many of whom are CLUS pros, so find a group of people and get to know them.
- While saying hi and getting to know people, find out if the people you are saying hi to are on a Twitter list or chat group that you can be added to. This is how you will find out where all the fun, informal gatherings are taking place and where your people are at any given time. @NetworkingNerd has a great Twitter list.
- Prioritize. There is no way you can get to every session, party, social gathering, etc. that you want to go to unless you invent a teleportation device and perfect time travel. Sign up or RSVP to everything, but choose your must-do events and be willing to skip some of the less important ones. This gives you time to sleep, eat, and nurse your inevitable hangover.
- Hydrate. And I don’t mean with the ample supplies of sugary, caffeinated and/or alcoholic beverages around. Bring a water bottle and use it. There are big water coolers spread around, but the cups are itsy bitsy, and all you will find in bottles and cans are not good for you (yes, I know you all live on caffeine and sugar, but I am a nurse so I have to throw that in there.)
- That leads to food…there are not a whole lot of healthy options offered at the different events. Look into the restaurants around the convention center and your hotel if you are interested in eating things like vegetables, and consider bringing easy to carry snacks like nuts or protein bars around with you.
- Find some down time. This can be hard, because there are always 500 things going on, but you don’t want to collapse from exhaustion. Even just pulling up a chair or bean bag in the Social Media hub and putting on your headphones and zoning out for a half hour can really help you recharge for later activities. Ideally, try to get away for a bit all together. Spend an hour by your hotel pool or leave the convention center for lunch.
- Yes, CLUS is super casual, and most people will be wearing the standard uniform of cargo shorts or jeans with a t‑shirt, but consider bringing at least one semi-nicer outfit for some of the parties. This is, after all, technically a professional conference, so it is probably best not to completely embrace the college campus slacker look at all times.
- Timing. Everything from checking in, to getting from your hotel room to the convention center, to getting from one end of the convention center to the other, to getting on one of the shuttle busses to the CAE is going to take longer than you might anticipate. The Orlando convention center is gigantic, and there are a ton of attendees, so plan to leave early for things, don’t expect you are going to be able to pull off last minute departures, and be prepared to wait.
- Add on some time for non-CLUS fun. If you have not already done so, try to find something fun to do the day before or after the main show if your travel plans permit. Orlando is theme park central, and there are a lot of fun non-theme parky things to do too.
- Keep in touch with those people you said hi to after CLUS. This will be my 9th year attending CLUS with my husband, and we have made some life-long friends from all across the country over the years. Follow the people you get to know on Twitter or Facebook. Planning events for the next CLUS tends to start early, so it is a great way to get a head start on next year’s events.
Have fun! Hope to meet you there!