Teren and I just returned from Cisco Live in Orlando. As always, we had an amazing time seeing some of the friends we have made over the past few years and meeting some new friends too. I noticed that this year there seemed to be more spouses/significant others attending, which is awesome, and that many of them seemed to feel as out of place as I felt my first year attending Cisco Live. I remember how awkward I felt not knowing anyone, and more importantly, not understanding a damn thing anyone was talking about.
Each year it seems like more and more women attend, but that first year I felt like Alice must have felt after stepping through the looking glass, surrounded as I was by male geeks speaking their weird geek language that seems to consist of a bunch of acronyms and things with names that sound like they belong in a Dr. Seuss book (FECNs, BECNs and penultimate hop popping come to mind). Now that I have attended 3 out of the past 4 years (Cisco really should come up with some special Net Vet perks for spouses too) I feel that I should share some the things I have learned to help me navigate through the Land of Geeks in order to help any newbie spouses planning to attend next year. These really are not in any particular order, but here are my top tips for having fun at Cisco Live.
- Upon arriving find another spouse to befriend. This will be your non-geek buddy for the duration of the show. When you are hanging out in the social media lounge or at a bar you will have someone to talk to, and someone who will understand your eye rolls after the 85th lame NSA-is-spying-on-us joke of the evening.
- If you don’t already have a thick skin, develop one quickly. Most of the attendees are guys, and like all guys they tend to devolve into 12-year old boys when they get together in large groups. Obviously, you should call someone out if they step over the line, but if you are the type who is likely to get offended at every obnoxious comment about penis size or bedroom skills you will be absolutely miserable. You should feel free to flip them crap right back, by the way. The guys are also usually pretty easy to distract, so if they start getting too out of hand just change the subject. Mention theoretical physics and they can’t resist talking about it.
- There is a ton of alcohol, so pace yourself. In fact, I think I drank more during Cisco Live than in the entire year preceding it. From the beer and wine offered on the floor of World of Solutions, to the open bars at all the parties, to the nightly hangouts in whichever bar has been deemed the favorite drinking spot, there is a serious amount of drinking that happens. Bring aspirin and drink lots of water, and don’t try to keep up with the geeks- those boys can drink!
- Get a guest pass. The guest pass lets you into some sessions and the keynote addresses, if you are interested in learning stuff, but more importantly, the guest pass lets you into the World of Solutions, where you can collect as many tchotchskes as your little heart could desire, and into the Customer Appreciation Event, which is usually an awesome party.
- Plan some fun stuff ahead of time. I like to find some fun things to do while Teren is in sessions, either with friends or on my own. Renting a cabana by the pool, going sightseeing, getting spa treatments, or going shopping is a lot more fun than sitting around waiting for sessions to let out, so do some research to find out what is available before you leave for the show. You can almost always find another spouse to join you if you want company. If you don’t know any other spouses yet, just have your husband ask around to see if any his Twitter buddies are bringing their spouses and if they would be interested in joining you.
These are all things that I have found helpful, but my number one tip is to be outgoing and have fun. I have met some amazing people at Cisco Live over the years, both geeks and their spouses, and I look forward to seeing them all each year. I hope that any spouses who are unsure about whether they should attend, or wondering if they will have fun if they do, find some of these tips helpful and decide to come next year.