I have attended ABATECHSHOW six times in seven years and I would say I always miss out on something happening but I think I am getting the hang of it now.
I thought I would jot down a few thoughts in case people attending for the first time were feeling a little timid. The first thing I would suggest is unleash your party animal. You’re out of town (if you don’t live in Chicago,) you’re on a business trip, you want to learn, and you want to network (or create synergies if you like to use buzzwords from the last few years!?) Here are a few suggestions for the first timers:
Don’t be shy. You came to ABATECHSHOW to learn sometime, or possibly just to get your state required learning for the year, either way, live a little. You should/must talk to people you don’t know. Chat up people on the elevators, at lunch, before sessions start and after sessions are finished. If you go to ABATECHSHOW and leave without meeting new people you have lost out on some of your investment and some great opportunities!
Social Media – If you don’t know what social media is, well, that’s OK too, but a lot of info is zooming around during the conference on Twitter, LinkedIn, and this year probably Meerkat and Periscope too. Find out what a hashtag is (this # is a hashtag,) and follow what people are saying about techshow and where the parties/gatherings are right now (in plain language, get a Twitter account and follow the #ABATECHSHOW feed.)
Vendors – Wander around the vendor floor/area more than once. Sure some of them will want your soul (or at least your business card so they pester you into the afterlife). . .but you can see lots of cool things and some of them might be right for your office, (or you will find out which ones you want to avoid in the future.) The other thing is you can’t necessarily figure out what the product is from the banners or signage as you walk past a booth so talk to someone, make eye contact and find out what it is they do! Some of the vendors give away great gifts in a draw which takes place at the end of the show. . .you can’t win it if you’re not in it (as they say.) Want to know the differences between Clio, Rocket Matter, MyCase and Firm Manager? well this is your chance to find out! Talk to all of them, get a demo, find out about the nitty gritty costs and have them explain the Terms of Usage agreements. Ask them if they will modify them. Ask them where their cloud servers are located. Ask them what the heck the cloud is!?
Taste of Techshow – I have been to one of these and I would recommend going at least once. Its hard to pick one ahead of time so I would say forget about who the hosts are and decide which restaurant you want to go to and sign up. You pay for these ones yourself so watch your budget, oh, and you’re away from home so live a little.
ABATECHSHOW app – You can probably do without it if you know how to use a smartphone, pen and paper, follow a schedule or can read a sticky note but there is an app and you’re welcome to download it. I have downloaded it a few times and probably will again this year but I have found it of limited use. It does prove that there IS an App for that though. . .
This is too late to add as a tip but I will say it anyway. If you missed out on booking the Hilton this year because they were sold out you should book if for next year. It is always a great experience to be on location for this event so you don’t miss anything. I will add this cryptic note. . .the view from the roof late in the evening is spectacular. (Editor’s note: An additional block of rooms has been reserved at the W City Center Hotel. See the TECHSHOW site for more information about booking a room there.)
The Canadians – Find us. . .we are friendly, we know a bit about tech, and most of us will give you the shirts off our back. If we don’t know how to get someplace we will probably stay with you until you complete your journey. We will talk your ear off. We know a lot about beer (some of us,) and there is a special contingent who know a lot about scotch and sometimes arrange a scotch tasting at a nearby purveyor of spirits…seek them out if you’re interested. We are usually ridiculously polite (annoyingly so for some people.) Some of the Canadians (not me) are ABATECHSHOW insiders and know everything.
Check out the Garmin store at 663 N. Michigan Ave. I believe its the only store in USA where you can go and touch every Garmin device made, even those swimmy watch stroke measuring things!
Music – Its Chicago, go find some live music on one of the nights. . .seriously, just do it.
Food – I’m not going to give any real tips here except to say if you sit in your room and eat room service alone you might as well have stayed home. Tag along with some of the people you just met and go someplace fun and eat something you might not have a chance to eat again. OK, I will make a few suggestions even though I said I wouldn’t. . .eat one of the “Chicago hot dogs” just for the fun of it. They put fluorescent green relish and sport peppers on it. . .its strange…but just go with it. Find a deli and have some brisket or smoked meat or pastrami or even a place that brews their own root beer. There are places. . .use the Google! If you want to know what is supposedly hot right now in Chicago, check here
The conference concierge desk/genius bar-like oblong shaped holding pen of speakers – This is a resource that is hidden in the open. You might stop just to ask the person behind the counter how to get to a particular conference room and then move on. . .that would be a mistake! Engage the people behind the counter, they are the synapses firing behind the scenes that really make techshow do it’s thing. Talk to Lincoln Mead, or Ben Schorr or Adriana Linares and find out something about the conference that you would never discover otherwise. They can tell you where the best Wifi spot is in the hotel. They can fix your wifi if you can’t connect in the hotel. They can tell you where to eat. Want to know what’s going on with the Cubs, ask them. Want to know where someone bought a cool bit of tech, ask them. Curious about Ben’s last triathalon, ask him. They can tell you which vendors have the best swag. Its like having access to a supercomputer.
Pick the sessions you want to go to in advance, and then pick an alternate session at the same time. I have been to a few sessions that looked great on paper and then the presenter just didn’t “bring it.” It could be they didn’t have enough coffee, or had too much coffee, or they didn’t prepare, or they over prepared, or there is some technical glitch. . .but just in case have another choice up your sleeve and be prepared to get to another session if your first choice is a dud.
Don’t be afraid to have a “spare.” In other words, you don’t have to go to every session. Take some time to absorb some of what’s going on, maybe sit down and chat with someone and do a little quiet networking. Its also a slower time (during sessions) for vendors and now you can get close to the vendor you wanted to corner.
Talk to the ABATECHSHOW Planning Board members. Tell them what you like, don’t like, or give them some ideas for the next year. Engage people, don’t just be a bystander.
There are lots and lots of parties going on in the background – find one. . .ask someone what’s going on and you can be one of the cool kids (I have never attained that status but I think it’s possible for others.)
Plan ahead. This is a show packed with vendor/exhibitors. Is there some service you always wondered about? Have a look at past exhibitors and find the one you want to know more about. There’s even a floor plan so you can find people and I know there is probably one on that App thingy I dismissed earlier but hey, I’m not great with maps when I’m below the Earth’s surface.
Last words, bring something warm to wear. . .you will need it on at least one of the days or nights. . .microfleece is light and will keep you warm – ask someone from Minnesota (maybe even this guy) or anyone from Canada.
Go have fun, meet new people, say hi if you run into me. . .I’m easily recognized from my….ummm….painting.
Oh wait, last word – if you haven’t been to Canada, it is a very quick hop from Chicago.
These are my own opinions. not the opinions of anyone affiliated with ABATECHSHOW nor are they the opinions of my employer.