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A personal guide to Conferring at EuroSTAR

  • 21/09/2011
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My first EuroSTAR was the previous Manchester edition in 2006. I know I was very excited and I remember spending a huge amount of time selecting tracks that I wanted to visit. Still wet behind the ears in testing-land I had a hard time choosing the tracks, all seemed so interesting and since I was a rookie I knew each choice would bring me something new. I went full on; I made a schedule that was packed with tracks and in the breaks I tried to visit as much vendors as possible to gather information. In the evenings I spent my time summarizing the things I learned, just like I do when I attend a course or training. Although I had my head soaked with information and newly gathered knowledge I learned, during my later conference visits, that I could have gotten more out of the experience that makes a conference more special than a regular course or training. Here are some tips to fully enjoy the experience of ‘conferring’.

The first thing I do, after taking care of my registration, the travel and lodgings (nothing more frustrating than having your program thought out, getting excited and find out you won’t be able to attend because you don’t have the funding or the means to travel and stay at the conference), is printing the ‘full-conference-at-a-glance’ page.

The second thing I do is selecting the tracks I find interesting, using a pencil I start encircling the choices. I have my own guideline for making a selection:
Step 1; pick the things with catchy titles (:-) ) and individual tracks that ‘pop out’ and put in the stuff that are ‘mandatory’ for me to attend on request of colleagues. ‘Like factor’ is important.

Step 2; fill gaps with things that I like in relation to track-topics (people/ innovation/ management) and pick some stuff that is related to my current work.
Step 3; use a coin for choices I can’t make myself when there are two tracks at the same time which I both like to visit.

After I have ‘designed’ my basic set up I start making ‘gaps’. When I made my schedule the first time back in 2006 I filled up the complete time-schedule with tracks. When I saw a timeslot in which I didn’t yet made a choice I filled it up with a track that was most likely to be the most interesting. Now I know that when I haven’t chosen a track yet at a certain timeslot, it’s a perfect opportunity to meet people, stroll around the vendor booths, just relax and reflect and visit the TestLab. I have to admit I was reluctant to ‘miss out’ on a possibility to visit a track and learn, but I experienced that I gained much more from non-track activities than visiting a track that was not entirely my cup of tea.

Even if you can design a full program, by which I mean you have filled in each timeslot with a track, It might be very beneficial to scratch the ones you like least to do some ‘conferring’. It just makes the conference experience a more rich one and it provides the added value of a conference above that of a regular training or course. If you have missed out on a track that you hear afterwards from other attendees was really worth it, you can approach the speaker and just ask if he (or she) has any extra information on his subject or maybe even plans to have a webinar in the future.

Make sure you speak to people during the breaks and lunches, don’t go standing somewhere alone. If there isn’t a ‘click’, people won’t bite your head off. Just walk to another table after your next round of coffee or food; no harm done!

The last thing that makes the conference experience complete isn’t an activity at the conference venue itself. It’s all about the extra’s that are organized in the evening. So don’t go back to your hotel, eat a small meal and start making summaries. You can make notes during the track and reflect on them right after the conference, which is still in time to have things fresh in your memory and you can catch your zzz’s in the weekend after the conference. Go out and socialize! You can dine with fellow conference people, attend the conference drinks and sometimes there’s even a mini-conference held (like last year in Copenhagen there was a Rebel Alliance that organized a lightning-talk like conference in the evening)

There’s a good blogpost with loads of experiences from 2010 at the EuroSTAR blog site:/blog/2010/12/14/whole-lotta-bloggin-goin-on!.aspx

Make sure to read all the experiences and let them help you making the most out of the EuroSTAR 2011 edition since they will give you an insight on what to look out for and pick up upon.

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