Ticket bought, flights and accommodation booked, like hundreds of others you’re DrupalCon bound for the very first time! No doubt you are very excited, perhaps a little nervous, not quite sure what to expect? Panic not, by the time you’ve read this blog you’ll be all set to make the most of the experience.
Rest assured, approaching half of attendees are first timers, just like you. Everyone was a newbie once. Drupalists are a friendly bunch, so once you get going it’ll be a breeze.
So here goes...
Don’t spend valuable time during DrupalCon picking what session to watch next. Do yourself a favour, plan your schedule ahead not when you arrive but be flexible in case something good comes up you might have overlooked! Check out the schedule now.
“be flexible, you never know what opportunities you'll get during the conference, sometimes you might have to break your schedule to accommodate.” James Davidson @davidsonj
Browse the attendee list ahead of time, there are bound to be some familiar faces you have spoken to on IRC, Drupal.org or social media.
Beyond this there will be other Drupalists sharing your interests, reach out to them and start a conversation ahead of time to help crystallize new friendships during the conference.
Not everyone is able to stay the whole time so be sure to ask those who you are most keen to see. Hatch a plan beforehand, most people’s calendars fill up fast.
Even if you aren’t on the business side of Drupal, you will speak to a LOT of people at DrupalCon. Do get some business cards printed. This will save time and ensure you remain in touch with people beyond the conference. Moo.com are cost effective or use Lullabot’s wicked new digital card app “Shoot”.
What (not) to pack
Be clear - there is no dress code. DrupalCon is inclusive, anything goes. Bring comfortable shoes, you will walk miles during the conference. To be honest, I always pack light and wear less than I think. Don’t forget smartphone and laptop chargers!
An international power adapter and power strip is an essential accessory. Keep those gadgets juiced up.
“Carrying a power strip around with you is often a good way to make friends at conferences.” Larry Garfield @Crell
I find a notepad invaluable although you can be sure to stock up on these in the Exhibitor Hall.
Make sure you pack enough to survive in your carry on baggage just in case your hold bag goes missing. Even better, just go carry on.
Be sure to check with your mobile phone supplier any costs associated with data usage before you arrive. There will be ample free wifi at the conference centre so maybe you can manage without.
Are you sure your credit card is accepted in The Netherlands? Be sure to inform your card company that you are traveling and to expect overseas transactions charges. Arrange euros ahead of time.
Twitter is your friend
Not only will major announcements be made on @DrupalConEur, there will be a stream of helpful advice and a certain amount of cat herding so be sure to follow.
A lot of attendees use Twitter to make plans during the conference so be sure to track the official #DrupalCon hashtag. Use the hashtag yourself to make plans, form new connections and share photos.
The volunteers at the Help Desk where you register are available throughout the duration of the conference to assist with any enquiry or help you may require.
Before DrupalCon if you need to contact the conference organisers, the best method is the site contact form.
“volunteer, be front desk, on the rooms, whatever, there is not a better way to meet new people if you don't already” Pedro Cambra @pcambra
A lot of people save money travelling from the airport by sharing transport. This can be planned ahead of time using social media or more spontaneous or bumping into people wearing Drupal t-shirts. Remember there are thousands of us arriving in a short space of time, you are bound not to be alone.
Avoid the queues at registration by visiting before Tuesday morning. The registration desk is open during Sunday and all day Monday.
This is your chance to meet people for real. Don’t spend your whole time head down in a screen. Conversations are all around you, go start one. Don’t be daunted because the person across the hallway is a ‘rockstar Drupaler’. We all like talking about what we love.
“do not session cram your day as it will make your head spin, say hi to people (we are not scary) :)” Emma Karayiannis @emma_maria88
“don't be surprised if everyone seems to know everyone; at my first #DrupalCon I thought: established social group; but half were newbies!” J-P Stacey @jpstacey
Sponsors compete with one another to see who can create the coolest Drupal related giveaways. The best goodies go fast so be sure to attend the exhibit hall at the earliest opportunity.
Pro-tip: The Exhibit Hall opens Monday 17:00-18:30. There is a party like atmosphere, it’s a really nice way to ease into the DrupalCon flow. This is also when the smart people get their SWAG.
Don’t be shy, the sponsors really want you to take their swag home. Also, be sure to leave spare space on your journey out for SWAG coming home. Be sure of the baggage allowance of your airline!
Then there’s the Drupal Association’s confusingly have a “Bookstore” which actually sells way more than books. They have some awesome Drupal memorabilia, proceeds of which go to fund the Drupal project.
Amsterdam in particular has some noteworthy social events scheduled by the local community and attendees alike. Dinners, cultural evening, women in Drupal, pub crawls, the arrival of Tour de Drupal are amongst some of the events currently available. There's a helpful Pinterest board mapping out all the social events too!
Many people arrive ahead of the main conference. This can be an excellent time to arrange meetings with people before things get too hectic.
DriesNote The Dries’s Keynote is always a full house. In fact I strongly advise get your seat early or possibly miss out! A pro-tip is attend Rob & Jam’s prenote, you’d be mad not to anyway , and bag yourself a prime location for the DriesNote early (they always share the same location).
A huge tradition at DrupalCon is the group photo. Be sure to be among the sea of Drupalists immediately after the DriesNote. We hear an octocopter will make an entrance in Amsterdam to help capture the epic numbers we now have. See how we did it in Prague last year.
A quiz night about Drupal? Unmissable, I am not kidding you. For many it’s the highlight of the social calendar. There are bonus points for teams with DrupalCon first timers so you will be most welcome! What better way to meet new people, and there are amazing prizes to be had.
Sprints! There are opportunities for everyone to take part in sprints no matter if you’ve never attended a (code) sprint before. Special First-Time Sprinter Workshops exist to guide those of you who are new to sprinting. “Everyone can get involved in many aspects, including documentation, UX, design, testing, and development.”
Taking part in these mass participation sprints is invigorating and should certainly be on your schedule.
There’s more besides sessions at DrupalCon...
With so many great sessions to choose from there are bound to be clashes. Don’t panic, the amazing team at DrupalCon reliably have all sessions published same day to Youtube.
Aware of these recordings you should consider what else there’s available to do...
For many a highlight of the conference is those chance meetings in the hallway. Do take the opportunity to stop and spend time talking with people in the hallway.
Affectionately know as “BoFs” - Birds of a feather conversations offer a rare opportunity to meet and discuss a theme with Drupalists sharing a common interest. As a first time DrupalCon attendee I can’t stress how valuable BoFs are. There’s no need to register, just turn up or even arrange your own!. Many presenters will arrange companion BoFs for their sessions, this is a great time to deep dive into a subject.
“the BoF is where the conversations happen, sessions are recorded but these aren't, many goodies happen there” Pedro Cambra @pcambra
No trip to DrupalCon is complete without a visit to the Coder Lounge. During Amsterdam we have a Coder lounge at the Novotel Hotel one at the RAI conference centre. These are open from Monday night to Thursday afternoon 24hrs a day.
Relax! There will be other DrupalCons
Don’t try and do everything first time round. With so many amazing keynotes, sessions, BoFs and people to meet plus a packed social calendar - there’s no denying there’s a temptation at DrupalCon to burn the candle at both ends. Be careful though, without some proper rest and healthy food you can easily get run down and suffer post conference DrupalFlu.
So pace yourself. Head for bed when others say “just one more”, eat some fruit, drink water and get some sleep. You’ll enjoy DrupalCon and take home just amazing memories.
Did we miss anything?
This is open source, I'm sure you have some valuable advice for DrupalCon attendees. Go ahead, share them in the comments below.
Here are a couple of brilliant posts which I think you should read too:
Jeffrey McGuire’s A-Z of DrupalCon
Doug Vann has further tips on what to bring to DrupalCon