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My First DrupalCon – Tips for n00bs

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I know it’s hard to believe I’ve never been to a DrupalCon, but it’s true. I’ve wanted to attend others, honest, but the opportunities just weren’t available at the time. Needless to say, I was very excited about attending the Pacific Northwest Drupal Summit in my hometown of Portland.

For my PNWDS blog post, I had first thought of detailing every session I attended from my thorough notes, but since my fellow toads have already done that here, here, here, here, here, and here, I thought I’d offer up some tips for others thinking of attending their first DrupalCon, or any tech con for that matter. Brace yourself for a whirlwind ride of things you probably already know, but never saw in print (or pixels).

1. Rep your company/self

Talk about a good way to network! These are all people in your field who share the same interest in Drupal as you. Whether you’re an agency looking to hire, an individual looking to get hired, any form of contracting in between, or simply looking for fellow drupalers, this is the place. With that said, this could end up being an informal first interview, so don’t drink too much punch.

2. Plan ahead for sessions

Deciding on the day of the event which sessions to go to can be done, but how do you know if you want to see the node.js session if you don’t even know what node.js is? A little research could help you avoid the awkward “I’m in the wrong room” moment.

3. Abort early

Sometimes you’re in the wrong room. Whether it’s the content, the speaker, or that you can’t see the screen from your seat in the back, if you start to think that you’re not getting anything out of the session, check the schedule. There could be another session that maybe wasn’t your first choice, but would still be better than where you are. Doing this early can avoid embarrassment for you and the speaker and will ensure you still get a lot out of each session.

4. Ask Questions

The Q&A sessions can be a little daunting with all of the other people suddenly turning your way to hear your questions that may or may not sound pretty silly to them, but bite the bullet. If you just can’t muster the courage, try asking the speaker through twitter.

5. Communicate your findings

I went to a session that I found interesting, but the speaker had made a comment that threw my thinking for a loop. I posted my quizzical thoughts to twitter and received a response from the presenter himself. We then met up later to clear up my misconceptions.

6. Find the Birds of a Feather (BOF) break out sessions

These are get-togethers that bring people with similarities together, whether it’s front-end people, JavaScript junkies, or just the ladies (There was a Drupal Chicks meet up at PNWDS). This is where you’re really going to meet like-minded people. Where these are listed could be tricky to find, but it will be worth the investigation.

7. Bring your power cord

Yeah. I didn’t do this. Resorted to pen and paper at the last session and was looked upon as an outcast complete with pointing and giggling.

8. Volunteer

Whether speaking or sweeping, this is a great way to force interaction. You may be great at walking up to strangers and striking up a conversation, but it’s not a skill us nerds are known for. Volunteering can be a lot more rewarding than it sounds.

9. Don’t skip the party

I had reservations about going to the party. I didn’t have a whole to motivate me, except that I volunteered to serve wine for a shift. Now I’m extremely glad I went. You can meet a lot folks in the hacker’s lounge, etc., but the party is where people truly mingle. I was serving wine and made at least 5 new acquaintances in one hour.

Had I had the ability to go into the future and read my own blog, I maybe would have switched a few sessions and attended some BOF sessions, but overall it was an awesome event and I can’t wait for the next one. Although, I will probably be known in the Drupal community now as that one guy who served the wine that one time. I don’t drink wine and didn’t know where the magic line was, so I used the “Say When” method. Apparently that’s not a universal technique that can apply to wine pouring. Live and learn.

Don't miss Portland DrupalCon!

Date posted: October 26, 2011


There are two types of people at con-s: those who attend sessions and those who attend BOFs/sprints(code or otherwise). There is no right or wrong way but the easiest way to meet people is to volunteer in some way.
PS. The wine pouring crew before you still had other beverages besides wine to serve so we were quite liberal with out serving sizes;)

The eighth point is really awesome, volunteering at drupalcons helps you tons to make contacts and talk to a lot of people at the same time that you help the community, very drupal spirit :)

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