The Ultimate First Timer’s Guide to #MSIgnite

I can’t believe that Microsoft Ignite is next week! This is my third Microsoft Ignite and I look forward to seeing you there. Make sure y’all check out all the goodness AvePoint has in store for you.

Being a first timer at anything is no walk in the park. But being a potentially unfamiliar city, surrounded by some of the most influential people in the technology and software sector can be downright intimidating. But there’s good news, it doesn’t have to be! In this post you’ll hear some words of advice from folks who have been there and done that. So, pack your comfy shoes and business cards and get ready for Microsoft Ignite 2017!

Laura Rogers @WonderLaura — SharePoint Trainer, Microsoft MVP

There’s so much going on at Ignite at any given time, simultaneously. It can be a bit overwhelming to first timers.  Here’s my advice for getting a handle on this influx of information.  First of all, use the session planner — online and in the app — to find and plan out your calendar for the most important sessions you feel like you  can’t miss.

Then, in the spots of your calendar where there aren’t that may sessions you’re into, take note of what other activities there are to partake in.  There is a hands-on lab, where you can try out the newest technologies.  There is an expo hall, of course, where you can peruse all of the vendors, and look for any specific needs that you have that your current products don’t already provide you out-of-box.

Also, in addition to the more structured sessions and learning, there is a community hub area, where you can recharge and network.  Lunchtime is also a good time to network, just have a chat with the stranger across the table from you.  I’m pretty shy and antisocial, so sometimes it’s difficult coming out of my shell and talking to a stranger, but some really interesting conversations can come out of these random meetings.

You may hear some interesting way that another company is using “XYZ” technology, or you may be struck with a good idea for an application you’re building, when you hear about other ways that this technology is being used.  Wherever your path takes you, I encourage you to make the most of your Ignite experience.  There is never a dull moment.  Oh, and don’t forget that most of the sessions are recorded for you to be able to watch later, so don’t stress about missing one here or there.

Simon A. Denton @buildbodBusiness Architect, Mott MacDonald

Most sessions are available from the Tech Community for review after the event and that allows you to focus on the session rather than focusing on taking notes

Be prepared to walk, walk, walk.

The temptation is to focus on the sessions that align with your day-to-day work. Ignite is a great opportunity to stretch and extend, so attend a couple of sessions outside of your day-to-day / comfort zone. (Remember that you can always catch up afterwards with the content in the Tech Community.)

Reach out to the presenters – we will not bite!

Switch your schedule around as the event unfolds and attend the sessions that interest you. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself switching tracks on a daily basis!

Use the Levels to guide you. Level 100 sessions tend to give you an overview while level 400 are the deepest dive. The boundaries between level 100 and 200 are pretty blurred. What worked for me was to attend the level 100 for a subject to get the content and broad knowledge and then the level 400 for a complete immersion.

Take a break and walk outside the venue! Ignite is intense – you can spend 12 hours inside the building without seeing daylight. 15 minutes soaking up the Florida sun will help clear your head and re-energize you.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the lines in the dining hall – they move quickly and meas are a great time to network. Pick a table, any table and strike up a conversation 😊

Adam Levithan @collabadam — Senior Product Manager, Exostar, Microsoft MVP (Office 365)

I’ve been going to Ignite for several years and the first key thing to remember is that it’s a HUGE and diverse conference. Ignite takes over almost 100% of the conference space wherever it is held and 30,000 of your peers are trying to get to their sessions alongside you. Plan for a long walk (15 minutes) between sessions, and maybe miss out on back-to-back sessions to make sure you can get a seat at the third. Second, take in the entire exhibit hall. This is an opportunity to see technology trends across the Microsoft stack — ok and pick up some swag too. Talk to the vendors and ask how customers are using their products, get ideas about how that general technology could help your organization.

Jeremy Thake @jthake — VP of Product Technology at Hyperfish

“Pace yourself at the RedParty”.

“Dedicate the week to learning and networking. Pack light at Ignite. Leave your laptops at the hotel. Switch your email to OOF. Bring a water bottle, notebook and pen in a small bag at most.”

Eric Overfield @EricOverfield — President, Pixelmill, Inc. Microsoft REGIONAL DIRECTOR & MVP

Congratulations, you are about to embark on a crazy week, full of a combination of learning, training, and networking. If you come prepared, you will set yourself up with more opportunities to get more value out of Ignite. First, plan out your trip. My Ignite allows you to set up a schedule. Fill that up now, it is okay to overbook. However, do not try to attend every session you see. In fact, you may find you can only listen live to a small portion. That is okay. You do not want to be running around from session to session, the venue is huge.

On a given day, pick a few sessions from your list you do not want to miss, get to those early (rooms fill up), and spend breaks absorbing your material, going to theater sessions, and most importantly, networking. Which brings me to networking. Let’s face it, all Ignite sessions will be on YouTube in one to two days. The keynotes are live streamed. You are at Ignite to interact with Microsoft (visit them in the expo hall), fellow users, partners, clients, and your peers.

Microsoft pulls together one of the most amazing groups of people for one week, you want to leverage that as much as possible. Have conversations, go to networking events. Start up conversations with the person next to you, likely they too are there to learn about similar technologies as you are.

Lastly, stay hydrated, go to the evening events, but also try to get sleep so you can have a productive day tomorrow as well. Good luck, have a great time, keep your ears open and your smile on, you are about to drink from the fire hose.

Chris Slemp @cslemp — Consultant and Director of Strategy at Carpool Agency, Microsoft MVP

Bring comfortable shoes. Aside from that, the key things to remember about a conference the size of Ignite is that A) you will never be able to get to all the sessions that you should attend, B) they’re (nearly) all recorded, and C) it’s the face time that’s unique about a conference. Attend those sessions where you want to interact, not just watch. Stay flexible and prioritize impromptu meetups over sessions. And yes, that may mean streaming the morning keynote so that you can stay a little later at the party with a new friend. Believe it or not, the Microsoft product folks really do want to talk to you! Visit the booths and don’t be shy. You’ll get more time with them there than after a session. Finally, the community sessions are a great way to get an hour’s content in 20 minutes!

Susan Hanley @susanhanley — SharePoint, Knowledge Management, Portals and Collaboration Consultant

My advice to first time attendees is to sit up front and talk to the people around you. What was your favorite session so far? What sessions are you most looking forward to? What have you learned that surprised you? It’s amazing to me that I see so many people not take advantage of the fact that they are in person at a conference to talk to other people – especially people they don’t know! I like to sit up front because I feel like that’s where the people who are most interested in the session seem to sit. I’ve had some really engaging conversations with people from all over the world from my seats in the first couple of rows! And then when I see them again at other sessions, right in the front in our “regular” seats, it’s like a reunion of old/new friends!

Matt Wade @thatmattwade — Cloud Services Lead at H3 Solutions, Inc. (This year will be Matt’s first time at Ignite)

This is actually my first Ignite too! So I don’t have much advice since I’m still uninitiated, but it definitely shows how fast the Office 365 world grows and changes. I wasn’t even really aware of Office 365 two years ago, so I’d have no real reason to attend Ignite. Since then, I’ve gotten neck deep in the O365 world and can’t wait to learn, network, and get everything I can out of the conference. So say hi to a fellow n00b and let’s build an experience together.

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TJ

Dr. Tianyi (TJ) Jiang oversees product strategy and business development for AvePoint’s global businesses, and is one of the main architects in guiding AvePoint’s evolution to become a Collaboration Enabler, focusing on helping enterprises in their digitization journey to enable employees to collaborate with confidence. Prior to co-founding AvePoint, TJ’s career focus was on designing and implementing fix-income trading systems, global equity program trading platforms, credit risk modeling, and conducting research in Data Mining. A recipient of Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award in New Jersey in 2010, TJ received both B.S. and Masters in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Cornell University, and a Master of Philosophy and PhD in Data Mining from Department of Information Systems, Operations Management, and Statistics, Stern School of Business, New York University.