Tips for Attending a Code Camp (Community) Conference

Happy Code CampersAs I write this post, I’m entering my 7th year (now 10) of attending/ speaking at Code Camp conferences. Here are some tips that might help you get the full experience. These suggestions apply to any community conference run by your fellow geeks like SQL Saturday etc.

Register

Even though Code Camps are free, it’s very important to register for the event. This lets the organizers know how many people are coming to make sure there is enough rooms, food, prizes etc.

If the web site has the ability to show your interest for a session, please check the sessions you plan to go to. This really helps out the session planners to decide what size room a session needs to be schedule for. Have you ever had to stand in a session… this is why.

If the conference is out of your area and over one day long, make sure to book a hotel. The sooner the better to get a cheaper price and avoid all rooms near the location being taken.

Before You Arrive

Most code camp sites have the ability to print out your schedule. Make sure you do this before you arrive (usually the night before).  Also, many code camps are held at a college campus which can be difficult to navigate. Make sure to print out any maps to make getting around easier.

Code Camps start early, so prepare the following items as necessary the night before:

  • Notepad
  • Pen
  • Business cards. Makes it much easier to network with your fellow code campers and speakers. Also sometimes needed to win swag/ prizes. Overnight Prints is a cheap way to design and order business cards.
  • Snacks and water.
  • Copies of your resume. You never know who you will meet at one of these conferences. Attend my Röck Yoür Technical Interview for more tips on having an awesome resume.

Unless you have a deadline the weekend of the conference, I really don’t recommend bringing a laptop. They are heavy to carry around all day. Power is hard to find. WiFi is not free or spotty and you really should be paying attention, networking etc. at these events anyway.

Arrival

If you haven’t been to the Code Camp location before, leave your house/ hotel early to avoid any traffic and issues finding the appropriate building. You don’t want to miss anything.

Make sure to check in when you arrive (each day if the code camp is over one day long). This provides the organizers a good head count for ordering food etc. Also make sure to pickup tickets/ info for other events that might be happening during the conference like, lunch, dinner and raffles.

Also try to attend the “kick off session” which is usually the first 10-15 minutes on the first day. This is where you can find out about last-minute schedule changes and other events happening during the conference.

Attending Sessions

Try to arrive at sessions early. Sessions can fill up quick and you will be left standing, sitting on the floor or flat-out not be able attend. If you printed a map of the location/ buildings, mark off where your sessions will be. This will make it easier and faster for find. If you arrive early, it’s much easier to find the best seat in the house!

Participate! Code Camps is your conference so speak up, ask questions, answer questions! The more you put into a session the more you will get out.

Be kind to the speaker! None of the speakers are being paid, they are doing it out of the kindness of their heart to help you in your programming career. Sure, some might be selling their services, books etc. but they do not get compensated. So if demos go wrong, if they are not 100% prepared etc. go easy on them… provide feedback (in a nice way).

Networking

Attending a code camp is a great, if not one of best, place to network. You have access to fellow geeks, speakers, recruiters and more from your local area. Make sure to bring business cards and hard/ soft copies of your resume. You never know when your dream job might just land in your lap!

Go on, make a new friend or two!! Check out this great article on networking called The Programmer’s Guide to Networking at a Conference.

After The Conference

Make sure to followup on the Code Camp web site or speaker site to download and presentation material or sample code for the sessions you were most interested in.

Provide feedback! Both the conference organizers and speakers want to know your feed back, good and bad. This helps make your experience better the next time you attend a Code Camp. Most events don’t send out feedback surveys, so make sure to find the contact email for the event and/or the speaker and speak your mind! Please try to make any criticism constructive.

Make sure to volunteer at the next code camp you attend. They rely on volunteers to keep the day running smoothly.

I will be speaking at a local code camp near you: https://dotnettips.wordpress.com/rock-the-world-tour/

Please share your tips by adding a comment.

Further Reading

 

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