- Giant Cisco Live! logo from Cisco Live 2010
This series is intended to be a collection of advice on how to get the most out of attending the Cisco Live conference (aka Networkers). Some of it is applicable to any training event, but most of it is more specific.
If you have corrections or additional suggestions, please comment so I can keep this information up to date and accurate. I’d like this to be a resource for everyone.
Don’t forget to sign up for your free certification exam, and don’t forget to schedule your sessions around it.
As a conference attendee, you will also get access to Cisco Live Virtual. This has all the PDFs and many recordings of sessions from the last couple years. Some of the sessions recommend you have attended another session as a prerequisite. You can view some of these (or browse the PDF) before the conference. Sometimes, you can glance through the PDFs of sessions you are thinking of attending to decide if you actually want to.
At The Conference
To be Early is to be on Time
Whenever possible, get to the sessions early. Getting there late only to find no where to sit is a bummer. Don’t be afraid to sit in the front, especially if you are late. There are often open seats in the front and in the middle of rows while the back and all the edges are packed. Be prepared for a good speaker to make light of you and the others that are arriving late, at least during the first few minutes. They may even invite you to sit in front. Go with a smile. There’s always late people, especially in the morning sessions, you won’t be the only one.
Of course, being in the front can backfire if you decide you want to leave. You can feel very conspicuous if you get up and leave. That said, do you pay any attention to other people leaving? Just do it quietly and don’t waste your time in a useless or bad session.
Stay on Task
Why are you or your employer paying for you to attend the conference? Obviously, it’s so you can spend all day on Twitter/Facebook/IRC (some people still use it, really!)/Foursqaure “networking”, right? That’s not to say that the proverbial hallway track and social media aren’t valuable, they definitely are. In fact, I recommend following the hashtag #cl11 on twitter. However, while you’re in the midst of the NX-OS Software Architecture session keep the computer closed or only use it for notes. Otherwise, you’ll hear something you really care about, come out of the distraction, and realize you’ve missed it. At least, that’s the way it goes with me, so that’s the suggestion I make.
Another thing to avoid is the temptation to look up that new feature you just learned about, or even remote into your favorite networking device to see if it supports the new bell and/or whistle. Save it for later! If you’re in the conference hotel, you can use that time you saved not hiking to the hotel to poke at that stuff after dinner.
World of Solutions Expo
This is the trade show. It’s big. You can definitely spend some time here learning about new products, talking to vendors, and picking Cisco TAC’s brains. I found all kinds of useful vendors that I previously had no idea existed. You can ask Cisco people, both technical and non-technical, those tough questions. There’s a special section of the show just for asking TAC people that question that’s been bugging you, or that you thought of because of a session you attended.
Yes, there’s the various tchotchkes and receptions with food and beverage, but it really is a great place to make contacts. If you want to have a real conversation with any of the vendors, don’t count on doing it during a reception. It’s just too busy. If you want a tchotchkes, usually you have to get your badge scanned. You’ll get a call from them in a few months. Sometimes they want you to sit down and listen to a spiel. Make sure it’s worth your time. If you haven’t been to one of these before, you may be tempted to get all kinds of free t-shirts and junk. Don’t forget you have to get all that stuff home. :)
Cisco Live (aka, Networkers). It’s a great place to learn, network, and get your questions answered. You’ll meet people from all kinds of environments, some will even be similar to yours. You can find out how they do things in their shop or how they solved the same problem you’re trying to solve. Sometimes you’ll just share war stories, which can be therapeutic, too. I find the sessions useful, but the conversations and people you meet can be just as useful, if not more, than the sessions you attend.