Prepping for #heweb14

It’s that time of year once again! Time for nerds to unite, talk content and web, drink a ton of beer, and sing karaoke. Last year, it was in Buffalo, but now we’re heading to Portland, OR.

I can’t wait. But there’s a ton to do between now and then, including packing. If it’s your first time heading to heweb, it could be overwhelming to think about what to bring or what to do. For me it was, and here’s what I’m definitely putting on my packing list this year!

1. Business Cards. Heweb is filled with crazy awesome people. Those people are amazing to drink with, sing karaoke with, but most importantly, think with. You’re going to have tons of conversations with people across the country, and want to chat when you get back to the office. Swap digits.

2. Every cord that charges things. This conference is all about tech, and you’re going to be using your phone, tablet, and laptop a LOT. Bring chargers. Heweb is nice enough to set up a number of power strips in all of the presentation rooms. Sit down, plug in, and make a friend while you’re there.

3. An external charger. You won’t just be using technology to take notes on presentations. Every session has a unique hashtag, not to mention the conference hashtag, as well as any hashtags that start trending during the conference to make plans for after the day comes to a close (if you haven’t figured it out by now, get a Twitter account). Chargers come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. I find them useful for not only conferences, but traveling. A few include the Mophie, myCharge, and Jackery.

4. Swag. Heweb is casual. Super casual. It’s also a fun time to rock that free t-shirt you got at your institution’s homecoming event, or stuff from conferences you’ve gone to in the past. Throw those random pins on your lanyard, too. Got extra swag? Bring it along. Maybe someone’ll want to swap (I’ll have T-Shirts from Merit to give away)!

5. Your schedule, already determined. There’s a lot to do in 4 days. The number of presentations is overwhelming. You would be at a serious disadvantage if you hadn’t looked through the schedule in advance. And now, you can even mark which ones you want to attend RIGHT on the website. Awesome, right? Yeah, it is.

6.  A pen. Yeah, it’s a tech conference but hey, you never know. On the flip side, it’s not unusual to see everyone sitting on laptops, cell phones, tablets, or other digital devices during presentations to take notes or participate in the discussion on the backchannel for each presentation.

Ok, so you’re packed (disclaimer, you may want to consider clothes and clean underwear, too.), but now what? The first thing, and most important thing, I think, is to get chatty on Twitter before the conference. You’ll digitally meet people who are going to be there, and once you see their handle on their nametag, everything clicks. “Hey! We talked to each other on Twitter yesterday!” is an awesome ice breaker.

Most conference go-ers will tell you this, but I’ll repeat it. Visit at least one presentation outside of your comfort zone. Not a developer? Go learn about responsive design. Don’t work with students? Listen about how colleges have students running their social media accounts. There’s so much to learn, and learning isn’t always easy.

Each presentation will leave you feeling energized and excited. There’s a lot going on, and a lot of inspiration in the room. At the end of each presentation, I like to write down the one big thing I took away from the presentation, whether it’s an idea to take back to the office, or a concept I need to think about more as I work. Then, when I head back home, I can beat the post-conference hangover. More on that later.

After each day is over, you should head to the nighttime social events. They’re worth it. This crowd is amazing, did I mention that? Don’t be afraid to walk up to a group of folks and ask where they’re from. No one will look at you funny. Keep an eye on Twitter, too. You never know what fun people will find around the city, especially with a group of people who love karaoke. Oh, and take pictures.

After it’s all over and the number of Twitter followers you have has increased exponentially, you’ll be in a daze. Ideas everywhere, across the board, big and small. You’ll want to implement them all as soon as you get back, but, you can’t. You have an email inbox that is overflowing, and need to align the right resources. It takes time, energy, and patience.

To combat the conference hangover, I look back on my “golden nuggets,” the big things that I took from each presentation. From there, I can make a real list of action items. Then, when things start rolling and stuff gets implemented, it feels amazing.

Heweb14 in Portland is only three more sleeps away, and I couldn’t be more excited. From the awesome presentations to the endless amount of food (we’re fed about 6 times a day at this thing), all the way to seeing old friends and meeting new ones across the country (and, Canada), it’s sure to be an amazing time.

Will I see you there?


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