SPC11 Survival Guide for International Attendees
Going to your first SharePoint Conference next week in Anaheim? Or maybe you just can’t remember much of the last two SPCs in Las Vegas and Seattle?
Anaheim will be my fourth SPC – the one before Seattle was in Berlin – and every time I seem to forget a few vital things in preparation for the trip. Trust me, there’ll be plenty of things to keep you busy once you touch down in LAX so the more you can take care of in advance the better.
Twitter is essential for staying on top of what’s happening at the conference. In most Twitter clients, like TweetDeck, you can create a column that continually displays tweets with the hashtag #SPC11. Alternatively, you can use the web version.
Also, find out if attendees from your country or user group are using a specific hashtag (like #SUGUK for SharePoint User Group UK or #SPC11DK for Danish attendees) – or you may even want to keep an eye on #SharePint.
Consider putting your twitter handle and avatar on your SPC badge. It’ll make it easier for your online friends to recognise you in person.
Of course, Facebook (or even Google+) is also a relevant source of up-to-the-minute information but Twitter tends to be more widely used during SPCs.
If you’re travelling with colleagues you can stay connected using Office Communicator, stating which session you’re in or where you’ll be during the next break.
Adding your sessions to Outlook is a no-brainer and it makes it easy for your colleagues to catch up with you.
Doing business remotely
Access to your workplace via VPN may be limited from whichever network connection you’re getting in the US. Some providers and hotels block access to the ports used by VPN. If you’re using Office 365 or BPOS this isn’t going to be an issue for you – if not, you may want to check that you’ve got access to web-based email. If there’s a chance you need specific documents during the conference, put them on your hard drive or in the cloud with SkyDrive or Dropbox.
Most laptop power supplies these days are universal, i.e. they accept 100-240 volts, so you only need to bring a power plug adaptor.
Use your laptop as a charging station for your phone/tablet etc. and do bring a spare battery for your
Speaking of phones: Make sure you don’t incur horrendous roaming charges on your normal contract. Instead, you should purchase a prepaid SIM card from a US carrier on arrival.
If you’re from the northern hemisphere it is probably warmer in California than in your country. Don’t be fooled, though, you’ll be spending most of your time indoors at the convention centre. And let’s get one thing straight: Americans
like love air condition and they don’t mind cranking it up to 11. So don’t expect tropical temperatures in the breakout sessions.
By now, you’ve probably applied for your ESTA. If not, you really need to hurry up. When you’ve completed the form make sure you check the details on the print view – I found that more details are shown here than on the form itself, especially if you’re only updating flight or hotel information.
Don’t forget your passport. Silly, I know, but I’ve been on group trips before where one or two people showed up in the airport without the most obvious item needed for the trip.
We’ve all heard stories about unlucky individuals ending up with astronomical medical bills when going abroad. Medical treatment in the US can be very expensive, so make sure that you (or your company on your behalf) have adequate travel and medical insurance for the trip.
Don’t bring much cash – but do bring your Visa, Master or Amex card. If you have two different cards it’s even better as some places may accept Visa but not Master, or vice-versa. And do bring the phone number of your bank/issuer’s card cancellation service, in case your card gets stolen.
International drivers’ license
If you’re planning a road trip to an NFL game in San Diego while at SPC you should check if you need an international license, apart from your country’s standard license. In most cases you don’t but it’s worth checking out. More info here, and be aware of the scammers who want to sell you fake international licenses.
And finally: Drinking
Yes, drinking and partying is part of the SPC experience! SharePoint Conference is a very social event where many different types of SharePoint people attend. This mixed bag of individuals is a great basis for some serious partying but instead of listing all the tips here, I’ll refer you to this and this post from some of the seasoned SharePint drinkers in the community.
That’s it. Safe travels – hope to see you in Anaheim. If you see me, come and say hello.