I don't know about you, but it can hard to focus on a day long industry event. You start out ready, then your phone rings, txt msgs, and e-mail distracts you. Some of the presentations are good. Some have room for improvement. Sometimes you just get bored and your mind drifts.
Let me walk through an example of what I choose as a strategy for Google's How Green is the Internet? event. Here is the full agenda.
First I got there early. The event started at 9a. I got there at 8:45a - to allow for Mtn View traffic, get a close parking spot (you were told to park 1/2 mile away and bus you in, I parked 300 ft away on the street), maximize time to socialize, and chat with the event staff.
Out of the full list of speakers. There were three I really wanted to listen to. Urs Hoelzle's 10 min intro. Jonathan Koomey's 20 min infrastructure of the Internet. And, Eric Schmidt's 15 minute new digital age. Al Gore and the rest were lower priority. Active listening can be tiring. I was looking for patterns that connected what Urs, Jon, and Eric were saying. I figured what Al Gore would be saying would be his own agenda that really wasn't connected to the other three. Also, in my opinion Urs, Jon, and Eric were some of the smartest guys in the room with a breadth of testing ideas and concepts.
Here is Eric's talk.
And, Jon's talk
Urs introduction isn't posted. Urs did spend an hour with the media to answer questions and that session was not recorded.
The other three people I focused on where the Google event organizer, the executive sponsor, and media contact. These three were making sure the event worked. Chatting with them gives perspective on how to interpret the presentations and their opinion on the event and presentations.
When I was at 7x24 Exchange I was daily chatting the executive board of 7x24, the event staff, and even the photographer. I do the same at Open Compute Summit and DatacenterDynamics.
This comes back to my journey through 10 data center conferences post. The four conferences I mention above are all the ones where I feel like I use this strategy, and I get the most out of.