Are you headed out to Microsoft Ignite this year? Cherokee Boose here, I am excited to once again be going to Ignite in Orlando with Mike Rodrick and the ITProTV team. I’ve had a blast every year I have attended this conference, but I also made some silly mistakes that I could have avoided if someone had warned me before my first time there. So, I have made this quick guide to help you avoid the same pitfalls and get the best out of Ignite.
Attending Microsoft Ignite
If you prefer vlogs, I have made this video that goes over everything I mention here, otherwise, read on!
Unfortunately, you have already missed the registration for this year’s event in Orlando, but mark your calendar for next year, tickets sell out pretty quickly. This year tickets were sold out two months before the event. Keep an eye out on the Microsoft Ignite registration site for the most up-to-date info.
Cost-wise, this isn’t a cheap conference to attend with tickets ranging in the low 2000s. But value-wise, this conference is an opportunity not only to network with other Microsoft pros and trainers, but to ask, first-hand, the devs, engineers, IT, and other product team members questions and find out the latest on what they’re working on. Also, if you’re an IT leader running a Microsoft shop, the training camps and discounted exam vouchers (some are even free, more on that below) are well worth the conference cost.
Just like most major conferences, Microsoft Ignite has conference hotels reserved, some of which are attached to the Orange County Convention Center where the conference is held. If you can, you should really try to find a conference hotel to stay in because of two things: cost and transportation. Conference hotels usually have discounted rates compared to non-conference hotels in the area. For a big event like this, many hotels sell out, even Airbnb’s can be hard to find.
Also, conference hotels have shuttles to and from the conference which saves you a ton on parking and hassle, trust me. If you do decide to drive and park, make sure you arrive early because it might be hard to find a spot, especially one close to the conference center, and you don’t want to miss the Monday morning keynote or any other conference events.
Make sure you have your badge with you at all times, it’s how you get around the conference center and get access to breakout sessions. Most importantly, it’s how you get lunch! You can pick up your badge Monday morning and again, the lines can get long so make sure you get there early and don’t miss anything.
Number one rule of the Microsoft Ignite conference: wear comfortable shoes. This is not a drill, the convention center is huge, you will be doing a lot of walking every day. Other than that, you’ll see a mix of casual and format attire from most attendees, I have seen both the someone in a suit and someone in a D&D shirt. So, just do you, but wear comfortable shoes and bring a jacket just in case, some parts of the building are very cold.
Things to do at Microsoft Ignite
All right, while the official conference is from Monday to Friday, November 4-8, there are also some events the night before the first day, Sunday, November 3rd. The Microsoft Ignite Agenda has the breakdown of events by day. If you’re going to the Sunday sessions, you have the option to pick-up your conference badge on Sunday and skip the line on Monday. You can also pick up your badges at the Orlando International Airport on Saturday or Sunday. If you’re not going to the Sunday sessions, make sure to get there early on Monday to get your badge so you don’t miss the keynote.
Monday morning kick-off with the “Vision Keynote” where CEO Satya Nadella and other industry leaders introduce the vision for Microsoft and the events of the conference to come. There are also a variety of featured speakers on various technologies, I will definitely be checking out some of the Azure ones.
Make sure you download the MS Events app and use the new session scheduler to avoid missing sessions you want to see. The session catalog gives you an overview of all the sessions available and you can RSVP to them when you sign into MyIgnite. If you can’t attend some sessions in person, I know they have live streams available to attendees in designated areas and you can access recorded sessions online usually the day after.
A note on session codes because they’re a bit confusing. The code next to a session on the catalog represents a few things. The first three letters, like “PRK,” indicate the type of session it is, in this case, a breakout session. The numbers indicate the level of technical difficulty of the session, 1000-something being not very technical and 4000-something being the most technical.
Have you heard of the Microsoft Ignite Learning Paths? Check out Microsoft’s suggested conference sessions based on what set of skills you are trying to achieve or the help you need.
Microsoft Certifications and Exam Vouchers
Last year, Microsoft unveiled a few new IT certifications to better align with their job-role based certification paths. This year, I know they are offering free exam vouchers to attendees, you just have to register through PearsonVUE. Here is a great blog outlining how to get the exam cost down to $0.
If you’re looking to get some of Microsoft’s new certifications, I just completed the Microsoft Azure AZ-103 IT training course on ITProTV. Mike, Adam, Ronnie, and I have also recently completed Windows 10 (MD-100), Managing Modern Desktop (MD-101), Microsoft 365 Identity and Services (MS-100), Microsoft 365 Mobility and Security (MS-101), and many, many more Microsoft certifications in the course library. Check it out, you can start studying for your Microsoft certification exams free for seven days.
If you’re attending Microsoft Ignite this year, make sure you stop by booth #1607 and say “hi” to me and the ITProTV crew in the expo hall.
If you ever need help or directions during the conference, look for the people in purple shirts, they’re conference staff. There is also a FAQ page and Knowledge Base with a lot of info to help you get around.
There is a lot of food at Microsoft Ignite every year, a lot! From full breakfast and lunch buffets to cookies, candies, and what not throughout. I urge you to take care of yourselves friends, there will be a lot of tempting junk food all around, but it will only make you feel sluggish and the conference hours are long and tedious with all the walking. Stay hydrated and resist the free chocolate everywhere.
After Hours & Universal Celebration
Aside from the sessions mentioned above, there are a lot of evening after-hour events hosted by vendors each night. You will probably get swamped with fliers for them as you walk the expo hall. And of course, Thursday night is the infamous attendee celebration at Universal. It’s awesome, my team and I had so much fun last year. When else can you say you went to Universal and got on every ride with no lines? It’s a great way to end a rather long and information-heavy week and I hope you’re not considering missing it because it truly is a lot of fun.
Hopefully, my Microsoft Ignite conference survival tips help you make the most out of your time at the conference. I hope to see you there.
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