IBM THINK 2018 promises to be one of the largest, most rewarding technology conferences on the planet, in Las Vegas in March 2018. Getting the most out of this massive show requires advance preparation. For first-timers (and forgetful veteran attendees of other IBM events), here are a few suggestions to enhance your THINK 2018 experience.
1. Stay hydrated. You're going to two deserts for the price of one: Las Vegas, which tends to be a hot, arid climate, and the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, which runs air conditioning and thus remove even more water from the air. Drink water copiously. As the US Army expression goes, if you don't have to use the restroom frequently, you haven't had enough water. Consider bringing or buying a reusable water bottle on site.
2. Bring COMFORTABLE SHOES. You will be walking a TON. See this map? That's the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. It is one MILLION square feet - and IBM THINK occupies it all. From the Mandalay Bay hotel to the farthest ballroom is two-thirds of a mile - one kilometer - one way. Now imagine you walk the floor a few times a day - you'll clock 6 miles or 10 kilometers each day easily. Wear shoes suited for that much walking.
3. Bring a portable power strip and power banks. Outlets aren’t always nearby and you will burn down your phone battery being social as well as trying new technologies on the floor. I'm partial to the Anker 20,000 maH power brick. It weighs as much as a small brick but will keep a tablet and smartphone charged all day. I also carry a Monster travel 4-port power strip, which I love. It's a friend-maker - bring it out and make friends.
Be aware that some devices may be restricted if you're traveling from overseas due to various travel bans, so check in advance.
Also, don't forget your device cables. Bring 2 of each.
4. Arrive with a BURNING question that you ask everyone you meet. What one question MUST you get answered in order for IBM THINK to be worth it? If you don't have a burning question, you'll enjoy the show but you won't get the most out of it.
5. Plan your sessions in advance. Got that burning question handy? Plan your sessions with the Watson Session Planner to ensure you get the most out of the event.
6. Party responsibly. If we speakers are doing our jobs right, your brains should really hurt by the end of the event. You want to get the most out of the event, so pace yourself when it comes to entertainment options. That business-changing insight you've got a burning question about may happen on the last day of the event, and you want to be sober enough and awake enough to catch it. There are plenty of opportunities for entertainment and amazing bands, but remember why you're there - especially if you want to be able to justify attending in future years.
7. Bring earplugs. I always travel with ballistic earplugs. They're great for reducing that screaming baby on the airplane to a dull roar, and priceless for major events like IBM THINK. Loud convention centers and concerts and parties are awesome... for a short while. Enough loud noise will tire you out. Bring a bottle of earplugs and you will end up much less fatigued. If you plan to attend any of the major concerts or go out to eat at the local restaurants, you'll want lots of earplugs in your kit.
8. Bring business cards. Lots of business cards. IBM THINK will have hundreds of thousands of attendees.
9. Bring space. As in, pack lightly so you have room for all the fun stuff the various exhibitors have to offer. The people at the office or at home love a good souvenir.
10. Bring a day pack/bag. There will be times you won't want to lug around heavy luggage or a full laptop case. A small messenger bag will fit the bill perfectly. I'm personally a fan of the Osprey Nano, but any small bag or pack will do.
11. Bring healthcare preventative measures. As stated above, IBM THINK will attract hundreds of thousands of physical attendees who eat together, stay in the hotels, party together, shake hands, and share the same air, water, and physical proximity. This year, influenza is especially bad. Bring hand sanitizer packs, wash your hands frequently, and consider purchasing an NIOSH-approved N99 face mask, especially if you're arriving by airplane or other form of mass transit. Consult your physician/qualified medical practitioner about taking a multivitamin and/or other immune-boosting supplements.
12. Grab snacks! Keith Brooks recommends grabbing snacks because you never know when you'll next have a chance to sit down and eat something - especially if you're from another time zone.
13. Plan for cold! Volker Weber reminds attendees that conference halls are always cold, so bring a sweater or jacket.
14. Bring a headset and hotspot. Keith Brooks also recommends headsets and hotspots to deal with conference wi-fi and being able to hear conference calls well.
See you at IBM THINK!
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