IBM’s Emily Hugenbruch gets us ready for the upcoming 2015 OpenStack Vancouver Summit, from shoes that can go the distance to the important nitty-gritty details you’ll need to survive.

Paris was my first ever OpenStack Summit and although I learned a lot, I feel that I missed a lot more. While I have attended a number of conferences over the years, it was easily the largest one I’ve ever attended. Just finding my way to sessions was difficult! Several times, I realized later in the day that I had missed a session I really wanted to go to, or talked to someone who had been to a session I totally missed on the schedule. Now that I know what to expect, I’m trying to be more prepared for the Vancouver Summit – I’m making lists and checking them twice.

Here are some of my pre-summit checklists.

NOW – Travel arrangements and big picture planning:

  • Don’t forget to register! The closer you get to the summit, the more the price goes up!
    • Registration
    • Make sure you put all your contact information–email, company, Twitter handle–on your registration so it appears on your nametag.
    • If you have contributed to Openstack since October 2014, find out if you qualify for a discounted pass.
  • Find a place to stay and transportation.
    • Summit hotel information: Last time I stayed at one of the conference hotels, but it was still a 5-10 minute walk from my room to the conference. Many people I talked to had to come in farther, so book early! Several hotels around the conference are sold out, so make sure you hop on that!
    • If you can, think about scheduling a few days for sightseeing and vacation. Vancouver is a beautiful city with lots to do and see! Last year was my first time to Paris and I’m so glad I had a few extra days to visit museums and Versailles. This will be my first time to Vancouver, so I’m really looking forward to the sights–and food!
    • Although it’s closed for Vancouver already, the travel assistance program can help you get to a design summit if you don’t have a company to sponsor you.
  • Apply for a visa if needed. Visas are not needed for U.S. or EU residents; check the rules for your country.
  • If you’re a first time attendee and looking to get into Openstack development, consider Upstream Training. I did this last time, and it was an interesting look into how community development works, plus a good way to meet some other Stackers.

One month to two weeks before – Schedule planning:

  • Start planning your agenda, but don’t pack it too full–leave room for sessions that look interesting the day of or free sessions for talking with others.
  • The Design Summit plans should be finalized by now. Look at the projects in which you’re interested and start planning which Design Summit sessions you’d like to attend.
    • Keep in mind that the Design Summit and conference overlap on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
    • The Ops Summit is now a part of the Design Summit. Don’t discount ops if you’re a developer; it’s really interesting to see who’s using OpenStack and what their concerns are. Consumers are as important as designers!
    • The new Design Summit format has two types of session: fishbowl and working.
      • The fishbowl sessions are for larger groups and will only run Tuesday thru Thursday. These will be posted on the schedule ahead of time.
      • The working sessions will run Tuesday thru Friday and focus on smaller groups. These are more for people already involved in an OpenStack project looking to focus on specific issues. More information on working group sessions will be available in etherpads.
      • If you want to propose a Design Summit topic, or find out more information, you can always ask on IRC. All projects have an IRC channel and most hold weekly meetings on IRC as well. Summit planning is sure to be a topic in the month leading up, so look at meeting logs for topics that interest you.
  • Ask friends and coworkers who can’t attend if there are any topics they would like to hear about. If you can spare a session or two, you could go learn about something new and help someone out by bringing back information on new developments or competitors. Last year, when I got back I gave a session to my department on OpenStack.
  • Leave some room in your schedule for expo exploring. The expo floor has lots of companies doing demos and talking about their OpenStack strategies. It’s a wonderful way to learn about the OpenStack ecosystem and a good place to pick up swag. The expo usually closes partway through either Wednesday or Thursday, so you want to get there sooner rather than later.

One – two weeks before – Packing and last-minute arrangements:

  • Finalize travel arrangements to get from the airport or train station to where you’re staying. Vancouver has excellent public transportation.
  • Look at the summit website to get an idea of the layout of the summit. In Paris, the conference, Design Summit and Ops Summit were in three different locations; it was hard to get back and forth between sessions. The rooms were also very confusingly named/numbered, so I really had to follow a map to get around.
  • Look at the list of evening events and sign up for any that look interesting. Even though they’re free, they’re often ticketed and can "sell out."
  • If you’re there with a group from your company, check and see if there’s a company night, or offer to organize one. Not every night has an evening event.
  • Make a list of people you want to connect with, and friend them on Twitter. Twitter is the easiest way to contact people at the summit. I thought I might just run into some coworkers, but scanning faces and badges in a crowd of 5000 is near impossible without Google Glass. Instead we tweeted back and forth in the keynote and arranged to meet at certain sessions.
  • Pack! Don’t forget:
    • Comfy shoes. OpenStack summits are huge! Your sessions may be all the way across the venue from each other, so it’s not the time to wear those six-inch stilettos. I have gotten more than my fair share of conference blisters over the years.
    • Electrical adapters. Nothing’s worse than running out of battery power and realizing that your charger doesn’t fit any of the plugs! Fortunately for US travelers, Canada uses the Type A/B 120V plugs you’re already used to.
    • Business cards. They’re old-school, but still a great way to exchange contact information quickly.
    • Sweater/sweatshirt/coat. I’ve yet to see a conference venue where temperature is regulated properly; it’s always either too hot or too cold.
    • Extra room in your luggage for all those cool OpenStack souvenirs and T-shirts! You’ll definitely want to brag and show off to your coworkers when you get back.
  • Watch the listservs and summit website for recommendations from local Stackers. They may have great suggestions for downtime activities.

When you get to Vancouver:

  • Plan your route from your hotel to the summit. If possible try it out the day before. The keynote session will fill up quickly in the morning and you’ll want to be near the Wi-Fi routers to have a prayer of getting connectivity.
  • Meet up with friends or coworkers and swap plans. They might know about a session that you’re interested in, or vice versa.
  • Explore the city! Relax a bit before the craziness of summit week begins!

Well, I’m just getting started on the first list — booking flights and hotels. But I’m already registered and my excitement levels are high. Hope to see you there!

This post was originally published by Emily Hugenbruch on the IBM OpenTech blog.

Cover Photo by MT 23 // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0