I've been talking with attendees already and thought I would share some ideas I've been passing along. Planning is key to getting the most out of this week. The last thing you want is to be wandering the endless halls of a huge convention centre wondering where you should go next.
Start by planning your sessions with the schedule builder. You should put at least two sessions into almost every slot. Here's why: some of the sessions you plan to go to will not be right for you. They will be too introductory, or too advanced. They will cover just one little part of a technology that you don't know enough about, or a giant overview when you've already decided to concentrate on one corner. This should be clear about 5 minutes into the talk, and then what you need to do is leave. The slides will be on CommNet or the attendee DVDs, so you can get your overview or introduction later. But this hour of your life spent in the same room with someone who knows the topic needs to be spent carefully. So you quietly leave, and head to the other session you planned for this time slot. There really isn't time for you to start flipping through the catalog for possibilities once you've already ducked out. On the other hand, if the session you chose is amazingly great, stay, and plan to get the slides for the other talk instead.
As the week goes on, you'll learn the leveling codes. Every session has a code like TLA326 (my Tuesday afternoon talk.) TLA means Tools and Languages, which is appropriate since my talk is about MFC updates the team has just delivered. the "26" part doesn't really mean anything, it's just an identifier, but the 3 is the most important part of the session code. It means this is a 300 talk. These talks are advanced level, for experienced developers. They are supposed to include:
- Drilling into how a Product / Technology is designed
- Real world examples
- Complex coding, known issues and workarounds (sample code/examples)
Compare that to a 400 level talk (like my TLA403 late Friday.) These are expert level, and likely to have:
- Advanced coding considerations/challenges
- Design considerations/challenges
- Architecture considerations/challenges
- Troubleshooting techniques at the debug level
The best description I've heard is that a 400 level talk will make your head hurt, in a good way. But really you just have to start attending talks and then you will start to see the difference. You will also start to recognize key phrases in talk titles and abstracts such as A Lap Around and know what to expect from that session.
The next tip is that sooner or later you will have a timeslot with no sessions. Maybe you ducked out of one, and then ducked out of your second choice too. That's OK! Head down to the lowest level and wander by the product team booths in the TLC, or the Community Lounge, or do a Hands On Lab. These things are often the most important part of Tech Ed. More on that later!