Tips for Microsoft Build attendees

We had quite many ahaa-moments during our trip to Build 2016 in San Francisco and I wish we had figured out certain things beforehand. That gave me an idea to write about tips and lessons learned for people who are attending Microsoft Build or similar events in the future.

  • Be prepared to stand in a queue.
    • If you want to be present in the keynote session, be there 1 hour before they open the doors. Everyone won’t fit in to the keynote hall so leftovers are placed in overflow rooms where you can see it from TV screen.
    • They started selling tickets to Build 2016 at 19:00 (GMT+2). I pressed “Register” button 19:02 and got wait-listed anyway. After all we did get the tickets thanks to people who canceled their registration. Lesson learned: Do not waste time filling out the attendee survey or any other optional field on the registration form. You can fill them in later anyway.
    • They started handing out tickets for Code Labs 30 mins before the start time. They can fit only about 100 people in the lab room so make sure you are there on time. I missed one Code Lab for being there only 15 mins before the start.
    • Early bird catches the worm. If you want free t-shirts and other useful swag from The Hub, go get them in the morning when there are still smaller sizes available.

Queue for keynote session 1 hour before the start Image: The queue for keynote session 1 hour before the start.

Keynote hall Image: Keynote hall.

  • Activate yourself in social media. Follow everything related to Build in Twitter and find attendee groups from Facebook etc. to get more insightful trip.
  • If you’re about to write blog posts while you’re there, plan them ahead as much as you can before keynotes or talks. We realized it was overwhelming to write anything useful during the day or even in the evening. Mornings start early (~7am) and we got back to hotel late in the evening.
    • Don’t waste your time writing blog posts about new announcements. Someone will be faster or Scott Hanselman has it already written before it’s even announced :). Try to tell about them in your company’s perspective: How your company or your customers can make use of it?
  • There are people from .NET team, Azure team, Skype team, Xamarin, Office team etc that have actually been developing the tools that we are using everyday. Make use of them and try to figure out questions and find out if someone else from your company has any questions. They are there (The Hub) during the whole event just standing there and waiting for questions to be answered.
  • Plan your days and sessions you are attending beforehand. The session schedule was published 2-3 days before the event started. There are a lot of interesting talks in parallel but some of the talks and code labs were held other days too.
  • If there are several attendees from your company, spread out to separate sessions to get the most out of Build. Every session will be recorded to Channel9 anyway. Actually after the second day we figured out that we should go and see sessions about the things we don’t know so much about yet. It’s easier to watch videos of the most “interesting” sessions afterwards. Majority of sessions and code labs were “Level 200: Intermediate” which is equivalent to “Easy” in video games if you had to choose from Beginner, Easy, Medium…

The Hub Image: The Hub. This is the place to ask questions from the guys (in blue hoodies) who have built your favorite tools.

More useful tips for Build-tourists

  • Make a table reservation early enough to House of Prime Rib.
  • Contact other people attending Build from your country and find out if they have dinner plans or such to make great and valuable connections! This year you could find Finnish attendees by #Build2016FI hashtag on Twitter.
  • Uber/Lyft works better than regular taxi and is ~30% cheaper. It costs $5-12 to move around downtown.
  • Search for a flight connecting in New York (or somewhere in US) to save some time in passport control. They will hand you an orange ticket that lets you skip the line.
  • Apply for an ESTA a couple days before your trip. It costs $14.
  • Exchange cash before you go to airport. Forex had ~15% better USD rate than the airport exchange. You don’t need cash that much if you are using Uber but it’s good to have some just in case.
  • Tip 15% if you are served at the table. 18-20% for groups of 6+. Prices never include taxes (8% in CA) either.