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Why you should attend a virtualization conference

Attending a virtualization conference is a great way to learn about technologies while networking. And, if you're lucky, you can go to an after-party.

Attending a virtualization conference is a great opportunity for IT pros to expand their knowledge, while getting a chance to connect with peers and vendors. With VMworld, one of the biggest conferences of the year, a month away, the Server Virtualization Advisory Board explained why they attend virtualization conferences.

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Rob McShinsky, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center
Virtualization conferences are a time to recharge and  to think about what else I could do with my environment, instead of getting stuck in the maintenance rut. The technical sessions highlight what is coming next and provide practical tips. But networking with people who think differently, or have alternate methods of doing things in the areas where I am passionate, brings me back to a virtualization conference year after year. 

Talking with others who work with a particular SAN, for example, provides direct feedback on a personal level, which is hard to extract from reviews, forums and even vendors. Just think of what it would be like if vendors spent less time on gadget giveaways and had groups of real people who have actually purchased, implemented and used their products at the booth. Now that's a novel idea: Using happy customers, instead of glowing bouncy balls or malfunctioning mini keyboard vacuums.

Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against booth babes and after-parties, but networking with other likeminded professionals is more important to your current job, and maybe, your next one.

Shannon Snowden, New Age Technologies
I enjoy discussions with vendors to see the latest updates and new products that are relevant to virtualization and disaster recovery. In fact, last year at VMworld, I found a few products that I immediately started using as solution recommendations and deployments. And I’ve been very happy with their results in the real world.  

What got me diving in deeply with vendors is when I first attended the VMworld virtualization conference as a Best of VMworld judge. It motivated me to take what the vendors presented seriously, and I did quite a bit of discovery work prior to the actual event. Now it is a habit, whether I am a judge or not, and I’ve found it to be more valuable than attending many sessions.

I also very much enjoy the networking with peers and meeting people that I’ve made contact with via social networking. I usually come away adding several people to follow on Twitter, Google+ and blog sites.

Dave Sobel, Level Platforms
Going to a virtualization conference is overwhelming. Most involve a whirlwind of commitments, long days and even longer nights. Getting the most out of a virtualization conference takes planning and a bit of training, just like running a marathon.    

In preparation for any conference, I make sure to get the most out of networking by checking my connections before going to see who will be there. Those meetings get scheduled to ensure that the connections happen. I review sessions and keynotes as well as focus on the ones that will deliver good value. Finally, I make sure I hit the right parties, balancing a good time with the networking I need to keep up. Parties also give a venue to talk about things other than “shop talk,” because building relationships is more than just work.

Which method is the best? A balance! Business happens at all of them, and you have to make sure you’re doing all of them. I’m always up for a good party, but I’ve also never missed an 8 a.m. keynote that provides value.

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Talking with other like minds with different methods can be very valuable.
You meet people, get an opportunity to talk to them both casually and professionally, you learn things first hand... And they tend to make good parties afterwards :)