Get the most from Microsoft Ignite (When you’re not attending!)

igniteOver the next few weeks, the flow of information about Microsoft Ignite is going to move from the slow trickle we’ve been seeing to full on flood as we get closer and closer to May 4th. The Session Catalog was made available today and, from what I’ve read so far, it sounds like more sessions will be added leading up to the conference. Now, I’m just waiting to see Joey Snow and Rick Claus return with everyone’s favorite video series, The Countdown Show, for TechEd Ignite. We’ll also seeing more planning information to help you make the most of your time while attending Ignite. But, what if you aren’t going to be able to make it to Chicago in May?

I guess I should admit it publicly… I won’t be making it to Ignite this year. 🙁 We’re in the process of expanding our family through adoption and have a lot going on right now. If you have been in that process or know anyone that has, you know that it is a monumental process (the paperwork is staggering) and, depending on circumstances, could mean that we have to travel at a moment’s notice. Needless to say, being in Chicago, IL for a week while my family is in Atlanta, GA just wasn’t in the cards this year with everything we have going on.

If you’re in the same boat as me and can’t attend Microsoft Ignite in person, there’s still quite a bit you can do remotely through the miracle of modern technology:

Follow the action Twitter. Seriously, get on Twitter. If you attend Ignite in person, you’ll hear the same theme… a lot. Most of the speakers are on Twitter and quite a few will take questions during and after their sessions via Twitter. It’s also a great way to start finding and connecting with other IT Pros with common interests for those introverts like me.

Follow the hashtags. Even if you’re not attending Ignite in person, different Twitter hashtags can be a treasure trove of information. The official hashtag for the event is #msignite; but, you can also follow some of the common product hashtags depending on your interest: #Azure, #Office365, #WinServ, #Windows, #SysCtr, #mscloud, and #sqlserver, just to name a few. (I’d probably never hear the end of it if I didn’t mention #TheKrewe hashtag either. Though, it’s probably going to make you wish you were in Chicago instead of following along online.) There are also hashtags for specific sessions, but I haven’t seen the format that is going to be used this year; as soon as I see it, I’ll update this post.

Watch the keynote. The keynote for large Microsoft conferences like Build and TechEd have always been streamed live on Channel 9. Microsoft Ignite’s keynote on May 4, 2015 will feature CEO Satya Nadella along with other senior executives from Microsoft. With the impending release of Windows 10 and updates to other Microsoft products, it’s safe to assume there will be big announcements during the keynote that you won’t want to miss.

Watch the live feed. Based on past history with TechEd, Channel 9 will most likely also have a live feed of selected sessions during Ignite. Between sessions, there are interviews and other presentations from the Channel 9 area of the Expo Hall. (It’s also very likely there will be a live Patch and Switch recording during the week also.)

Watch recorded sessions. Make sure you check out the Session Catalog and take note of sessions that look interesting or relate to your job responsibilities. Video from the sessions along with PowerPoint slides will be posted on Channel 9. I personally like that there are downloadable versions of the video I can put on my tablet.

Find a local IT Pro user group. Last but not least, find a local user group. Just because you can’t go to Ignite doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of other learning and networking opportunities out there. Many of the speakers at Ignite also speak at local user groups and conferences. If you happen to be in the Atlanta area, check out the Atlanta Windows Infrastructure and Virtualization User Group (WINVUG), the Atlanta Systems Management User Group (ATL SMUG), and Atlanta TechStravaganza.  I’d love to see you there!