Many Kentico gurus have already provided some great information on what they learned, how they plan to use new features and what all the new Kentico features are in version 9 which is why I'm taking a different approach with this post. My goal is to focus on building the importance on attending Kentico Connections and speaking to how tightly knit the developer, partner and marketing communities are. Kentico has been having the annual Connection event since 2011. I attended my first Kenico Connection in 2012 in Denver, CO. Little did I know this would change my life forever.
Rule 1: Always Plan Additional Travel Days
When attending Kentico Connection conferences, always arrive at least the day before and leave late a day or two after. Not only does Kentico hold their conferences in great locations, there is always something to do and see before or after the conference.
Not having been to Denver before OR being a frequent traveler, I didn't plan enough time to do some sightseeing. I was hoping to see those Rocky Mountians John Denver talks about, unforunately that didn't happen as my only free time was during the evening when it was dark.
This year, I had planned to attend the conference in Orlando but was asked to speak as well. So I decided why not take my family down the week before and have a vacation. As a family we have taken many weekend trips or even 4 day trips but never anything 11 days long which involved plane tickets, renting a house or even 2 rental cars.
As you can see, not everyone was as excited as my wife to fly but once we took off, the kids were pretty excited.
Many people don't know this about me but when I first graduated high school I studied architectural drafting. It involved researching a lot of historic architects and their works. In the United States we have a lot of history and architecture but the US has nothing on the Czech Republic! I've been to Brno, Czech Republic twice now in less than a year and the history and architecture is just phenomenal.
"Dungeon Master" as Tonda called him, showing us the different brick maker's bricks the celler is made of
Yes work needs to get done and yes you're attending a business event but many times what people are missing are those short day-away non-work events to help them refresh. You'd be surprised how much more productive you are if you did this more often.
Rule 2: Break out of your Shell!
Most developers are introverts; I know am. Most marketing folks are extroverts. Break out of your shell and say "HI" to some of those marketers. And for those marketing folks out there, take the challenge of that quiet introverted developer and spark up a conversation (of course make it about them!).
I believe networking is the single most reason you attend Kentico Connection each year. Not only will you get to meet others who are doing similar and different things as you but you can also find other partners, potential customers or even people you didn't know were using Kentico. You'll find a single conversation can really make your convention. The first group of people I met in Devner were a few folks from the BizStream team. I had a few drinks, talked with Mark and Brian and by the time I left that Wednesday, I knew my goal in the next two years was to become a Kentico MVP like Brian. I saw and heard the passion he had for Kentico and his clients and knew I had that same passion and wanted to pass along my knowledge to others as well.
Pre-conference tour of Brno, great opportunity to network
If you're not a networking kind of person, you should try it, you'd be amazed on what you learn and can take away from the conference. I read a good article last week on How to Shed Your Introverted Ways and it has 6 very good tips for you, take a look!
Rule 3: Take time to Meet the Kentico Team
This one goes hand in hand with Rule 2. The team at Kentico are very humble and want to hear how you're using Kentico and what troubles and improvements you'd like to see. Each year Kentico allows you to schedule 1 on 1 time with the product owners at each of the conferences. Not many other software companies allow you to talk directly with product owners or directly with the developers so I highly suggest you take advantage of this block of time with them.
Taking the time to meet with even one team member will give you the comfort to contact the support team at any time knowing you'll actually receive a human response back either via email or on the phone. The support team works very closely with the other teams and are very helpful.
Don't forget about the Kentico MVP's! We'll do what we can to help and are definitely advocates of Kentico!
The MVP's! Andy, Brenden, Brian, Jeroen, Ilesh (and yes that's a selfie stick)
Rule 4: Talk with Other Partners and Learn Their Strong Suits
The partner community is large and very tightly knit within Kentico. In fact, I've not seen a partner community like this at all with other software companies. Many partner communities I've been part of are very centered on learning just enough about the other partner to take business away from other partners. They aren't concerned with making a partnership, they're concerned with "stealing" work/clients from the other partner.
With the Kentico partners you'll find they are very opposite of this. Partners like myself are very development focused and can benefit from another Kentico partner who is very marketing focused. Making this connection with these other partners can help your business (and the other partners business) grow exponentially. In fact, in the US, Kentico has quarterly Partner meetings where we all get together to talk about different challenges, meet the new partners and find ways we can help each other.
Rule 5: Attend (or Speak at) a session you normally wouldn't
Most marketers will attend the marketing sessions. Likewise, most developers will attend the developers sessions. Once again, jump out of your introverted box and learn something new. Who knows, this could be that one nugget you take away that just moves you and/or your business to the next level!
If you want to do something even more crazy, offer to speak at the conference! Everyone has something to offer, believe me. This year I spoke twice; once in Orlando in the technical track on upgrading to Kentico 9 and once in Brno in the marketing track about moving clients from Kentico Base/Ultimate license to the EMS license. The Brno marketing talk was definately somewhat of a challenge for me as I'm a technical guy talking about marketing "stuff".
Me attempting to talk about EMS features in Brno
Rule 6: Have Fun and try new things!
If you don't know, Kentico's corporate office is based out of Brno, Czech Republic. One of the favorite pass times I've learned in the Czech Republic is to drink beer. If you're a beer drinker, you'll fit right in. If not, buy a pivo (Czech for beer) for one of the Kentico team members and strike up a conversation with them. You'll learn they are all just like you but speak a language which is one of the most difficult languages to learn. Kentico strives to ensure you have a good time and learn at least a nugget or two at the conference. If you aren't coming away with any value, please, PLEASE contact Kentico and let them know what you'd like to see at future conferences.
As I've mentioned, the Kentico Connection conference is more than just learning something new. It's about getting out, meeting new people, growing the partner community (developer and marketing both), helping others and most importantly having fun. If you do none of those during the conference, you need to find me or one of the other MVP's and we'll help out!
Stay humble, Happy Coding and Merry Christmas to you all!