Tips for a perfect Grace Hopper Celebration from my own experience

Aastikta Sharma
techburst
Published in
7 min readOct 12, 2017
Image captured by me during the Keynote session at GHC 2017

Yes! I finally return from Orlando with a brain full of ideas, phone full of photos, LinkedIn full of new connections and a bag full of swags. Grace Hopper was one of the major highlights for me this year and I will always remember 2017 as the year when I got an opportunity to attend it. A big shout out to Microsoft for making my dream come true. 😊

Now, it’s time to pass it on to the future attendees(hopefully me too!) and future first time attendees (like me!). There was a lot of learning for me starting from registration process to actually attending the conference. Here are the basic tips to help future attendees with all the situations I went through.

Note: The tips are highlighted in every section. Feel free to hop onto those directly!

REGISTRATION PROCESS:

Being a first timer, I was completely unaware of the tedious process of registration. But, on the day of registration, seeing so many people getting disappointed (including myself!), I realized how difficult it is to get registered for this conference. Continuously hitting refresh on at least 5 different browsers on different machines and returning with failure from the payment page two times, my third time worked like a charm.

Tips:

  1. If you are eligible to register for early registration, do it! GHC opens early registration for women of color and underrepresented women. Also, don’t give up on the day of general registration. I started trying from 9am and continued until 10:30am. Persistence has its own perks!
  2. If you are not able to register on the day of registration, watch out for any last minute drop outs (either from your company or college). A colleague of mine got her registration ticket three days prior to the conference. 😊

TRAVEL AND LODGING:

This year GHC was organized in Orange County Convention Center at Orlando, Florida, USA. It was perfectly connected via sky-bridges to Rosen Centre, Rosen Plaza and Hyatt Regency hotels. I made sure to get a hotel booked in either of these places to save commute time.

Tips:

  1. Hotels closer to the conference venue will get filled pretty quickly. So, plan on splitting your itinerary over different hotels, if you are not able to get a continuous booking for all days of the conference.
  2. Also, stay closer to the venue. It helps in rushing to keynotes and easier badge pickups.
  3. Plan on arriving a day earlier of the conference. If possible, arrive prior to 8pm and pickup your badge to avoid the hustle on day 1.

DAY 0 OF GHC:

This is the day before the actual conference starts. If you arrive early, grab some snacks for the next day and plan your day beforehand. Every year GHC releases an app with the details of all the speakers and workshops. Identify the sessions/workshops that interests you the most. There are usually some meetups happening on the day prior to conference. You can consider attending those. After all, you are there to talk to other attendees and have fun!

Tips:

  1. Always have a backup session planned. The popular sessions tend to fill faster.
  2. The sessions are spread across several different locations. Try to identify your backup session closer to your first priority sessions’s location. This way you will avoid running from one end of the venue to the other.
  3. While in the queue for your session, ask the volunteers present there, if you will be able to attend the session. They usually have an approximate head count of people in the queue. If you believe you won’t be able to attend that session, get out of the queue and rush to you backup session.
  4. Always carry a small notebook and a pen. You never know when the need arises to note down something.

Most of the sessions are repeated in the evenings. So, if you miss the morning session, plan ahead to cover that in the evening. Don’t forget to get a good night sleep as you might not get that for a couple of days.

DAY 1 OF GHC:

I planned on picking up my badge as soon as they open up, which they had mentioned to be 7:30am. But, apparently they start quite earlier than their mentioned time.

Tips:

  1. Being on time is actually LATE. Yes, you read that right. Be at least half an hour earlier than their posted time to pick-up the badge and head to the conference venue.
  2. Always grab your coffee from your hotel. It gets extremely crowded at the coffee stands. Also, grab some heavy breakfast, take some bananas, muffin or croissant to calm those food cravings in the middle of sessions.
  3. If you want to attend the keynote with a really good seat, be there at least an hour early to the starting time. Believe me there is always a huge queue!

The keynote gets very crowded and unless you plan on not attending it, be there early. And, obviously you don’t want to miss the music and fun that GHC beholds.

Plan to be there for your favorite session an hour ahead. If it’s among the most popular sessions, chances are that there are several people already waiting to get a place.

You might find yourself running between halls to attend a session. There might be very small lunch breaks. But, whenever you get one. Grab something to eat.

Tips:

  1. As you are approaching the end of keynote, rush outdoors a little early to avoid the crowd.
  2. Always keep a water bottle with you. Staying hydrated is extremely important.
  3. Have some small snack bags too. And wherever you get anything to eat, grab it. You don’t want to spend the entire day hungry.
  4. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Carry a hoodie/sweater with you. Usually the halls are extremely cold. Avoid heals!

Your first day will probably end around 5 pm/5:30 pm. Plan on grabbing good dinner after a tiring day. There are several socials happening. Plan on attending at least one of those. Before calling it a day, make sure you plan the next day sessions.

DAY 2 OF GHC:

On day 2 of GHC, plan on following the same tips as day 1 but I am sure by second day, you will start planning things out way better than day 1. If you are a student and have your entire day planned around career fair, keep extra copies of your resume. Usually students tend to run out of resumes, and you always want to leave a copy of it with every recruiter you meet. Even when standing in lines for a booth, keep talking to the people near you.

Tips for Students:

  1. Keep several copies of your resume
  2. Carry a folder with lot of pockets to hold business cards.
  3. Connect with people you meet at GHC booths. Ask them for their contact and make sure to connect with them.
  4. Follow up with recruiters after GHC.
  5. Carry big bag to keep all the cool swag you are going to get.

FINAL DAY OF GHC:

Plan your day to attend the ending keynote. You won’t be able to attend many sessions on the last day but plan to attend at least two. After the keynote, head to your hotel to relax for a while or if you have socials planned, wrap them up before the GHC party. Try your best to attend the party as they give away really cool swags and a night full of memories. The ambience is something you have not experienced before.

General Tips:

  1. You will meet a lot of new people at the conference. Don’t forget to ask them for their business cards. If they don’t have one, ask them if you could take a picture of their badge and connect with them on LinkedIn or whichever platform they are most comfortable with. You are there to connect with people. Don’t be shy!
  2. At the end of every day, go to your GHC app and look up that day’s speakers. If you really liked them, send them a note telling them about what you liked the most. They have put in a lot of effort for their session. They will be really happy to hear feedback about it.

GHC beholds different meanings for different attendees but at the end of the day, we are there to celebrate women in tech. I hope these tips help you in planning your next GHC conference. Feel free to mail me with any questions and if you like it, share the love and don’t forget to “clap”!

(gif source: Google)

Originally published at theashani.wordpress.com on October 12, 2017.

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