7 Ways to fail at making the most of #WLPC

I recently said goodbye to Phoenix and my now yearly trek to the Wireless Lan Professionals Conference (WLPC). After three years of attending I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of making the most of my week there. With the conference getting bigger and bigger each year, I thought it might be fun to discuss a few things I’ve learned over the years that keep attendees from getting the most out of the conference.

Direct inspiration for this write up comes from the fantastic Cisco Live presentation – 7 ways to fail as a wireless expert (by Steven Heinsius)

1.) Don’t take a boot camp

If you are not coming a few days early to WLPC for a boot camp you are really missing out on some fantastic classes. This year they ran the gamut from CWNP classes (CWAP/CWSP/CWDP/CWNA), to vendor offerings from Cisco and Ekahau, as well as classes developed directly by your wireless peers like the Python class from Jake Snyder and Ryan Adzima. Be warned – the boot camps are generally brain-melting since they cram a typical 4 day class into 3 days. The instructors though are top-notch and they will do their best to make sure that the material sticks.

My Advice: If you get push back from the $$$ people in your org, pitch the extra training cost as a screaming deal. Rooms, meals, an exam voucher (usually) as well as the potential for useful toys tools are all included in the cost. Most of these trainings done standalone usually run 2.5k to 3k without the rooms/meals and typically involve travel of some sort. If your boss is already going to send you to WLPC they might as well take full advantage of your time down there!

2.) Don’t get involved on social media

I know, I know. Social media is the worst and typically a cesspool. The exception to that (in my opinion) is the wireless community the week of WLPC. Lots of attendees engage with each other on Twitter and Slack throughout the year and because of that it make meeting a person in real life at WLPC SO MUCH EASIER. You just walk up to them and say “Hey. I follow you on Twitter!” Twitter and the WiFi Pros Slack are both awesome ways to connect with the wireless community all through out the year.

I’d encourage everyone to get a twitter account and follow all the wireless people they can. To get started following the right people, check out this great list of some of the 2020 WLPC attendees. You can even go back and look at the lists all the way back to 2015!

3.) Don’t do any activities after hours

If you just go back to your room at the end of the day and watch TV you are missing out on some of the best times of the conference. The after hours events have evolved over the years but they are some of the things I most look forward to. After a long day of awesome wireless presentations and deep dives you get some different options to unwind.

  • Vendor sponsored events where they feed you, liquor you up, give you a sales pitch, and then usually give something cool away (I won an AccelTex Accelerator this year which was DOPE)
  • Retro-game night. Who doesn’t want to play old-school games like N64 Mario Kart and Punch-Out. Joel Crane and Sam Clements do an awesome job sharing their passion each year!
  • Lego-Builds. Whether it’s team-building a 6,000+ piece Hogwarts Castle over two nights or breaking up into groups to see who can build a model the quickest, Lego building is one of the coolest after-hours options.
  • Pub Quiz! I didn’t make it to the pub quiz this year but as a trivia junkie there are few activities that I enjoy more than a good pub quiz. Peter Mackenzie and the Wireless Lan Association have done a couple of these and I’ve heard they are great fun!
  • Whiskey-n-WiFi. A live podcast that typically devolves into complete chaos by the end of the night (probably due to the Whiskey portion of the evening). A really neat opportunity to see and listen to your peers talk about anything and everything wireless. Who knows – you may even get a chance to head up to the mic and shoot the shit for a little while with the guys!
  • Also – check out the sweet Baby Yoda I won this year at Whiskey-n-WiFi!

4. Don’t talk to strangers

While not talking to strangers is great advice for your kids, it is really poor advice for WLPC. From the get-go of my first year, I have typically tried to sit next to people I don’t know – especially at breakfast and lunch. It is a great time to get to know some new people in a super relaxed setting. In fact, sitting at a table and actually talking to strangers my first year led me to a new wireless job at the company those strangers worked at by the time my second WLPC rolled around. Ignore your parents: talk to strangers!

5.) Don’t show up on time to general sessions

They give out some really, really cool stuff at the start of most of the general sessions each day. You have to be present to win and there have been some people that have missed out on several hundred dollar items like Microsoft Surfaces, site survey battery packs, and more because they were just a few minutes late coming back to the session.

If only for that week, live by the mantra of “If you’re early, you’re on-time and if you’re on-time you’re late”

6.) Don’t rest at all – do every activity you can.

While I’ve encouraged you so far to take advantage of activities, it’s important to remember that you really can’t do everything that week. If you try you will end up exhausted by the last day and the sessions and material that day will go in one ear and out the other. As a big fan of power-naps I highly recommend taking a 20-25 minute power nap at lunch or after the deep dives each day to recharge. Your body and mind will thank you!

7.) Don’t come back again

If wireless is your day job/passion/focus/whatever, I truly don’t think there is a better conference to attend each year. It can be overwhelming for a rookie though and honestly it took me until this year (my third) to really maximize what the conference can offer. If you have/had a meh experience the first year, I’d encourage you to try again. Just coming into year two knowing four or five more people than you did the first year makes a world of difference. You can take those connections and use them to springboard you on to countless more. If you make the effort to have meaningful conversations with your peers it is likely that those peers will remember said discussions when they see you at the next WLPC.

With record setting attendance each year – I can’t promise they will remember your name though!

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