The Sitecore Symposium is yet again upon us! This time in 2021, it’s completely free for the first time ever for anyone to attend.
While online conferences don’t give you the same buzz, excitement and motivation that in-person conferences do, they have some other wicked benefits, like being able to attend sessions in your pyjamas, with snacks.
Whether they’re online or in-person, conferences can be really overwhelming if you don’t have a plan. You wouldn’t wander aimlessly at an in person conference, or attend sessions chosen at random, so don’t make that same mistake online when you have a lot more non-symposium distractions.
I want everyone to get the most out of Symposium, so I've put this guide together of how to plan ahead to get the most out of it.
This may seem like an obvious one but you aren’t going to be able to attend any sessions if you have meetings planned. Add a block to your calendar so you can keep it free for Symposium sessions.
If your schedule is too demanding and you can’t commit to a complete block, figure out which sessions you want to attend, and block out your calendar for those times only.
The Symposium will be held on these days, and you can get exact times from the “Choose your region, find sessions and time zones” section on the Symposium website:
Americas, October 5-6
Asia Pacific, October 6-7
Europe, Middle East, & Africa, October 6-7
Every year I learn so much from attending the Symposium, and am completely re-energized from absorbing everyone’s big Sitecore energy.
I leave feeling motivated, full of ideas and excited to implement all the new things I’ve learned.
If you have a team that also works with Sitecore, I’d highly recommend getting them onboard too.
The symposium is a great learning experience and motivator, and you can share your thoughts and ideas on different sessions and topics with your team members, so you can apply them to your business.
It also ensures that everyone on your team will have a bit of extra context if you’ve attended the same sessions and plan to implement anything you’ve learned.
It might sound silly to list out your ‘weaknesses’ instead of your interests, but you’ll get so much more out of the symposium if you learn new things.
Make a list of everything you’d like to learn or wish you knew more about.
Too many times I see people go into conferences and just attend sessions about topics they’re interested in. Then you ask them how it went and say that the sessions they attended were boring.
While it’s fun to hear new perspectives or case studies on topics you know lots about, you already know lots about them.
Remember that this is supposed to be a learning experience, not reinforcing what you already know.
Make a list of what you’d like to learn so you can find sessions on these topics. This will also make it a lot easier to put your timetable together, because you can filter the symposium sessions by topics.
Now that you have your list of ‘weaknesses’, head over to the Symposium Agenda page and filter by “Session Topic” on all those topics that you wish you knew more about.
You’re going to have a lot of clashes, so if you need to, narrow down with more filters that make sense for you.
If you work in a particular industry vertical, this one might be good for you to use.
Or if you have a particular experience level, you can use the Dev/IT Experience Level filters.
The audience segment is another good one, particularly for us marketers so we don’t enter a session to figure out 5 minutes in that it’s primarily for developers.
When you’re reviewing sessions and choosing your favourites, make sure you read the description carefully. Does it sound like a topic you’d like to learn more about? Do you think you’ll be engaged? Do you think you’ll learn something you can apply?
Once you’ve set your filters, you’ll get to the hardest part of your Symposium strategy, deciding between clashes.
I recommend attending the keynote speaker sessions, and some fun stuff like networking and general sessions. These are the sessions where you can get inspired, learn about Sitecore’s roadmap and meet other Sitecore users and partners.
This year’s sessions I’d recommend are:
This is going to be the hardest part of your Symposium strategy. Sometimes my lists end up being so long because I just want to attend everything, which is one of the reasons I put this blog together!
Here’s my strategy for deciding between clashes:
On-demand means that the session will be available after the day for you to watch.
Sessions on the agenda list are marked with ‘On-Demand’ if they are on-demand sessions.
In your schedule, mark any that you’d like to attend that aren’t going to be on-demand, so you can make sure you prioritize them.
Sometimes there are things that just make one session appeal more to you than others. Trust your instincts.
Another strategy I recommend is to always have one favourite session and one back-up for every time slot.
This is because sometimes a session might sound great, but when it starts you realize that you already know what the person is presenting on, it just might not be a great session, or it’s aimed at a completely different audience.
If you have a team that you trust with note taking, you can always assign sessions to each other and swap notes afterwards. I’ve done this before with my team and it worked really well.
Have a healthy balance of sessions
If your schedule is 90% case studies, you might get sick of listening to them by the end of it and realize that you wish you had attended more featured or general sessions. Try to have a healthy balance of session types to get the most out of it.
Put a timetable together with all the details of your planned sessions.
I like to do this in a spreadsheet, and include all the info that’s given to you so you can just follow this timetable on the day.
Don’t forget to keep the ones that aren’t on-demand marked so you can make sure you don’t miss them.
If you haven't checked it out yet, the attendee portal is now open. In the portal you can view the agenda, speakers, pavilion and save sessions to your schedule. Get onto it and start saving your schedule if you haven't already!
I hope this article was helpful for those of you who are feeling overwhelmed with all the Symposium session options.
Make sure you register now so you don’t miss it or have to panic-register on the day, and be sure to put your schedules together before the first day.