How to get the most out of PI World
I have been attending PI World, formerly the OSIsoft User Conference, since 2010. Each year about this time, I start getting excited and looking forward to attending, kinda like when I was a kid as Christmas approached. I was thinking that it would be nice to give some of my thoughts when attending this conference, especially for those that are going for the first time.
Let’s just walk through the week, using the agenda as our guide.
April 8, Monday, Pre-Conference
Pre-conference items, like the partner meeting (which I always attend) and a few other items, mostly invitation only. The last few years this was the day for a hackathon, but sadly, that is not happening this year. So I’m not sure what I’ll be doing outside the partner meeting, most likely just seeing who is arriving and saying hi. Hopefully I can have a nice dinner with a few people.
If you are alone, the Hilton lobby is a good place to hang out near dinner time to meet others, but you can’t be shy! Everyone if super friendly and won’t bite and there are usually many OSIsoft folks present.
April 9, Tuesday, Day 1
In the morning I always attend all the keynotes, that takes up the entire morning to lunch. The last keynote is the guest speaker Mark Jeffries. The keynotes set the tone, present the overall themes for the conference, and help provide the motivation that I will need during the week. I always walk away learning something new.
The afternoon has three tracks, so it really depends on what your goals and what strategy to take. I typically try to attend the product track for any major new announcements and product features that are being introduced. This year I’m sure there will be a lot about OSIsoft Cloud Services (OCS).
If I have any down time, or just feel like walking around, head over to the Partner and Product Expo. This has become larger each year and is worth multiple visits over the week. Not only are there a large number of partners, with their products and services, to talk with, but OSIsoft has booths for each product. These stations are usually staffed with product managers and engineers that work with their respective product. This is the time to get your nagging questions answered and voice your complaints, err, I mean, give product feedback. You can get a more informal look at new product features, which the developers are always happy to show off.
The day will end with dinner on the cruse ship SF Belle. The event dinner is always a highlight, so don’t miss it. This year we will be on a small cruise ship, so I expect we will get to motor around in the bay, which will be amazing. The views of SF at night from the water are truly memorable, including the Golden Gate Bridge and new Bay Bridge. I live in the Bay Area, and this will be a treat for me. I spend this time tracking down old friends and meeting new ones. This is perfect networking opportunity.
To close the night I sometimes wind up in the Hilton Lobby a night cap. I you are up for a late night you can head over to Foley’s, an Irish Pub, a half a block way for beer. Foley’s pretty much an extension of the conference for late night activities.
It often kills me, but I try to get to bed early. There are still two more days, and I need to pace myself.
April 10, Wednesday, Day 2
My #1 rule is that no matter how late I stayed up the night before, or how much I had to drink, I’m up the next day attending breakfast. All meals are a great time to have casual conversions and meet others, plus they keep me well fed and energized for a long day on my feet. Some of my best contacts and people in my network I have met at meals like this. You just never know. You can either find your people, or sit at a random table and introduce yourself!
Industry tracks are going all on morning and afternoon. This is where companies that are using PI talk about various projects they have done in the last year. There are also two other tracks this year, PI Geek Track, and Tech Talks, which are relatively new, so I will spend most of my time on these tracks to see what they are about. Plus, this year I will be presenting twice in morning, in the Geek track, so need to stay close to home. Shameless plug, they are: “Providing Enterprise Level Visibility for Snowflakes Using PI and AF”, and the other one is “Just Another Weather Application – Evaluating the OSIsoft Cloud System.”
Note that these all these tracks are spread across two different buildings, Parc 55 and the Hilton. It takes 5 to 10 minutes to move between buildings. They both have odd layouts, especially the Hilton, which originally was two buildings, so be ready to get lost and ask for directions. If this is the first time attending, try to study the floor plans and walk around in advanced. You want to be prepared!
For sessions, I typically try to pick from different tracks that sound interesting or are related to something I’m doing or thinking about doing. I often ask others what they are attending to get ideas. Your mileage may very here, many are really good, but some may not be what you were thinking it was. If you find you’re in a talk that is not doing if for you, have a backup talk that you can hop over to. Otherwise, go to the partner and product expo, or grab a power nap to get re-energized (if you were out too late last night).
Towards the end of the day it is a good idea to wander over to the Partner and Product Expo, where there is a reception that goes from 5 to 7 pm. There are free drinks and usually snacks.
For the evening, this is the one night you have the most flexibility. There are industry dinners, which are invitation only. They are a great chance to meet others in your industry. If you did not get an invitation, talk to your account manager, they can hook you up. I have always been a partner and never really tied to a specific industry, so I usually am not attending one of these dinners. I often try to get a small group together and have a nice, quite, dinner at a nearby restaurant. This is also a nice break from the over-stimuli of the last two days.
For late night activities, this is a repeat of day 1.
April 11, Thursday, Day 3
Up for breakfast and another morning General Session. The rest of the day is learning about PI, attending more talks, most by OSIsoft and partners. These are usually very high quality and focused. Sometimes they can be a bit on the salesy side, even so, if it is something you are interested in, it is usually worth attending. There are also labs going on, but I’m not a lab person at a conference, so I don’t plan on doing these. Kind of like day 2, I’m on the move, and a power nap is usually required for me to be upright in the evening.
If there is someone I have not seen yet, I usually try to hunt them down on this day to say hi. Often this is the only time in the year I get a chance to see some people, so I don’t want to miss them.
In the evening from 4:30 to 6 pm is the Developer Meet-Up Reception and Awards. The awards are usually short and sweet, and the conversation excellent, plus free drinks! This is a time us geeks get to talk about the future and what we like and didn’t like at the conference.
Finally Geek Night, which is a continuation of the meet-up. I usually get there right when it starts to grab food. There are games, music, and all kinds of people to talk to. I like to get a central table and make that my base camp, as people roll in, I flag them down. Later in the evening karaoke starts up, which then goes on way to long for me. Finally, the dance floor opens. There may be something you don’t know about me - Lonnie loves to dance! So the last hour is dancing and just having a great time. If that is not your thing, you can keep eating, drinking, playing arcade games, or just watching the fools (like me) on the dance floor. A lot of people bring their spouses along, so it does not feel like a typical conference event with 90% male engineers, which is nice. From there, is another late night out, this time no early bed-time rule. I like to try and catch a late night breakfast before heading to bed if possible. There are a couple of all night diners less than a block away.
Another option is to head up to the top floor of the Hilton, there is an amazing 360 degree view of SF at night, so awesome!
Day 4 is labs, as I said before, I don’t do labs at conferences, so I’m usually saying goodbyes and driving home mid morning after the traffic dies now.
The next week is spent recovering!
I hope to see you at the conference, and if I have never met you and you see me please feel free to introduce yourself. I would love to meet you and hear about what you are doing with PI and time-series data in general. This is an amazing field and something I feel very passionate about.
See you at the conference!
Data Interaction Expert