FileMaker DevCon 2018, held in Dallas, TX, is fast approaching, and as always, I’m excited for the conference. It certainly is a highlight of my year, where I get to go and see old friends, make new connections and friendships, and revel in all things FileMaker. The conference is held in a fancy hotel, but they could host it in a Hotel 6 for all I care. Sure a huge pool is wonderful to sit at, but the more time you’re at a resort feature, the more you’re missing FileMaker stuff.

An amazing pool and view doesn’t make DevCon great, does it? (DevCon 2016, Las Vegas)

For those that are attending FileMaker DevCon 2018 for the first time, it will be a FileMaker-life-changing experience. You’ll meet folks, learn a lot, and simply be inspired by the excitement about the platform. Even if the community sometimes can be intimidating for few folks and a bit of a drag with complaints or laments of ‘missing features’, the experience of being surrounded by FileMaker stuff in person is exciting.

This guide is meant to help you if you’re new to DevCon. My first one was only seven years ago. Each year I remember what made it so great and try to continue those practices and attitudes. Let’s review how to make this first time an inspiring and fruitful one.

Don’t Mess With the Conference

Every year, FileMaker, Inc. puts on a fantastic conference, filled with people, cool FileMaker tips & techniques, products, free advice, great food, and a great location. Last year around 1600 people attended, so the conference is huge. I know people look forward to it.

DevCon 2016, Las Vegas

Tim Cimbura of LuminFire has a great write up about some of the facts about the conference.

Take advantage of every part of the conference. Get your money’s worth. Here’s some of how you can do this very thing.

Organization tips

  • Get there early to meet folks before the conference starts. I usually hang out in the registration area where I know FileMaker folks will be.
  • Check in soon after you get there. Each year we get some cool FileMaker swag. I’ve got four FileMaker bags and one FileMaker towel from my conference experience. We’ll also get a license key for the current FileMaker Pro Advanced version and some other items, including a vital accessory from Geist Interactive, a diamond sponsor of FileMaker DevCon 2018.
  • Make a plan of the sessions you wish to attend. More info on this below.
  • Scope out the session rooms. Practice the route to the rooms so you don’t get lost or have to consult your phone every time you want to go to a session.
  • Attend the Keynote. FileMaker DevCon kicks off at the keynote officially, and here we get to see FileMaker, Inc. and the folks there on stage talking about the platform they’ve chosen to spend their career improving for us. FileMaker, Inc. product managers and engineers emerge from their cubicles to show us what they’re currently working on back at the wedge.

Socialization Tips

  • Find a friend or two. If you’re coming by yourself, it’s quite intimidating to be in a sea of 1600 devs and not know anyone. So say hi. Make a friend early. My first time at FileMaker DevCon, I actually met someone through the community. We shared a room to save costs and I followed him around. He introduced me to folks and gave me advice. It was the start of a great friendship.
  • Visit the vendors. The main exhibit hall will be filled with booths of different FileMaker shops out there. We’ll have a booth, and we have cool things planned for that space. Also in that space is the Visionary bar and the FileMaker Tech Support Central. The visionary bar is filled with folks in the community holding office hours. You can come to them with any specific FileMaker problem (there is no couch) and get some advice from the experts. The Tech Support Center contains FileMaker, Inc. Engineers and designers that can talk to you about specific issues you might have with your app or with FileMaker.
  • Come join others at the New Attendee Meetup This is a session devoted to any first-timers. FileMaker, Inc. staff will be there to talk about the week and get you started. The Women of FileMaker is hosting a DevCon buddy program. Take advantage of this time to get to know other new folks and buddies that have been there many years.

Don’t miss any part of the conference.

Don’t Mess with the Sessions

There’s too many sessions for you to attend all of them, so be deliberate about which ones you want to attend. Take some time now to study the schedule and jot down topics you want to be a part of in person. Though each session is recorded and eventually posted to FileMaker’s YouTube channel, decide which sessions you’d like to be in the room during the time. TheDevCon2Go Scheduler custom app will be released soon, and you can use that on your devices to mark your favorite sessions and to review the schedule in advance.

Attentive listening in a session.

If you’re a FileMaker beginner, attend some beginner sessions, but also attend some more-advanced ones. You might not fully understand everything presented, but the stretch in content will further inspire you. Also attend sessions on stuff you’ve never used or heard of: cURL, JSON, integrations, IoT, all the things that you might not see yourself using. These innovation sessions are the future of the platform, so be sure and get in on the ground floor.

If you are able, attend a training-day session. They are held on the Monday of the conference and are an additional cost, but these sessions (3.5 hours in length) are more hands-on and more exploratory than the hour-long sessions of the regular conference. There are always beginner, intermediate, advanced sessions. The topics range from basic FileMaker to reporting and user experience design. I’m teaching a session on JavaScript for FileMaker developers.

Don’t Mess with your Health

The conference is a week, but a lot happens in that week. Protect yourself and keep yourself healthy. Here’s some ways you can do that:

  • Bring sunscreen. It’s Texas.
  • Bring a water bottle. It’s Texas.
  • Bring warm clothes. It’s Texas, and we’re indoors. The AC will be blasting and cold. Of course when you step outside into the sunshine, you’ll bake in all the layers, but at least you’ll not freeze in the sessions.
  • Exercise. You’re doing a lot of sitting in the sessions, and we know that sitting is the new cancer. Get outside and walk (at like 5 am) or late at night (2 am). Hit the hotel gym or pool. Listen to your Apple Watch (we all have one, right?).
  • Rest / Get away. Above I’ve encouraged you to attend all you can, but you have to rest. So if you’re exhausted on Wednesday, take a moment to yourself. The hotel is huge, so find a quiet spot to just zone out (preferably not in a session) and recharge.

Don’t Mess with the Opportunities

FileMaker DevCon is the best place for a FileMaker developer to go. For the first timer, it is inspiring and overwhelming and excellent. There’s so much to take in, so many folks to meet. I encourage you to take advantage of every opportunity given at DevCon and be a part of this great community. Meet folks that you’ve talked with in the community forums. Learn a lot. Meet at least four new people. Visit vendors and booths. Learn what’s exciting about the platform.

Say hi to us at Geist Interactive.

We’ll be there at our booth demoing Editor and GoDraw and Quickbooks and other products, or walking around with our company t-shirts. Be sure and strike up a conversation about JSON or Native FileMaker or the FileMaker platform. We have a few things to say about those I’m sure.

Meet FileMaker, Inc. folks. They are some of the most friendly and passionate people about their platform I know. Four years ago now, I met the PM of the FileMaker Pro Advanced product. We’ve become good friends. We chat about FileMaker, about video games, about yard work.

Don’t Mess with FileMaker DevCon

Do everything you can to get the most you can out of FileMaker DevCon. You’ll be grateful that you got your (or your company’s) money worth. You’ll be inspired and energized and ready to push yourself to become better in the platform.