OOW Tips for the First-Time Attendee

Sep 25, 2012 / By Michael Abbey

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I started going to Oracle OpenWorld in 1996 and have only missed a few shows since then. The event gets bigger every year and, what with the plethora of acquisitions over the past 4-6 years, the sheer number of products featured at the event gets more staggering. Here are a few suggestions to maximize your time at OOW and allow you to get as much bang for your education (and entertainment) dollar as possible:

  • If you have not yet signed up for sessions, for many of them it’s too late. If your preferred sessions turn out not to be the most popular, there may still be room. Some of the most popular sessions have been full for weeks and going on the waiting list could be fruitless. The only way you’re going to get into these full sessions is to stand in line. That line could start forming 30-40 minutes before sessions start, and you may get in if you’re early. You have to weigh the time you end up standing in line and what you could be doing instead. BOTTOM LINE: You will more than likely not get into the popular sessions so find something else to attend during that time.
  • If you are turned away from a full session and there is no line-up when you arrive, hang out for 5-10 minutes as people always leave at the beginning of the session. Once some people see the agenda slide, they scoot and try to get into another session. BOTTOM LINE: Unless a line still exists at sessions, wait around.
  • Rely on the sessions that are made available post-conference to enhance your education experience at OOW. BOTTOM LINE: Supplement your attended sessions from OOW with material released after the show.
  • You need a ticket/or whatever they use for attendance at the Wednesday night Appreciation Event. BOTTOM LINE: Lots of attendees leave on Wednesday afternoon. Need I say more?
  • Find the lunch lines too much at the hotels and Moscone center locations too crowded? Look around and be creative. BOTTOM LINE: Lunch can also be picked up at some locations you’d never expect to find.
  • Always travel around the show AND the greater San Francisco area with your conference badge. BOTTOM LINE: Many shop keepers and restaurants will give you a discount if they see your OOW badge.
  • Tired of muffins and pastries for breakfast? BOTTOM LINE: Mel’s diner on Mission just west of 4th is a gem. Not a hidden gem; it’s easy to find. Moscone is at Howard and 4th, one block south of Mission.
  • Like Sushi? A hot spot is Hana Zen at 115 Cyril Magnan, a mere 10 minute walk from Moscone (and I do mean 10 minutes).
  • The best place to hang out, from an attendee who has been to OOW (and IOUW, one of its predecessors) for 16 years, is right in front of you! BOTTOM LINE: The view at the top of the Marriott on 4th is a happening place and, interestingly enough, not that hard to get into.
  • Never been to San Francisco before (or are just addicted to the Powell line)? A cable car ride is worth the time and money spent. BOTTOM LINE: There are 2 lines that leave from Powell and Market; you will be happier on where the Hyde line ends up rather than Mason.
  • If you are a baby boomer, just like me :), it is never too late to check out Haight-Ashbury. I was quite pleased when someone pointed out the Airplane house at 2400 Fulton. I loved their Surrealistic Pillow album for years and actually still listen to the CD regularly.
  • Don’t be shy to approach your favorite presenters as you run across them at the show. BOTTOM LINE: Most presenters will be happy to hang out as long as they are not on their way to an appointment.
  • If you are an exhibit hall-bunny who MUST gather as much stuff as possible (the free kind given away by vendors) , get there early. BOTTOM LINE: The good stuff is gone from the exhibit hall late Tuesday.
  • Find it impossible to get food and drink at the parties hosted in the exhibit hall? BOTTOM LINE: Go to the remote corners of the exhibit hall where the lines are short and sometimes non-existent.

All of the above is my two cents to help you enhance your experience at OOW. Look for me on the floor wearing a badge mentioning Pythian for a company name. There’s lots of us at the show and we LOVE talking tech. The late breaking news is that Marc Fielding is not attending due to a major client go-live, but he has a few more tips to add:

  • A lot of the learning at OOW happens outside the sessions. Use the social opportunities to meet your peers. Try and track down people you may have only met online, and say “hi” in person.
  • The big crowds can be overwhelming. Try to seek out nooks and crannies outside the mass keynote and meal events. For example, check out the certification lounge or the OTN tent.
  • Hands-on labs have very limited capacity and are the first to fill up. Book early if there are any you want to attend.
  • The keynotes are streamed live online. Rather than sitting in a keynote room with inevitably poor Internet, you might want to watch the keynotes online and get some work done
  • The sessions cram a huge amount of information in a short time. Give yourself some downtime instead of filling up every possible schedule slot.
  • As a presenter, I can tell you that it’s quite distracting when people are coming and going while I’m speaking; out of respect for the presenter, please arrive on time and avoid leaving mid-session.
  • The exhibit hall is packed to the rafters when it first opens during the dedicated hall hours. If you want to actually talk to the exhibitors, come later in the week.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes and pack light, as you may need to carry things for a while. (Nearby storage is a big benefit for nearby hotel rooms!)
  • If they haven’t reached out to you yet, get in touch with your Oracle salesperson and see if they’re coming to OOW and want to meet up.
  • A major stretch of Howard Street in downtown SF is blocked off for OOW, so traffic in the Moscone area is a nightmare. Driving is a bad idea, and even taxis are problematic. Use public transit (particularly the BART and SF Muni on Market street) instead. The BART even gives you a one-seat right to SFO airport.
  • My favorite hangout: The “Living Room” bar in the W hotel lobby, across from Moscone at 3rd and Howard. It’s a good place to find the Pythian crowd and other cool kids.

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