The Macintosh OS is my favorite operating system. In fact, I enjoy using Macs so much that I attended MacWorld 1996, 1997, and 1999. This year I won a scholarship to the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference and traveled to California to attend. So what exactly is a Mac conference like?
Well, there are basically three key parts to a great Mac conference:
1. Conferences - Being able to take classes on the latest Macintosh technologies is one of the most interesting parts of attending a conference. I first learned about WebObjects, AppleScript, and Mac OS X through Mac conferences. These sessions are an excellent chance to ask questions and find out what is in store for the Mac platform. The workshops are also a fantastic chance to meet other people who are interested in the same things that you are.
2. Keynotes - There's nothing quite like seeing and hearing Steve Jobs speak in person, or Jason Jones or maybe even Phil Schiller jumping off of a platform to demonstrate the strength of a new iBook. I've seen all three and several more influential people in the Mac industry speak live at conference keynotes. My favorite keynote was Steve Jobs' keynote at MacWorld Boston 1997. It was truly incredible to experience a key part of Macintosh history as Bill Gates came on the video screen and Steve Jobs announced that Microsoft would be purchasing $150 million of Apple Computer stock.
3. Parties - This may well be the most important part of a great Macintosh conference experience, after all where else can you hang out with lots of Macintosh supporters and get free food? My favorite Macintosh party was the Apple Beer Bash, at this year's WWDC. Although I wasn't old enough to partake of the beer, I had a great time talking to Apple employees, scoring free T-shirts, and exploring the Apple campus.
Of course if you're going to attend a Mac conference you'll need to remember to pack a few important things.
What to bring with you:
1. Always bring an empty bag, such as a bookbag. You'll definitely need it to hold all of the literature, t-shirts, and promotional items you will be given as you wander about the MacWorld booths or the WWDC developers pavilion.
2. Some Mac stuff to have autographed. You can never be sure who you will meet so always keep at least a few stickers or a Mac magazine in your bag. Last summer I was lucky enough to be able to talk with Jason Jones and he autographed my Oni sticker :)
3. Your resume. Someone inevitably asks me for my resume during each conference. Many of the people at these events are scouting around for Macintosh people to hire, both for internships and permanent positions. If you have a resume to hand out on the spot, you'll be much more likely to receive a job offer. I also keep business cards with my name printed on them to hand out to new people I meet. It's an easy way to exchange e-mail addresses so you can keep in touch with your new Macintosh friends after the conference ends.
Once you're at the conference, don't forget to have some fun between conference sessions.
Some fun stuff to do:
1. Get up super early for the keynote. To get a seat towards the back of Steve Jobs' 1999 MacWorld New York 9 am keynote, my father and I arrived at 7 am to stake out our place in line. Also, when you get into the keynote hall, run quickly to find a good seat.
2. Collect pins. This has been a favorite activity of mine since MacWorld 1996. I have quite a collection now including the rare ID4 "Macintosh Saves the World" pin. Many booths give out pins to Mac fans who stop by to chat.
3. Go to a party. This is an absolute must. It's a once a year kind of thing and it's so much fun, that it just can't be skipped. You have to know someone to get into most of the good parties so make friends early in the conference.
4. Enter lots of raffles. It's hard to go to a Mac conference and not win anything. Over the years I have won everything from T-shirts to software packages. The more contests you enter, the better chances you will have. Also, practice your Mac facts and gaming skills. There's almost always gaming contests and trivia quizzes.
No matter what you do, you are sure to have a fantastic time if you attend a Macintosh conference. Say hi to Steve Jobs for me if you meet him ;)