Updated for 2017…and look for continued updates as new information becomes available.
I’ve personally attended the FileMaker Devcon (Developer Conference) for the past 15 years. It’s usually somewhere hot in the middle of summer…Las Vegas, Palm Desert, Orlando, San Francisco, Miami Beach, San Diego, or San Antonio. This year (2017) it’s in Phoenix at the incredible JW Marriott Desert Ridge resort.
See WHY we go to DevCon (and our FREE DevCon/FileMaker History DB). Here we want to offer some essential tips to help those that are perhaps attending for the first time and some things that may interest those that have attended many DevCons past.
Here are some interesting stats from a recent DevCon:
- 1500 people, with 30% new attendees.
- 36 countries represented.
- 90 sessions/workshops.
- 70 staff members from FileMaker.
- 27 exhibitors.
- 36 recorded sessions.
- 500 FBA (FileMaker Business Alliance) members at dinner.
- 100+ pages of notes taken.
Where to Sleep
Get plenty of rest before DevCon so you can be well energized for the time away. The conference hotel is the best option to stay…but you need to book your room early. The conference hotel fills up fast at the reduced rate. If you aren’t able to get a room keep an eye out for cancellations as we get closer to the event.
What to Wear
Even though it may be hot outside, don’t be surprised if it’s cooler inside and in the evening. The large resort hotels keep things air-conditioned quite well (more like refrigeration) so you’ll want to have something to put on like a sweatshirt or light coat. In the evening it cools off as well so you’ll want something warmer. There is no official dress code. Many people wear shorts, jeans, and polos…business casual. Pack light so you can easily bring home your conference backpack, polo shirt, or other gear that may be provided with your registration.
What to Eat
Most meals at DevCon are provided in your registration price from full breakfasts and lunches. The Welcome Reception the first night usually has food in an hors d’oeuvres kind of way. The Big Event (Dinner Party) is a highlight with generally exceptional food…happening on Wednesday night this year. For any other time, you can explore a new restaurant nearby.
If you are budget conscious, here are a few ways you can save and still experience the best of DevCon:
- You generally don’t need a car as you can get transportation to and from the airport easily with a shuttle or taxi. If you have more than one person a taxi is almost always the fastest and most economical way to go.
- Share a room and make a new friend. Post your request on the FileMaker Community forum or with your local FileMaker User Group.
- Register for the conference before February 29 to take advantage of the early early bird rate. The price later is much more expensive.
- Traditionally, the hotel food and necessities have been quite expensive. (Especially in your room mini bar. Can you say $10 for a Twix bar?! Be careful not to move anything in the mini bar or fridge or you may be charged immediately.) If you can stop at a nearby drugstore like Walgreen’s or CVS after arriving, you can get a few snacks and sunscreen at a much more reasonable rate.
The FileMaker Training Series sessions on the first day are an optional part of DevCon…but a great way to get them in if you don’t have a training provider locally.
Get to DevCon early so you have margin and can attend the special orientation session for first time attendees. Pick up your conference badge and goodies right away. You definitely don’t want miss the opening keynote session. They generally share some very interesting information regarding the future direction of FileMaker that you may not be able to get anywhere else…and it is all under non-disclosure so people won’t be talking about it afterwards.
In the past, it used to be more difficult to choose from concurrent sessions. It became a little easier since many of the sessions are recorded so you have the opportunity to time-shift and see them after DevCon. My suggestion would be to go to the non-recorded session if you’re debating about which one to attend. If you find yourself in a session that turns out to be not quite what you needed, don’t be afraid to move to another room and see what is going on there.
The DevCon web schedule is posted here. Look for FileMaker’s DevCon2Go Scheduler application for ready access from your iPhone or iPad (and written in FileMaker Go) on the website soon. Use iCal/Outlook to block out the most important sessions you want to attend on your personal calendar ahead of time.
Last year one of the most valuable sessions for me was an “UNConference” type of session where several friends got together in a hotel room and shared some of our solutions and ideas…kind of a “show and tell” presentation with no preparation involved. Look for unconference sessions to be posted on a board somewhere since they normally won’t be on the official schedule.
Overall, DevCon isn’t where you’ll learn everything you need to know to create a successful FileMaker solution. You can’t possibly do that in only 3 days. You’ll learn new techniques, meet many people that can help you, and get inspired about what is possible with FileMaker. Then with some offline work with the resources provided you’ll be able to take it all in and become proficient and experienced over time.
At the closing session they generally give away some prizes including a free scholarship to DevCon next year as well as announcing the location of the next DevCon. So plan not to miss it if you can arrange your travel that way.
Exhibitors Showcase, Vendors, and Products
Take time to stroll around and see what all the exhibitors are showing. Ask them how their products can help you save you time and money. Often there are new releases of both Inspector and Base Elements…two products designed to analyze existing FileMaker solutions. There were also new syncing solutions shown such as GoZync from SeedCode and MirrorSync from 360Works. Also take advantage of the many show specials and discounts while at DevCon.
Computing and the Internet
Historically, WiFi at DevCon is not always reliable. Some years it has been stellar and other years really bad. It all depends on where you’re at and how many people are also on the network…out of the 1,500 people competing for the internet connection! So bring along your own phone hotspot connection as a backup, pay for internet in your hotel room to use between sessions, or maybe use the shared computing workstations provided for a reliable connection for basic email/web access.
The days are long and your laptop battery may not last the entire time. Bring a laptop AND an iPad for taking notes so you can switch off between them. Use an app that synchronizes your notes in the cloud as a backup. Also remember that nearly all the sessions have their slides available for download (with updates) via the DevCon2Go app.
Use FileMaker DevCon’s official Twitter hashtag of #FileMakerDevCon to keep up-to-date on the latest news.
DevCon attendees get a free copy of FileMaker Advanced, slides of the presentations, and videos of many of the sessions. These are all available electronically through a free TechNet account.
Get Your Questions Answered
I suggest you make notes of any questions you have about FileMaker and take them with you to DevCon so you can get expert advice in person. There are many ways to get your questions answered at DevCon:
- Make an appointment with one of the FileMaker engineers at Tech Support Central.
- Check out the free Visionary Bar (DevCon’s version of the Apple Genius bar).
- Ask someone at your breakfast, lunch, or dinner table. They often may know the answer!
Specifics for 2017 DevCon
This year there have been some format changes that will help make it even better than last year:
- Monday is a special training day that is available for an extra fee.
- The Keynote address is on Monday evening…don’t miss it.
- Tuesday night will be the big party event at the lazy river/pool.
- The closing ceremony will be Wednesday afternoon. Plan your travel arrangements accordingly.
- Thursday will be a special day for FileMaker Business Alliance members.
There are many advantages to going to DevCon. You can learn, network, and be inspired. Did you know you also get a free copy of FileMaker Advanced ($499 value)? In general, no matter how much you know…there’s always more you can learn.
It’s easy to get overloaded with the all the information. Swimming has been a popular relaxing activity to take a break. Make some new friends. Say hello to people from all around the world. Bring extra business cards so it’s easy to swap info and keep in touch in the future. Enjoy!