Some tips for TechEd Europe 2012 and Amsterdam
Edit 30/05/2010: Also check this follow up post More tips for TechEd Europe 2012 and Amsterdam
We have just a few week until TechEd Europe. This will be my fourth TechEd (2008 Barcelona, 2010 Berlin, 2011 Atlanta). I know that for first (or second) time visitors it can be an overwhelming experience. So, to get the most out of it, some tips for TechEd and Amsterdam:
Plan your schedule long before the start of TechEd itself. Sometimes sessions have repeats or conflict with other interesting sessions and figuring out your ideal schedule can take some time. But do remember, I do believe almost every session will be available at Channel9. But in my experience, the Q&A are not included in those videos. So, if you have questions or want to hear questions by others, attend the session. Also, if you just want to see the speaker IRL this would be a great argument to attend.
You do not have to keep your own schedule. If you feel like taking a break, you do not have to attend that session you had planned. You are bombarded with a lot of information and sometimes you just have to take a break to keep up. That’s fine!
Acclimatize a day before the start of TechEd. Especially if you have to travel from far away, I have found that a rest day beforehand is quite nice. You can register when it is not that busy and explore your environment a bit and prepare some last things. Obviously your budget has to have room for this. If not, do take some time to make yourself familiar with the surroundings of your hotel, the conferencing location and how Amsterdam works. A good preparation will reduce stress during your visit and that is good! Hopefully this post will help a bit.
Don't forget to network! This is an event to meet people in real life, an exceptional opportunity. Do not underestimate the value of this. So, try to reach out even before TechEd and make arrangements but stay open for ad-hoc meets. It's also okay to skip a session! I have also found social media very helpful, so Facebook, Twitter etc.. And don't forget to register in the TechEd Directory and attend the Welcome Reception and Delegate Party and keep you eyes open for other venues. Oh, and take a stack of business cards with you!
Tweet, blog or whatever what you have attended. This isn’t a requirement, but sometimes you get responses within TechEd or even outside. One time someone requested I’d ask something to the speaker from someone on the other side of the globe while I was in the session’s Q&A. How's that for interaction . I tweet with certain hash tags, #TEE12 is the official TechEd Europe 2012 hash tag, but I also tend to add the session ID in a hash tag like #EXL301.
Check your devices, update (especially) antimalware, install preferred software/apps at home. There will probably be internet on the TechEd location, but do keep in mind that there will be several thousands of devices active… Don't rely on it. Even hotel internet could be not so reliable (especially those associated with TechEd ;-)).
Choose a device that could hold out ~8 hours. Do not expect that you would have time or even the possibility provided by TechEd to charge your devices on location (they did in Barcelona and Berlin). But to be safe, take your charger and power converter with you always (remember: 230volts & 50Hz). Paper is also fine, but you can't twitter and Facebook with it ;-).
Oh, some hotels only have one power outlet in the room so take a multiple socket with you (added bonus, only one converter needed). And check whether that outlet is only active when the keycard is in a special holder. Most of the times a random plastic card will work, so you can leave the room while your devices are charging.
Ah, Amsterdam. Offcourse I'm biased as I was born and raised there, but I consider it one of the most beautiful cities worldwide. It has character, culture and is the capitol of The Netherlands. Check out the Official website for tourist information, there is a lot to do here!
Although a city, it's smaller than most metropolises and some refer to Amsterdam as a World Village instead of a World City and there is some truth to that. But that doesn't mean it's provincial, most inhabitants (especially in the center) speak English and/or German and perhaps even some French or Spanish. Maybe not perfect (we call it Steenkolen Engels or Dunglish. I may have provided some examples in my blog posts ) but it mostly does the trick.
RAI is located at the south of Amsterdam, but the most interesting parts are concentrated in the center and a short bit of travel will be necessary.
Most will probably choose a hotel associated with TechEd and thus will have his/her hotel near the convention. From Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to the convention location RAI is probably cheapest by train and takes a about ten minutes. The train station Schiphol is beneath the airport. Check the times at the Blue-Yellow information signs for your train, but normally the trains to RAI leave from track (Spoor) 1 and/or 2. Do check whether it stops on your station, not all stop at the station Amsterdam RAI. Tickets are available at a counter or at touchscreen machines (Blue/Yellow). Some accept (euro) coins, some Credit cards (only on Schiphol!) or PIN (Maestro). Paper tickets are fine, the national public transport chip card is probably too cumbersome for just this trip.
If you have chosen an hotel further away or just want to be mobile there are several choices:
Walking – From the Train station Amsterdam RAI to RAI is at several minutes walking distance. Hotels are close by (maybe a few minutes further?) and mostly on the other side of the train station.
For all other destinations (non TechEd related) it's possible, but not time efficient. RAI is located on the south side of Amsterdam. For the center where most shopping, culture and such is present, you probably want to take some other kind of transportation. Walking from RAI to Amsterdam Dam square takes about 50 minutes.
Taxi – I think I took a cab once or twice in my life in Amsterdam. I prefer public transport, but on RAI and by most hotels it wouldn't be too hard to arrange a fare. Prices are fixed and mostly cash only, I believe. Personally I would only consider this for transportation from and to the airport. Here is some more information.
Public transport – There are several forms, Train, Tram, Bus or Metro (Subway/Tube etc.). Take the train to and from Schiphol, but within Amsterdam it's a bit overkill. All other are OK, most busses relevant are from the GVB (blue and white). NOTE: you have to have a transportation chip card. There are several forms of them available, but I guess the GVB day cards are most convenient. General rule: always check in at the start of your journey and out just before disembarking. If the check-in device is in the vehicle check-in and out in the same vehicle (Bus, Tram)! All others have portals or pillars at beginning and end (Metro and Train). Most of the time the check-in/out devices are marked with Lila colors.
Around 0:00-1:00 most lines discontinue, but there are night busses which take other routes than daytime lines. So, check your nearest stop with the night busses if you have plan to stay out late.
Bike – It's an option that a lot of Amsterdam residents prefer above public transportation and walking. Here are some tips with some rental options.
Car – I wouldn't advise it. Amsterdam is quite car hostile, parking is limited or very expensive. But if you still prefer this means of transportation, check how you can pay. Garages accept most forms of payment, some even credit card. On the street it can vary from coins, PIN or mobile phone.
Train – For iOS users, check here for the official train "NS Reisplanner Xtra" App. Android users check here. WP7 users will have to do with an unofficial app, but it uses official real-time train information and it's a fine app. You can download the WP7 app "Treintijden" here. All other OSses can use the website www.ns.nl .
Public Transport Amsterdam – The GVB doesn't have an app. You can use the 9292.nl apps, which contains all transportation methods and is countrywide. It has a iOS and an Android app, and during writing this post also a WP7 app, although I do believe they only made it available in the Dutch marketplace *sigh*! The Ovay app is an alternate and Dutch only. Those with a Nokia can also use the Transit/Transportation app, although I don't know how complete it is for Amsterdam. All others can use website www.9292.nl or the mobile version m.9292.nl .
We have the Euro here, no more guilders. Not all, but a lot of other European countries have this coin. For those outside the Euro-zone, it's best to have some cash at hand. But make sure it's Euro, US dollars for instance are mostly denied. At Schiphol you can change and there are several ATMs.
Remember: Always check if the establishment accepts credit cards or your specific brand of credit card. Most restaurants do, but check anyway. In the Netherlands the use of Credit Cards is not as common as in the USA for instance.
Tipping: It is common to tip around 10% at bars, terraces and restaurants. But if the service is bad, do not feel obliged to do this.
In June the temperature varies around 20 °C (67.5 °F) but it is highly unpredictable. Check a few days before arrival what the weather is probably going to be. Always expect rain, from very mild to heavy). If you want to have air-conditioning in your hotel room, check for it specifically. We do not have a real air-conditioning culture, although more expensive hotels may differ from that.
Food, Groceries and other stuff
We have McDonalds, Burger King, KFC and some Subway's and Starbucks. We're fairly civilized here 😉 Tip: check out FEBO and choose a Kroket. And we don't always drown our French fries ("Patat") in mayonnaise! We also use Ketchup, Curry Ketchup, Peanut sauce (Saté) and a lot of variations (my favorite is "Oorlog", Saté, Mayonnaise and chopped onions). If you don't want fast food there are a lot of fine (and not so fine) restaurants in Amsterdam. Check the Dutch review site Iens. There are a lot of other sites and apps that could help you though.
If you want to do some grocery shopping, there is always an Albert Heijn somewhere (sometimes AH to Go at train stations) or a C1000. Some of you are fanatic Stroopwafel fans, they have plenty of them :-). And if you have an emergency craving for something British or from the USA, check out Eichholtz Delicatessen. It’s where I get my Mountain Dew fix .
If you need a drugstore, you could seek an Etos. They have non prescription drugs.
Opening times vary a lot in Amsterdam. General rule: mo-sa open till 17:00 or 18:00. Grocery stores are sometimes open until 20:00 or even 21:00. Most shops in the center of Amsterdam are open on Sunday, but check in advance.
Wi-Fi is only free at McDonalds, Burger King and Starbucks. Hotels probably charge extra, so check in advance. Mobile internet is mostly 3G, no 4G/LTE here (yet). Payphones are mostly non-existent.
Emergency services are contacted via the number: 112
My employer OGD is sending five people to TechEd! Look us up in the TechEd directory! Fun fact; our Amsterdam office is located at the Prinsengracht in a very beautiful office called “Koningsveste”. It’s on one of the world famous canals of Amsterdam.
I think that covers it and I hope this post is helpful. If you have some other tips or want to know something, contact me or comment below and I will add it. Also contact me if you want to meet me at TechEd. You can do that via the e-mail contact form on the right, via Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. See you there!