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This is part 5 of the series of tips that I’ve prepared for those attending the PASS Summit 2013 in Charlotte, NC. In part 1, I talked about preparation for travel, accommodation and communication.  Part 2 talked about what to bring to the summit. Part 3 walked you thru the preparation before you hit the road. Part 4 talked about networking and scheduling your summit sessions. This blog post outlines what you need to prepare for when you arrive in Charlotte. And don’t think this will be the last one in this series. Feel free to add to the list by posting in the comments section if you can think of anything else.

Arriving at the Summit

With a few more days to go before the summit proper, you’re probably excited to get out of the door and head over to Charlotte. Hold on to the excitement just yet. There’s still a few more things to prepare for before the main conference starts.

Checking in to Your Hotel

Since I come from outside of the US, I have to fill up a US customs declaration form that asks for my address while in the US. Knowing the address of the hotel is one thing but knowing how to get there is another. If you are booked at one of the hotels within the vicinity of the convention center, then, the only thing you need to worry about is how to get to your hotel from the airport and back. There are taxis and buses from the airport that will take you to downtown Charlotte (I talked about Charlotte’s public transport system in a previous blog post.) If you prefer to rent a car, there is a shuttle outside of the Arrivals area that will take you to the rental car complex.  Know how to efficiently get from the airport to your hotel whether via public transport or rental car. If your hotel is a few miles/kilometers away from the convention center, know how to get to and from these venues. I find that this sometimes causes a bit of stress on the first day of being in a new city. Don’t let this ruin a great summit experience. That is why preparation is key.

TIP: If you pay close attention, there will be a lot of conference attendees at the airport. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and introduce yourself. This is a great way to meet new people even before the summit starts. You can even ask if you could join them on their way to the hotel.

Check in to your hotel as soon as you can.  Find out what amenities are available to you. Ask if they have a free shuttle back to the airport on the day of your departure. Do you have free breakfast and Internet access included in your reservation? This is very helpful especially if somebody else made the reservation for you.

Event Registration

Summit registration starts at 5PM on Sunday, 13-October and it goes on from Monday to Friday, from 7AM to 5:30PM. Once you’ve finally settled in to your hotel, head over to the PASS Summit registration booth at the convention center. The registration booth is organized by the first letter of attendees’ last name. You will need to provide proof of identification when you register. Part of the registration will be the event badge with your name, company name and Twitter handle if you’ve provided it in your registration. You will also get a printed schedule and a layout of the convention center. I find the printed schedule helpful for me to circle out the sessions that I plan to attend as I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post. Once I finalize the schedule, I key them in on the Guidebook mobile app in my phone. Also, familiarize yourself with the layout of the convention center. Since you’re already there, you might as well walk around with the map to know where you need to go for your chosen sessions.

The registration package also contains some marketing collaterals, raffle entries for some of the vendor events and even your attendee party pass. Vendors are very generous during events like this so make sure you look into your registration package to see what’s in store for you.

Internet Connectivity in your Hotel and at the Convention Center

Can you imagine yourself living 30 years ago when there was no wireless Internet available? Well, you’re not alone. We’ve all become very dependent on the Internet for just about everything. So, when you get to your hotel, check if wireless Internet is available to you. If it is, then, good for you. If not, check the Internet connectivity at the convention center. PASS provides wireless Internet connectivity to all summit attendees. Check the signal and speed after registering for the event. Don’t expect it to be as fast as what you have back home. That’s why you need to check when and where you can get a good signal and speed. If you need to connect to your corporate VPN while at the summit, you need to know where to go and what to expect. There will also be restaurants and stores around the convention center that have wireless Internet available.

I bet by now you’re all too excited to be at the summit. The worst part is having to read all of the Twitter updates from folks who are already there at the venue. Don’t worry. You can catch up all you want once you’re in Charlotte. And once you do get to catch up, you’ll understand what that #SQLFamily hashtag on Twitter is all about.

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