DrupalCon Survival Guide: Making the Most of Your Conference Experience

Why DrupalCon?

DrupalCon is the premier 3-4 day conference for the Drupal community. It brings together developers, content creators, site builders, and business leaders from around the world to learn and share their Drupal knowledge. You will have the chance to attend sessions, workshops, and keynotes led by some of the most innovative and successful Drupal leaders. The best part of DrupalCon (in my opinion) is participating in community events, networking opportunities, and social events with the vibrant community of Drupal enthusiasts. Check out this video below from the Drupal Association to learn more.


Purpose of the Survival Guide

Attending any conference like DrupalCon can be overwhelming as there’s so much to see and do. This survival guide will help you make the most of your experience. It will provide you with tips and tricks to help you plan, prepare, and enjoy the conference so you can make the most of it.

Before the Conference

It's important to know what you're getting yourself into. Below you'll explore what you need to know before arriving at DrupalCon.

Research the Conference and Create a Schedule

The DrupalCon website will provide a list of key dates from applications for volunteering to late registration deadlines. Make sure to mark your calendar with any important dates that are relevant to you! You’ll also find a detailed agenda with session descriptions. Multiple sessions run in parallel so It is important to determine which session aligns best to your interests and skill level. It is important to note that some sessions may have limited seating, so it's a good idea to plan to arrive early for sessions that are likely to be popular.

Plan Your Transportation and Lodging

DrupalCon is often held in large cities, and it's important to plan your transportation and lodging well in advance to avoid any last-minute issues. The DrupalCon website typically lists all of the information you would need for airport, train, and public transportation. I would highly recommend using the travel and lodging website to check for available rooms. These hotels typically offer preferred rates.

Consider Networking Opportunities

While Drupal Camps and Community Meet-Ups are a great way to network, DrupalCon brings together the largest group of Drupalists in the world. Make sure to research the attendees, speakers, and sponsors to identify those who you would like to connect with. There are 100s of Drupal based businesses who might be looking for a Drupal expert like you! A great way to build new professional relationships is to reach out in advance and arrange to meet up during the conference. Additionally, consider attending any pre-conference events, such as Drupal community events to get to know other attendees before the conference begins. DrupalCon Social Events are also a great way to meet and interact with other members of the community in an informal atmosphere.

How to Pack for DrupalCon

This conference is busy and fast-paced, so it's important to pack what you’re comfortable in. I found comfortable clothing (like t-shirts) and shoes were a must. As I spent quite a lot of time on my feet, I would HIGHLY suggest bringing shoe inserts! Most DrupalCon goers bring a backpack or bag to carry essentials, including their laptop, charger, and water bottle. You will also receive a large amount of swag from different vendors, so make sure you will have room to pack it on the trip home. Be sure to bring business cards if you have them but also make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date. Finally, a small power bar with a decent cord length (at least 3 ft / 1m long) may also come in handy.

During the Conference

Now you're at DrupalCon, what's next? Use these tips and tricks to make the most of your experience. Trust me, I wish I knew them for my first time!

Don’t Overdo It

Attending multiple sessions and networking events can be exhausting. Everybody’s social battery is different so be sure to take breaks and prioritize your time wisely. Choose sessions and keynotes that align with your interests. All sessions are made available post conference so don’t worry about missing a session if you’d rather attend something different. Don't be afraid to take a step back and decompress if you feel overwhelmed. Taking breaks throughout the day to recharge and refresh can actually help you stay energized and engaged for longer.

Take Notes So You Don't Forget

Like we talked about earlier, it’s important to network at DrupalCon. Make sure to take notes during sessions and workshops to later connect with other attendees to discuss those topics. It’s a great way to show active listening, exchange ideas, and learn from others in your field while building lasting connections. Be open to meeting new people and sharing your own insights and experiences.

Attend Summit & Training Events

Industry summits provide a unique chance to connect and work alongside fellow members of the Drupal community who are in similar fields. These full-day sessions can be added to your main ticket for an additional fee and are scheduled around general conference sessions. It is a great opportunity to learn and collaborate with like-minded peers in the government and higher education sectors. There is also a community summit that is open to anyone with a ticket to DrupalCon at no additional cost! There are multiple training sessions ranging from intro to Drupal to advanced Drupal development. These sessions are held by Drupal experts and provide a great opportunity to learn and grow within the Drupal community. Another great opportunity is taking Acquia Certification Exams. At DrupalCon Pittsburgh, Acquia Learning Services will be celebrating the launch of our Drupal 10 exams and working toward Acquia's 10,000th certification. See our booth to sign up!

Give Back to Drupal with Contribution Events

Contribution events, previously known as code sprints, are a vital part of Drupal's growth. It's a great opportunity to connect with key contributors in the Drupal community and participate in the making of your favorite features. Or just get to see how the open source community operates. Contributions can range from organizing events, designing user interfaces, translating text, writing documentation, reviewing other contributions, and writing code. DrupalCon typically offers various contribution events that provide in-person training and mentoring from experienced contributors. If you're interested in contributing, all you need is an interest in Drupal contribution, a laptop, and an open mind. As an added bonus, mentored contribution is available (on a dedicated day) to help you get going with issues that are possible to accomplish within the day.

Birds of a Feather - Community Group Talking Sessions

Attend Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions to discuss topics of interest with other attendees in a more intimate setting. These sessions are typically led by community members and can be a great opportunity to network and learn. Look for BoF sessions that align with your interests and join the discussion. It’s also worth considering that the formal sessions will be recorded, so you can always watch them later, but you can only experience BoFs by participating. 


Utilize Social Media to Stay Informed and Connected

Make sure you follow/keep tabs on all DrupalCon related social media for the latest conference news updates. This is also a great way to connect with other attendees, share your experience, and get real-time updates on session schedules and other important information. Follow Drupal Association’s social media accounts:

The Driesnote

One of the highlights of every DrupalCon is the Driesnote, a keynote address delivered by Drupal's founder, Dries Buytaert. The Driesnote has become a tradition at DrupalCon, providing attendees with insights into the current and future state of Drupal. The first Driesnote was delivered at DrupalCon Barcelona in 2007. Since then, Dries has delivered a keynote address at almost every DrupalCon. Over the years, the Driesnote has covered a wide range of topics, from the state of Drupal's development and community to trends in web development and technology. Some notable themes include the evolution of Drupal's user interface, the emergence of Drupal's API first framework, and the importance of community involvement and diversity. Check out Dries's recent Driesnote at Portland DrupalCon in 2022.


After the Conference

You'll successfully attended your first DrupalCon, congratulations! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Use the following tips and tricks to wrap up your DrupalCon thoughts.

Review Your Notes and Reflect on What You Learned

DrupalCon is a great opportunity to learn about the latest trends and modules in the Drupal community. It's important to review your notes and reflect on what you learned during the conference. Take some time to identify key takeaways, insights, and action items. This will help you better understand the content presented at the conference and how it can be applied to your work.

Follow Up with New Connections and Potential Job Opportunities

If you haven’t gathered already, networking is one of the most valuable aspects of attending DrupalCon. After the conference, it's important to follow up with new connections you made and potential job opportunities that were discussed. This can be as simple as sending a LinkedIn connection request or a follow-up email to say thank you for meeting and expressing your interest in continuing the conversation. Keep in mind that networking is a two-way street, so be prepared to offer something in return as well.

Final Thoughts

Attending DrupalCon can be a life-changing experience for Drupal enthusiasts. Make sure to plan ahead, take breaks, network with other attendees, and stay informed through social media. Most importantly, take some time after the conference to reflect on what you learned and apply it to your work. DrupalCon is not just a 3-4 day event, but a chance to connect with and learn from some of the brightest minds in the Drupal community, so make the most of it! For more information about DrupalCon, check out Acquia’s website.