Microsoft Ignite: Get organized with this checklist

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Whether you're traveling from the West Coast or you're already in the Midwest, there are a few things you should do before attending Microsoft Ignite. Here are some things to keep in mind when getting ready for a week full of insightful talks, networking and-if you're lucky-sightseeing.

Manage your workload

While you may end up with a few lulls in your Ignite schedule, it likely won't be enough time to complete any real work. Not only that, but do you really want impending deadlines hanging over your head while you're trying to learn new things? You'll have a far better time, and a much richer experience if you manage your workload ahead of time. Of course, you'll still have work that demands your attention when you're back at your desk, but getting the important stuff out of the way means you won't return to an exploding inbox.

Reduce your stress

Having your workload in check is already a big stress-reliever, but you can boost your pre-conference mood another notch by doing things that help you relax. Read something inspirational, chat with a close friend, meditate…make it a point to do whatever it is that puts you in a positive place. Getting into a good frame of mind right before the conference can help you stay focused and upbeat-even during Microsoft's most mundane moments.

Get some exercise

Already have a regular workout routine? Perfect. But you may want to consider taking it to the next level, because chances are you'll end up consuming some serious calories during the conference. Drinks, free food, snacks, dining all adds up--and it can make you feel like crud by the time the week is over. You'll feel better knowing that you've at least worked for it, and as an added bonus, you'll have more energy and lower stress during those never-ending talks.

Track your itinerary

Once you've booked your flight and sorted out your lodging details, make sure you keep track of them. Apps like TripIt make it a breeze by alerting you immediately of flight delays, cancellations and seat upgrades, among other handy notifications. Keep in mind that while you're heading out for business, it's also OK to have a little fun--especially if the location is new to you. Do a little research on nearby attractions and see if you can carve out some time in your schedule for anything that interests you.

Create your own conference schedule

You're likely to have a terrible time at the conference if you're not even sure why you're there. Research the event ahead of time and find out who's speaking. Even those who have been attending conferences forever still do their homework before showing up. Find out which talks you want or need to attend and plug those into a schedule so that you can make the most of your time. Seriously, there are so many apps for this, you have no excuses.

Brush up on your networking skills

You never know who you might meet at Ignite (or any other tech conference, for that matter), and the last thing you want to do is fumble around with an introduction or take a lifetime to explain what exactly it is you do for a living. And while you may be a pro at networking online, that digital etiquette doesn't translate all too well in person. Take a little time to brush up on face-to-face networking and you'll be set; above all, remember to listen, ask questions and follow-up.

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Stacy Warden

Stacy Warden is a contributing editor of the Pluralsight blog and has worked in publishing since the dawn of the iPhone. Currently, Stacy deals in tech and education--a combination that she finds absolutely fascinating. You can find her on Twitter @sterrsi.