GPUG Summit 2016 - Pre-Conference

For the first time, I’m attending the Dynamics Communities’ User Group Summits, or as Dynamics GP customers know it, GPUG Summit in this case. I have heard the attendance is somewhere between 6,500 and 7,000 people overall, which is astounding! It’s also the 10th anniversary so it’s a great one to be at for my first one.

This year’s conference is in Tampa, Florida. I booked into the conference late and as such, I couldn’t get a hotel room near the event. I ended up booking with AirBnB, and got a great place to stay for much less than I would have paid in hotel costs, plus a 15% discount if I stayed for a full week. So, I decided to book a full week; I came into town on Saturday and leave next Saturday. I am paying the equivalent of about $120 per night USD, which is at least half of the hotel room rates near the Convention Center. Between that and completely scoring on my flight (first class both directions, total $600 CAD!), saving on those costs goes a long way in making this trip affordable.

Conferences are Costly!

For the first time since working for myself, I am attending 4 conferences this year: GPUG Amplify, reImagine, GPUG Summit and next month I’m going to attend my first MVP Summit. I haven’t considered budget for these conferences much before, as going to one conference (typically reImagine each year), is worth the investment in myself in the sense of learning, development and networking opportunities.

Tonight before writing this, I went back over my costs for this year’s conferences just to see how much each one has cost me so far. Ouch is all I can say. The first two conferences have cost me an average of $3,700 CAD, and so far my costs at Summit are $3,500 without meals/transit/misc., so it will be likely closer to $4,000 by the time I get home and pay for airport parking etc. on the other end. If I didn’t stay a full week, the costs would be a little less but I’d pay more for hotel so that likely evens out.

Anyway, that was an eye-opener as I really haven’t paid attention to the total costs until now. They are typically spread out over a few months from registering a few months early, to booking flights in between, to the costs of the stay itself occurring separately, it’s easy to forget how much it costs overall. I’m not even factoring in lost income while attending, which can easily double the actual “cost” of attending. I’ll have to re-think this for next year as the cost is just too steep to attend all of them, as much as I have enjoyed it this year.

Pre-Conference Highlights

In no particular order or level of importance, here are some of the highlights or low-lights of the trip here and the first 3 days.

My flight from Toronto was 7:20am and this time I chose not to spend a night in Toronto the night before. The flip side is I had to get up around 4am to get ready and drive to Toronto first, which always makes for a long day!

The drive to Toronto was a breeze, with the exception of one jackass who decided to tailgate me the entire way from Cambridge, despite the highway being empty and he could have passed me at any one of a million opportunities!

The first flight to Atlanta was bumpy, but didn’t seem too bad to me overall. However, the flight attendants announced a reminder on where your air sickness bags were, in case you needed it. Perhaps it bothered some more than me! The second leg of the flight was easy and quick. I took a cab to the convention centre as I was too early to check into my AirBnB place yet.

I found the Dynamics Communities staff setting up and offered to assist since I had nothing better to do. It was too hot out to wander far in my jeans, and I didn’t feel like unpacking right there in the convention center to find shorts to wear! So, I helped unbox the lanyards and name tag holders and worked on clipping those together along with several others.

I took my first Uber ride from the Convention Center to my rental in Ybor, 2-3 miles away. It might be my last Uber ride. The driver was swerving between the lanes without signalling and nearly sideswiped another car who had to honk his horn to alert my guy that he was there. A few minutes later my driver was about to drive through a red light, until I pointed out it was red! No sooner did we stop when traffic started flowing through the other direction from the highway, we would have t-boned someone for sure. So, I may stick with cabs next time! :)

I wandered Ybor City around where I’m staying for most of the first couple of days and a little of the downtown Tampa area and the Riverwalk. I wish I stayed closer to that, as I would do more of that each day but to get there is a long walk or a shuttle/trolley ride which gets old quickly! So, I have stayed more or less near Ybor so far.

Each day I did plenty of walking, over 40,000 steps so far since arriving on Saturday. I’ve taken the trolley several times but I have walked one direction or the other at least once each day I’ve been here, about 35 minutes to the convention center.

On Saturday night, I went to a Tampa Bay Lightning game, organized by Noah Moseley from MSX Group. There were 2 others besides Noah and myself, and one of them works in Cambridge (where I’m living). Small world. It was a fun game, I’m glad I saw Noah’s message on the Summit forum about it… it was a good start to the week.

On Monday, I was invited to my first MVP event, a meet and greet with Scott Guthrie, the keynote speaker for tomorrow. We got a group photo of us afterwards… it was fun meeting some of the other MVPs who are here (other than the GP MVPs whom I’ve met several times before).

MVP photo with Scott Guthrie

That’s it for now. Tomorrow morning is mostly time to myself again, except for a partner exchange event and then I’m volunteering as an usher before the keynote begins! I may not post every day this week but I’ll do my best to get some high level “what happened” out as soon as I’m able!

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