This year’s GPUG Summit conference is in Nashville, TN at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. Wow, is that a big place! You’ll see a few pics in this post of this massive resort, it’s quite insane!
Here’s a summary of my first day here, Tuesday October 10th, one day before the full conference began.
Getting to Nashville
Unlike some of my recent trips, there were no issues getting to Nashville! I forgot how nice it is to have flights leave and arrive on time with no delays.
I had an early morning flight this time, so I stayed at a hotel beside the airport in Toronto to eliminate a middle of the night drive to the airport. Once again, I’ll profess my love for the Nexus/Trusted Traveller program because the time savings are incredible! Getting through lines at the airport, when I typically only have carry-on luggage, is just fantastic. I don’t have to arrive as early and I don’t have to worry about the “wildcard” of waiting in line and not knowing if it’s fast or slow. This trip was no different. I was literally at my gate, through security & customs, 20 minutes after leaving my hotel. That’s from the point the hotel shuttle left the hotel and to the time I was at my gate, through US border control, through security lines etc. Just awesome!
One thing I love about flying is seeing a city from above. Here’s a shot of Toronto just after take off, and for geography, I believe we would be just west of Yonge Street looking westward. I love how the city, at times, feels like a concrete jungle but, from above, there are so many trees!
I had a stopover in Atlanta on this trip, which turned out to be a good thing as I had time to help a customer with a time-sensitive payroll issue, that I was available to handle in between flights.
Gaylord Opryland Resort
Getting checked in to the hotel was easy but it was busy, so it took a few minutes to get through the line. Finding my room was fun, what a maze! Here is a map of the resort. They’ve got 4 unique sections of the resort as far as rooms go so your room has an alpha code, and then a more familiar floor/room number combination.
Just to give you an idea, the resort has its own app, complete with a GPS locator built-in! (Rumour has it at least, from someone else who tried it)
When I got my key, I was told I’m on “Floor Zero”. No big deal, I assume that’s the floor we’re already on, the “ground” floor. It took me a while to realize I actually had to take an elevator DOWN to the zero level to my room. Strange! The elevation of the building wasn’t obvious that there would be another level to the building that is still above ground.
I was originally booked into the Summit Partner Exchange session on Tuesday afternoon. I arrived too late for that session to make any sense for me and decided I needed to eat some lunch and get my bearings instead. So, I walked! Originally it felt like I was going in circles, and it turns out I was at times! This place just is so massive, it’s really hard to show in pictures. It’s an amazing interior maze of gardens and river with shops and restaurants dotted around all over the place. I found all of the rooms I will be presenting in, where the Expo is, where lunch is etc. as well as getting checked in and badge in hand etc.
Here are three pictures of the inside, but it’s really hard to do it justice!
Later in the afternoon, I found Frank Heslin, one of the GPUG All-Stars, with whom I’m presenting an Excel tips session. We needed to get together to sort out the session flow and order.
The official start of the event was a 5-8pm Expo Hall and Reception event. The expo hall also was huge, lots of vendors, for all of the Dynamics products, not just Dynamics GP. Add in 6,600 attendees in total and there’s a lot of people milling around! Then, add on the free drink tickets and you have yourself a party!
One of my favourite things to do is try to find Twitter “friends” and followers, and I usually end up running into people that way during these Expo hours. There are so many different people I’ve met at these events over the years, many of them started out as people I follow or who follow me and it’s great putting a face to a name.
Last year at the Expo it felt super overwhelming, but this year, it didn’t for some reason. Perhaps I was used to it or just in a more social mood, I don’t know, but the large crowds and noise didn’t bother me at all this year.
Opening Session Rehearsal
Towards the tail end of the Expo Reception, I had to take off and find the room for the opening session on Wednesday. This year for the first time, some of the MVPs and GPUG All-Stars were asked to be involved in the session and it was pretty cool just to be given that opportunity. I was contacted by Pam Misialek a few months earlier to see if I was interested and over the previous few weeks, content was finalized and the details of who was doing what started to get sorted out. I was doing a bit with Rod O’Connor, another Canadian MVP, and we were using our Canadianism to full advantage to make fun of something. I’ll talk more of this in my Day 1 blog post!
This particular session was a rehearsal for the next day, primarily working through audio/visual issues with the slide deck, finalizing the slides to use and order, and walking through the entire presentation to get a sense of what the flow was like. Being the first time on a big stage like that, what surprised me the most was the brightness of the lights, and the reverberation of your own voice as you speak.
In this pic above, from left to right are: Mark Rockwell of Rockton Software, Steve Burney, Jodi Christiansen, Theresa Nistler, Shawn Dorward, an unknown DCE Live guy and Bob McAdam.
After this rehearsal was done, it was around 9:30pm when I would normally not contemplate *starting* to go out for the evening! However, Fastpath kindly was hosting a party for MVPs and UG All-Stars at a bar across the street from the resort and I wanted to go, even if it was brief. None of us had eaten dinner yet and we were hungry, not to mention a little thirsty. :)
I didn’t last long as I wanted to get a good night’s sleep for the Wednesday opening session but did get a chance to catch up a little bit with other MVPs Mark Polino, Mariano Gomez, David Musgrave, Steve Endow, Rod O’Connor, and met another MVP in CRM, Clarissa Simpson.
That’s it for the first day on the ground!