Taking Advantage – Magento Imagine

Posted by: Karen Monday, April 6th, 2015

Years ago, in my experience, IT professionals were not a particularly sociable bunch. I recall once attending an work IT event  in London and remarking to a female colleague friend that we should have done a degree in Marketing as I’m sure it would have been a lot more fun!

But things change, geek is the new cool, and luckily in the Magento Community there are a truly diverse set of individuals, not just programmers, but marketing, sales, managers, social media types, devops, entrepreneurs, merchants, etc etc.  Which is really what makes Magento Imagine a great event.  It’s not yet been totally taken over by the corporates, the high rollers and the VC guys, its still got some soul. I think a lot of us in the ‘old’ community can see this soul getting lost more and more each year, but as with any event you find your group, and luckily with 1500+ people there should be enough variety to keep you amused! And hey things change, time to move on!

What Makes Imagine Special?

I attend a lot of different events, including IRCE, Shop.org and dev events such as RailsConf.  My personal take on what makes Imagine special is that it’s small enough to be intimate, but large enough to be interesting.  The money is available, nothing is skimped on, nice lunches, great evening events, and in the past great keynote speakers (though I note there are not so many external ones in 2015, but maybe they haven’t yet announced).

This intimacy allows several things to happen:

  1. You can find like-minded people who have similar stories/histories to you
  2. People are open and friendly – you get a good dose of american hospitality and its infectious
  3. Time to relax and rewind – many of us work extremely hard at our companies, the event really allows you to sit back and consume
  4. You don’t feel harassed – It will be interesting to see if this changes this year, but in previous years even though there is an exhibition hall it doesn’t feel like you need to avoid all eye contact when walking around!

In my mind all of this is invaluable as you get this rather unique opportunity to meet new people, make new associations and connections. Some of them may be direct leads, but many will be people that I’ve found have become friends, people I can turn to when I need a listening ear, or just guys to have a chat with on twitter or the forums.  When you are back in your little office it makes you feel like you belong to something bigger, and thats a good feeling.

What are Your Goals?

Before you attend any conference you should understand what you want out of the event. They are expensive, its not just an excuse to party, and your company will want you to get the most out of it.  It’s extremely important to be prepared, in particular set up meetings in advance, make sure you know the agenda if you have a lot to cram in, otherwise it turns to chaos.

We bring along my PA Jane who manages the whole team and their schedule throughout the event, thats how crazy it gets for us (after 6pm she is allowed to party tho!!).

When we first started doing the events we had little competitions on how many business cards we could pick up. Now we will schedule time for networking, time to be together as a team, time to switch off, etc. We do set our aims out in advance, what we want to achieve, what people we want to speak to, what we want to understand about the product, the roadmap, etc.  This drives our schedule.

My Advice for Newbies

I’ve been attending Imagine since the first in 2011. In the previous 3 years we were Gold exhibitors, this year we decided to just go along and enjoy ourselves more, as we have a good deal of saturation in the Magento space already.  I think if you are attending Imagine for the first time it can be a little daunting, especially now as a lot of people know each other, I can see that it can be hard, especially if you are more of a shy kind of person.  So here are some tips:

  1. If you are bringing a team make sure you get some ‘team time’ – I always take the team on a team building exercise, last year we went buggy riding before Imagine and then after spent 3 days in Zion National Park – and it was great to just say thanks to the guys and also allow a 3-continent team to spend time ‘bonding’
  2. Don’t be afraid to walk up to people – I think of it a little like speed-dating, and a lot of people at the conference will do it. But its not all about work, use it as an opportunity to learn off others and listen to their stories, you never know who you will meet! And if you find no similarity then just shake hands, swap cards and move on. I’m sure neither side will be offended
  3. Keep the booze under control – Remember its still a work event and anything you do will be noted and remembered and shared – especially with the advent of live streaming I’d say just be aware of your actions
  4. Attend the events around the edges of the conferencePre-Imagine is a great one as its a community run event, also Nucleus Commerce are holding an event on the Monday evening which I’m sure will be epic.  You often find little parties going on here and there away from the main event, and even a few after-after-parties
  5. Sleep well in advance – Its a very hectic few days, if you plan to make the absolute most of it then be prepared to be up at 8am, to bed at 2am
  6. Find the quiet times – Sometimes during the day I just escape to a place in the hotel away from the noise and chill for a bit. Personally I love it after 12am – most people have gone off and you can wander down to the tables and have some fun with the die hard crew
  7. Forget Email – You just need to put on the out of office, have faith in your team and forget about outside life. Trying to juggle is nigh on impossible and you will miss out on a valuable experience. Just immerse yourself, and trust your colleagues to hold the fort

If you are a Merchant

For Merchants attending Imagine I’d encourage you to do a few things:

  1. Try to speak to as many merchants as possible – attend the Merchant To Merchant sessions and try to connect. The snippets you can share with each other will be invaluable, and its my experience that many merchants go thro exactly the same experiences, highs and lows, so connect up!
  2. Be open to new experiences, new ideas, new ways of thinking – let go of your day-2-day work for a few days and open up to the possibilities. Yes there is a reality bump at the end but its okay to think outside the box for a few days, it won’t harm you
  3. Have some key things you wish to achieve and then search for those people to help you – Whether that be you know you need help with shipping, payment, marketing, a design agency etc
  4. Ask people for referrals – it’s all very well and good going around the exhibition hall, but referrals count for a lot. Ask around, there is a big community of people there, of which many are very familar with the Magento space – if you need a particular capability or want to know the best design agency that will fit your needs, budget then ask, I’m sure you will find people to advise you, or if they cant they will point in the right direction
  5. Understand Magento – its path, where its going, what the roadmap is – This helps you in your decisions not just today but 12 months down the line when Imagine is long forgotten

And Lastly

If you can’t make it follow @WebShopApps on twitter and periscope, we will be keeping you informed whilst we are there.

If you are attending then have fun, enjoy this time. You are in Vegas, there is ‘free’ food and drink, you are with people that are like you. Enjoy the experience!

See you in Vegas!



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