From what to wear to what events you should attend, here’s a rundown on how to prepare for, enjoy, and make the most of your first Google I/O!
What to pack:
- Sunscreen - In 2017 sunscreen was provided but be sure to pack your own, just in case!
- Hat - floppy sun hat, a fedora, a baseball cap, your choice!
- Portable charger - Since you’ll be outside your screen brightness will be high causing your battery to die very quickly. There are highly sought-after charging ports so pack a portable charger that allows you to charge-up while you are in the various talks. (Bonus points if you have a solar portable charger!)
- Laptop charger
- Lightweight jacket - It gets chilly in the climate-controlled tents and at night. Although you’ll have to drag your jacket along throughout the day you’ll be happy you have it in the evening.
- Comfortable shoes - There are a lot of different stages, Sandboxes, and buildings which you will be walking to and from which translates to a LOT of walking. Consider loafers or tennis shoes that provide a bit more support.
- Backpack - You’ll get mounds of swag so having a backpack to throw it in and it makes life a lot easier, especially on day one. We do not recommend using a tote or single-strap bag, your shoulders will suffer.
- Waterbottle - There are a number of water stations throughout the event where you’ll be able to fill up.
- Comfy, layer-able clothes - In true developer fashion, most people are in the jeans and tshirt uniform. Yes, hoodies are unsurprisingly rampant. Wear what you’ll be comfortable in and will adapt to 40 degree weather fluctuations. You’re be there for 15 hours+ per day so choose wisely!
What to do:
- Book lodging: Our group opted to stay a Google Event Hotels which therefore provided us a free shuttle to take to/from the conference. These hotels may not be 5 star resorts, but the shuttle itself serves as a great place to meet other attendees. Check the official I/O site for a list of these properties and book early.
- Check weather: Check the highs AND the lows so you can pack accordingly!
- Download the Google I/O app! The webapp was great before the applications were released, but the native application was key for creating your own personal schedule and monitoring last minute announcements. The app will tell which which talks are recorded or even live, store your reserved seats in a personalized schedule, provide a map of the event (crucial for Day 1 navigation!), and notify you of real-time updates throughout the day. Google posted an Android, iOS and web application so that you can tailor your experience to your interests. Once they’re available, reserve seats at the sessions that you’re dying to see. They do fill up!
- RSVP to After-Parties: The entire Mountain View community bubbles with activity during I/O so check EventBrite for special I/O post-parties hosted by other Silicon Valley giants. It could be anything from an AR chat at Netflix, to a leadership discussion at Coursera, take advantage of the free swag and drinks… or not. We found that I/O provided plenty to do day AND night so our motivation to leave to attend the after-parties elsewhere dropped significantly after arrival.
- Ladies: Join the Women Techmakers Slack community - here you’ll find a ton of different channels about I/O after-parties, events, first-timers advice and so on. The women in our group used this channel heavily in preparation for conference as well as throughout to connect with our female attendees.
Transportation: Google offers a number of methods for getting to/from the conference.
- A complimentary shuttle from Google Event Hotels is provided and utilized by many attendees, however we found that the shuttle wasn’t always on time. Be prepared to be flexible and add in extra time to ensure you make it to your events.
- UberPool and Lyft are used heavily with a dedicated pick-up and drop off zone a few blocks away so prepare for reduced convenience.
- There’s also free bike parking to those who commute via bike and many trails that you can use that are off road and safe for commutes.
- If you insist on driving, be sure to carpool. Only carpool cars will be able to park at the event (with exceptions) so read driving and parking specifications carefully. We found it nice to zone out in a shared Uber ride and not have to deal with the insane traffic this event accumulates. Keep in mind that what’s supposed to be a 10 minute drive can take at least to 40 minutes because of I/O traffic.
Getting Started on Day 1: You’ll need your Google I/O badge throughout the conference and pickup is available the day prior and at the conference. There are plenty of badge pickup signs at the main gates so you’ll know where to go. In 2017, the keynote kicked off at 10AM however we arrived around 9AM in order to grab (free) breakfast, our badges and find our seats in the ampitheatre.
Food and Drinks: Here’s a sampling of food and beverages provided throughout the course of the conference:
- Breakfast: Bagel, donuts, fage yogurt, fruit, udi muffins, coffee, & tea
- Lunches: Sandwiches, salads, & a protein with rice and veggies
- Snacks: Larabars, popcorn, almonds, chips, oreos, trail mix, pickles, & dried pineapple
- Dinner: Lo Mein, Poke poke, Indian Curry, Taco, Pizza Party, Burritos, & Mac and Cheese
- Drinks: Water is widely available (remember your water bottle!), along with Coke products, and wine/beer in the evening. The food quality varied from “I can’t stop eating this!” to “… is there anything else?” If you’re a picky eater, bring your own snacks and a back up granola just in case. If you have dietary restrictions, Google will accommodate. They had special meals including Kosher, Vegetarian, Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, and Halal.
How to: Navigate I/O Events During the 36 hours of I/O there are a plethora of events you can attend. As previously mentioned, utilize the Google I/O app to build your itinerary, reserve tickets to talks, and even navigate the I/O fairgrounds with in-app wayfinding.
- Keynotes - Standing in line isn’t necessary unless you want a front row seat. You’ll likely have section-assigned seating and almost certainly access to screens projecting the speaker. You shouldn’t miss anything if you just show up before it starts. We suggest only taking notes if you really need to, otherwise enjoy being in the moment! This is the most documented event of the conference covered by many journalists.
- Speechless - We loved this comedy show mocking conference presentations with categories such as “Product Launch” and “Post-Mortem”. Expect to be entertained by your host and Google employees doing improv on a random subject with random slides.
- Sandboxes, Codelab and Demos - It may be tempting to sit in the sessions all day (hello, shade) but venture outdoors and find demos throughout the fairgrounds. Sandboxes are themed, air-conditioned huts that have demos from each track you can follow at Google I/O. For example, we spent hours playing VR games and learning more about the progress in VR devices in the Daydream & Tango Sandbox. There are other demos throughout the area like the Google Assistant Bartender that made us Mock I/O drinks. Demos such as these inspire you to find problems that you can solve and is a great way to carry the creative vibes back home. Codelab pro tip: Get in the Codelab line early! Otherwise you might be line for well over an hour to get in.
- Office Hours - Googlers offer consults on everything from code, design, GSuite, to 1:1 time with the Google VUI Team. It’s hard not to see the tremendous value of not only getting feedback on your work but brushing shoulders with some of the industry’s brightest.
Other Fun I/O Activities
- Take a picture with an Android statue! There are so many creative statues throughout the event and it’s a fun piece of memorabilia to have.
- Check out an Android Pay station if you have an Android device. There are special “tap” treats (like ice cream) at Android Pay stations where you get exclusive access special treats. If you “tap” at 4 stations, Android users can collect an exclusive prize.
- Go to a session where you don’t know anything about the topic. Conferences are the perfect time to get outside of your day-to-day routine and comfort zone. These talks are accessible, well-practiced and engaging.
- Challenge yourself to meet people from all over the world. Google I/O is a global attraction. Learn something new about a place in the world and how development in their country is different from yours. Perspective makes you a better developer and techie.
Luggage storage is available on Friday (the last day) in a secure location. Perfect if you’re jetting back home at the end of the conference.
Use the week following I/O to reach back out to your new I/O buddies! You will inevitably have a ton of fun and meet lots of interesting people so be sure to nurture those friendships! Embedded content: https://www.instagram.com/p/BUQSPSwhXMO
Did we miss anything? Drop us a line and let us know!