FileMaker DevCon: A First-Timer’s Guide to Beating the House

Next week is the premiere event — FileMaker: DevCon 2016. During the event, hundreds of FileMaker developers will gather together in Las Vegas, NV and geek the heck out on FileMaker. Three Soliant Consulting employees are presenting: two Training Day sessions on July 18th and a session about custom apps on July 20th. It’s a great time.

You’ve decided to venture down into Sin City, whether on your own dime or by convincing your boss this is valuable for the work you’re doing in-house. Maybe you are attending by yourself, and it is your first time to this international conference. Kudos to you for taking the plunge. My first event was only five years ago, and I clearly remember those choices I made which allowed me to take advantage of the conference. I encourage you to get your (or your company’s) money’s worth, so here is my system for reaping the best payoff possible.

Side note: I’m not that much of a huge fan of Las Vegas: too many noises and lights and people. But since we are gathering in Vegas, it is appropriate to speak of DevCon in Vegas terms. Where necessary, I’ve given you the definition of the term. This is an added benefit: once you arrive you’ll be able to speak the language of the casinos!

Have a Large Bankroll

bankroll: n. Also known as ‘roll’ or ‘wad’. It pertains to the total money that either the player or the casino has on hand to back their wagering activities.
load up: v. to play the maximum number of coins per spin that a slot machine or video game will allow.

I look back on my first experience and reflect that I learned a lot during the conference. I attended every possible class in every possible time slot. I even attended a few of the ‘unconference’ sessions. Even though I was off by myself, I decided to forgo the beach and pool (that year the conference was in Miami Beach) and instead focus on the learning. I took away more from that week, I think, than I did in my own learning the two years prior to the conference. That may be an exaggeration, but when you’re immersed in the platform, when FileMaker is oozing out of the people and the very walls of the conference, it will seem you have hit the jackpot. So do that: attend every session possible.

It’s okay to load up, to pop in and out of sessions to get even more. You might find, however, that sticking with one session will increase your comprehension.

This year the venue will support many more attendees in each session, but arrive quickly. Get to the front. It has often been the case where people have to stand or sit at the perimeter. You don’t want to do that.

Be inquisitive. Each session reserves time at the end to ask questions. Feel free to step up to the mic and ask away. The presenters have a deep knowledge of the platform and can help with anything.

Sessions will be recorded, allowing you to revisit the session later. If your chosen session is recorded, you have the option of attending it or just watching it after the fact. I encourage you to attend whichever sessions interest you regardless if it is recorded or not. There’s a great value in being in a room with other developers.

There’s another great opportunity to sit and chat with an expert: the FileMaker Visionary Bar. This booth in the exhibit hall is your chance to sit one-on-one with an expert in FileMaker and talk. You can ask general questions about the platform, you can ask specific questions about a problem you’re wrestling with, or you can just hang out and chat and meet someone new. To take advantage of this, read this information page.

Be a High Roller! Be an Action Jackson

High Roller. n: A player that wagers big bets.
Action Jackson: A gambler who wagers day and night.

I was probably two years into my own learning when I attended my first DevCon. I went to sessions that I felt I could gain the most knowledge. But I also chose to attend a session called “Advanced Reporting Techniques” by Bob Bowers (CEO of Soliant Consulting). In that class I could barely follow what was being presented. I took notes and listened and wrote down confusions I had. This session was recorded, so I went back to the recording over and over. Eventually I was able to comprehend.

In Education theory, there’s a concept called Zone of Proximal Development. It states that we learn best when the material is just out of our reach. This session was out of my reach at the time, but I was able to process it over time and pick up great techniques. I encourage you to do the same. As you gain in your skills, find something that looks too complex and go to that session. It is out of your reach at the moment; soon it will be well within your grasp.

Go All-In

Going all in: v: In cardroom poker, to call with (to bet) all your chips.

I was lucky in my first DevCon to room with a guy I met off the FileMaker Community forums. I met him in person on the Sunday before DevCon in the lobby by a happy coincidence. We hung out and he graciously showed me the ropes. That was the most valuable part of the week. Getting to know other developers. By meeting David, I got to meet people I should know. I’m an introvert (aren’t we all?) so it’s not natural for me to walk up to someone and introduce myself, but at FileMaker DevCon, being introverted will impede the value you get. Walk up to any developer who’s hanging out hunched down in his/her computer and say hi. Randomly sit at any meal table with the people there and say hi.

But if that’s not your nature then make sure to do two things: attend the session on DevCon first-timers, and hit me up. I walked in your shoes a few years ago and am glad to guide you around the conference. Email me at and I’ll be glad to meet up with you and say hi and introduce you to who I know.

In the social media world, there will be many people tweeting during the conference, sending 140-character bits of wisdom out into the universe. Follow anyone of these people and catch the bytes of information from diverse sessions. Here’s a list of people who I know will be live tweeting:

The official FileMaker handle is @filemakerdevcon, as well as the hashtag #FileMakerDevCon (there you can see great tweets from last year’s conference).

Keep Your Sacred Money

Sacred Money – n. Money that you cannot afford to lose.

It is a long week. It is cold (inside the conference rooms), there are great distances to travel between rooms, and it is mind-numbing. Make a special attempt to eat, sleep, exercise, and veg out while there. The meals are good, the snacks are plentiful, the beds are comfortable, there are so many places to walk along the Vegas Strip, and there are a plethora of ways to be entertained (and remember, what happens in Vegas, stays there). Make sure to take care of yourself. You’ll get the most out of the conference when you put the most into yourself.

Beat the House

I hope you have a great week. Your first time at DevCon will be tremendously valuable and rewarding. You’ll learn a lot and meet a lot of great people. It is a big gamble to venture out into the Nevada desert to Sin City, but the odds are in your favor to reap a large payout if you pull everything out of it that you can. FileMaker DevCon is meant for you to beat the house. Do so!

And again, feel free to connect with me. I’m happy to help you out in whatever will help your first time be the best!

8 thoughts on “FileMaker DevCon: A First-Timer’s Guide to Beating the House”

    1. Thanks Tim. You’ve got great specific details about the conference. Thanks for the link.

  1. Jeremy, I love this! Very good points.

    I second the “sit next to strangers” method of increasing your social circle. Breakfasts and lunches are ideal for this, and “So, how’s your DevCon going?” is the new “So, what’s your major?”

  2. Pingback: Using the Data Viewer for Testing Data and Writing Functions – FMT Network

  3. Hi Jeremy. Nice read. I’ll be a first-timer at this year’s (2019) DevCon in Florida. Hope to meet you there. Sincerely from Ghana.

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