Industry conferences are essential for web designers and developers looking for new experiences, new connections, and new learning opportunities. Unite, Shopify’s partner and developer conference, is no different.
But it does take some serious planning to really get the most out of attending a conference.
Without proper preparation, freelancers and agencies could miss out on the opportunities that make conferences a valuable investment in themselves, and their businesses.
Cat Hunter, IRL Marketer at Shopify, describes it best:
“Get the most out of your conference attendance by defining your goals: are you going to learn? Gain business? Make contacts? Topics and content are important but remember we learn most from the ‘corridor track’ — the conversations and chance encounters.”
To make sure you’re in tip-top shape for Unite, we’ve created this checklist for you. Follow along to make sure you’re prepared for the best conference of 2017. 😉
Join the conversation at Unite (on the ground or via the livestream)
We want everyone in our Partner Ecosystem to join the Unite 2017 conversation, so we’ve put together some suggestions on how you can engage with us, and each other, regardless of where you are.Find out more
✅ Download the Unite 2017 app
In typical Shopify fashion, we’ve 10xed Unite.
There’s a lot going on this year — more activities, more track sessions, and more Shopify Partners to meet and network with.
To keep up with all of the excitement, you’ll need to download the Unite 2017 app (attendees will receive a password to access their profiles prior to the conference):
At only 58.3mb, there are lots of benefits to downloading the app:
No need to carry around business cards (unless you really want to) — Get instant access to Unite’s attendee list, and the ability to message them in real time.
Always find the best seats for keynotes and track sessions — We’ll notify you when different activities begin, and where you can find them, with push notifications.
Book exclusive 1:1 meetings with Shopify employees — You’ll only be able to schedule Office Hours through the Unite 2017 app. Nowhere else.
FOMO no mo’ — The Unite 2017 app features an attendee-powered activity feed and up-to-date information on track sessions and keynotes. You’ll never miss even the most micro-moment at Unite.
- Your ticket to the ultimate Unite experience — The above is only a taste of how the Unite 2017 app will change your conference experience. With tons of on-site activities, a customizeable agenda, and much, much more, you’ll want to have the app handy at all times.
Make sure to have your app downloaded and ready to go by the time you get to the Fort Mason Center — you’ll need its powerful intel to prepare for the next items on this checklist.
✅ Create a networking strategy
You’re probably pretty good at finding out about people before actually meeting them, right? How else would you prepare for client meetings, or potential interviews?
Have a look at the Unite attendee list and do your research — make a list of partners you’d like to meet, potentially collaborate with, or noodle on an issue with. Learn about their businesses, clients, and the work they do. Identify what you can do for them, and how a potential relationship with them could grow your business.
While doing this, you’ll quickly find that focusing your networking efforts will lead to more impactful interactions with other members of the Shopify Partner Ecosystem.
Here are some things to consider when developing your networking strategy for Unite:
Meet with partners that specialize in the same area of Shopify and ecommerce as you do — You’ll easily be able to discuss pain points, industry opportunities, and create great contacts based on this commonality.
Some agencies pass along smaller jobs to local freelancers — Identify opportunities to develop this mutually beneficial relationship with fellow attendees.
Some businesses are looking to expand — Looking for a new web design and development gig? Businesses are often searching for devs with Shopify experience, so make sure you’ve positioned yourself and your skillset correctly before attending.
Mentorship goes a long way — The advice you’ll give and receive at Unite will be invaluable. So, what will fellow attendees learn from you?
Extend your reach outside of your familiar social circle, or even your job function — You could network with fellow theme developers, or you could seek the expertise of someone who does cool things outside of your space, like an app developer.
- Start conversations through the app, then take things offline — Suggest meeting at Unite’s Recharge Lounge, where you’ll be able to charge your electronics and your conversations.
Remember, networking is a valuable tactic for developing your business and professional clout. Last year, many partners grew their businesses through the connections they made networking at Unite 2016, including these six.
You might also like: Unite 2017: Who Should Come to Shopify's Partner and Developer Conference.
✅ Book your Office Hours
At Unite, you’ll have the opportunity to schedule exclusive one-on-one meetings with Shopify employees. Whether you’re looking for help growing your business, designing Shopify Themes, or developing Shopify Apps, you’re bound to find someone with the expertise to address your business’s pain point and offer a solution.
Two pieces of advice:
Book your Office Hours meeting early — These timeslots will fill up fast, so use the “Book Office Hours” tab in your Unite 2017 app to schedule yours ASAP.
- Come prepared with questions — You’ll only have 15 minutes, so make every second of that time count.
If you’re attending Unite with a colleague, coordinate ahead of your Office Hours so you’re both asking different questions. You’ll get the most value out of your meetings this way, and you can reconnect later during the conference (or when you’re back in the office) to discuss the answers you received.
Outside of Office Hours, though, you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to chat and network with Shopify employees — you’ll just need to know where to find them.
But, we’ll let you in on a little Unite secret: If you visit “The Meetup,” you’ll be welcomed by the faces behind Shopify’s Partner and App Community Teams — a friendly bunch of strategists, content creators, and developer and designer advocates. And, if you’re a regular visitor to the Web Design and Development Blog, you might even recognize some of us by name. 😉
The Meetup is also an opportunity to collaborate with other Shopify Partners, share and receive Shopify tips, and connect with partners looking to hire and be hired.
Oh, and we’ll have physical copies of Grow Volume 3. See you there?
✅ Review the track sessions
Going back to Cat’s insightful quote: have you defined your goals for Unite? Not just your social goals — but your learning goals, as well? Because as valuable as networking can be for your business, taking key learnings and applying them to your client projects and growth strategies can make all the difference, too.
And honestly, how often will you have an intimate opportunity to learn from some of the most influential voices in the ecommerce industry?
This is where planning ahead is your best friend.
If you plan out which track sessions you’re going to attend in advance of the conference, you’ll have a much better idea of your learning outcomes. The best part: you can mix and match which talks you want to attend, so you’ll be able to customize your Unite experience to your learning goals (you can even keep track of your personalized agenda in your Unite app).
That’s right — you’ll be able to move freely between all three tracks, so make sure you eye the schedule carefully before coming to the Fort Mason Center.
Don’t know where to start? Here’s an example of a few track sessions that might interest a freelancer, or independent consultant:
Reducing Complexity for Merchants — A look at recent launches that further enable merchant success. This talk will help partners confidently explain all Shopify services and offerings to better package Shopify to potential clients.
Working Together to Win Plus Deals — An inside look at the Shopify Plus sales cycle, a technical overview of Shopify’s enterprise-level capabilities, and how to work more closely with Shopify on every enterprise contract.
- Effectively Scoping Projects: Partner Panel — Hear project management tips from industry peers. Explore how to set pricing rates, bill clients, and estimate projects in order to align with industry standards, and better understand client needs.
If you still need a little help, we’ve curated an entire list of track starting points for the variety of roles and specialties that will be at Unite this year.
✅ Get your questions ready
One of the biggest highlights from last year’s Unite conference was an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session with Tobi Lutke — CEO of Shopify — hosted by Atlee Clark, our Director of Apps and Theme Partnerships.
If you haven’t seen it, we encourage you to watch the recording:
Now officially a Unite tradition, Tobi will again grace the Main Stage to answer your burning questions.
What have you always wanted to know about Shopify, or Tobi himself? What does the future of ecommerce look like? Will VR soon be prominent in the commerce space? Be as creative or straightforward as you like — we’ll consider all types of questions.
So, think deeply, have your questions ready, and get excited.
✅ BONUS: Learn from surprise guest keynotes
Well, this checklist item doesn’t really require advance preparation, but you should definitely keep it in mind while you’re buzzing around Unite.
During the conference, you’ll have the opportunity to attend presentations from two industry thought leaders: Ben Kaufman, Head of Product Labs at Buzzfeed and Mikkel Svane, CEO of Zendesk.
You won’t want to miss these!
Make sure to get the best seats by referencing the Main Stage schedule on the Unite 2017 app.
You might also like: Shopify Unite 2017: Announcing Track Sessions.
✅ Prepare for a Frenzy
We can’t say much about this one, but you’d be wise to download Frenzy from the Unite 2017 app in advance of the conference — we might go above and beyond our track session: How Flash Sales Improved Our Capacity to Handle Scale. 😱
Get ready to grow!
Unite is coming up fast, but there’s still time to prepare. Keep all of the above in mind before you get to the Fort Mason Center on April 20, and we guarantee you’ll make the most of your time at round two of Shopify’s partner and developer conference.
Were you unable to attend Shopify Unite 2017, or want to look back on highlights? To watch recordings of all keynotes and track sessions, visit the Shopify Partners YouTube Channel.