Two years ago I was working on my employer’s back-end infrastructure when I both discovered and fell in love with Xamarin. Ever since then, I had a premeditated hope that one day I would get to attend Xamarin Evolve, the world’s largest cross-platform mobile conference.

Fast-forward to just last year, I joined my company’s mobile solutions team and finally the conference was within reach since it was relevant to my job. Now that I am even deeper into the Xamarin ecosystem, I wanted to take a short chunk of time and cover the key parts of the Xamarin Evolve 2016 conference.

Cost & Packages

The event was divided into two tracks and you choose one depending on what you want to get out of the experience. The conference is two days and the optional training package is another two days. The training allows you to take in-person courses offered by Xamarin University instructors and get hands-on help with your mobile app and any other questions you may have.

  • Conference & Training: $2999
  • Conference Only: $1799

Training

I elected to take the training. It was great to meet Xamarin University instructors in person and talk about specific issues, something you don’t typically get a lot of time to do when taking classes virtually. They split the training into a fundamentals and advanced track. I ended up taking the advanced track since I was already Xamarin certified but still found a lot of the material to be mostly review. The periodic breaks did help break up the full day sessions.

If you are Xamarin certified, I would recommend skipping the training portion of the conference because the topics have already been covered through the courses taken on Xamarin University. Of course if you are looking for a refresher or maybe you need a little more interaction, then the in-person training is the way to go.

Conference

The Keynote

The first day of the conference started with the keynote. Right after breakfast I walked into the main conference room. Just wow. The club music coupled with a beautiful animation of the Xamagon being drawn on the stage (created by the Xamarin design team) left me with this deep primal feeling of excitement. A real sense of community. Yes, I am sipping the Xamarin cool-aide hardcore at this point.

The keynote announced several big things which were already covered on the Xamarin blog so I won’t parrot them all back to you here. I will say I had to hold back tears when they announced Xamarin is open source, the Xamarin Forms native embedding, and the enhanced iOS debugging in Visual Studio.

Vendors? Really?

I felt sorry for the vendors. I didn’t see very many people visiting the booths. I suppose everyone got their free swag on the first day and that was the end of it. On day two I saw sales people standing at their booth watching everyone walk by.

I think one thing a lot of vendors failed to realize is this conference is largely for technical people. It is very rare for developers to make business decisions. We might be included in a meeting in the future where we could have influence on business decisions so winning hearts and minds would be the best strategy for this conference. Give away free stuff: free build minutes, free UI controls or whatever you have to offer. Get us used to your product or service and it could possibly come up in a future meeting with our employers.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed Xamarin Evolve and would love to go back. The connections, the hackathons and talking with others in your niche of the tech community are invaluable experiences. I realize most of this review may come across as candy and unicorns but then again, I feel like a Xamarin evangelist at heart.

Xamarin certainly knows how to pull out all the stops when it comes to throwing a great conference. Shutting down an entire theme park, renting out an entire restaurant and live bands were just a few of the fun things they had in store for conference attendees to nurture the collaboration and relationships within the Xamarin community. If you didn’t go this time, plan to get there.

 

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