My first trip to WLPC, the Wireless LAN Pros Conference

One of the most impressive wireless events of the year inspires and teaches by encouraging engagement in the industry

This event is unlike any other event that I’ve been to. The talks, the sessions, the variety of education, the networking and the conference itself make this one of the most unique and exceptional events in the industry. This is my first time here and I wanted to share a little bit about my experience.

Day one concluded with an amazing group of individuals from across the world piled into a small conference room to bring back childhood memories with a hosted 8-bit and 16 -bit gaming night. As professionals sat down side-by-side to play Contra, NBA Jam, or just to go head-to-head playing Tetris on Game Boys, it was refreshing to see people just having a plain old good time. Day 2 ended with a Whiskey & Wireless Podcast recording, complete with a huge, live audience. Day 3 held the group to the very end of the event, something that is completely uncommon for session-heavy events.

With all of the content, networking, and sense of community here, it’s hard to put my finger on what is making this all so awesome. I think it boils down to that feeling of doing something that you love and sharing it with others. That indescribable feeling of being part of something bigger, smarter, and more productive that you can be alone, runs through the group at this event like the blood through it’s veins.

Making the Trip to WLPC

Once a year in the United States (and in 5 other places around the globe!) people from the wireless industry gather around and make the pilgrimage to Phoenix to sit down with some of the brightest colleagues, sharpest minds, and great presenters. They encourage each other to learn, experiment with technology and be the best at what they can do.

Boot Camps

I didn’t sign up for any of the Boot Camps that take place in the days leading up to the event, but when you talk to anyone that did, it’s apparent that it was way more than just learning. It was actually fun. You get to learn a new skill or craft doing something you love with people you are excited to be around and in an environment that celebrates the best things about our industry. No matter if it’s a Boot Camp for certification, training on a product, or learning a new skill like 3-D printing or wireless penetration testing, the hands on experiences of this event are unlike anything I’ve ever heard of in the industry.

The Presentations

Within five minutes of the first presentation kicking off by Blake Krone talking about RRM, we were already deep into the woods of technical talk and jargon. As Keith Parsons, the founder of the event, opened up the first day in the general session, his biggest advice to presenters (who make up 20% of the crowd) was to do away with all of the fluff. He showed a picture of a Jenga stack with half of the blocks removed, saying “your presentation needs to be only the important stuff.” He mentioned that everyone in the crowd already “gets it” and that we all have an understanding at a certain level of the technology or else we wouldn’t be here.

I can’t tell you how refreshing that is. 
It’s not that this group isn’t capable of putting up with newcomers to the industry or even welcoming them to sit next to us at events like this, it’s that we do away with all the sales and marketing hype and how the stuff is supposed to work and we get down to the meat of it. By doing that it makes the presentations much more impactful for people who are here to get the most out of three days at this event.

The presentations we heard have such a wide range of topics that it’s difficult to even recall everything without going back to look at the speaker notes. Throughout all 3 days of the conference we were treated to amazing talks on everything from: how to be a better contributor to the industry, how to be better at your job or highly technical deep dives into how POE and RSSI work to contentious subjects like Dual 5GHz Radios. It has been educational and inspiring.

Ten Talks

Sprinkled throughout the main presentations, the show features “Ten Talks” which are engaging quick jabs of information that are limited to 10 minutes. The presenters speak passionately about something until the clock runs out at which point they pass the mic on to the next presenter. Not only does this lave no room for monotony at the event, but it adds a ton of color into conversations, sparking people to think differently about everything they do on a day-to-day basis.

Whether it was discussing how a better quality laptop can help you load your favorite software in under 12 seconds or how much distance to alot for running varying voltages on POE cables, they circled in the same orbit of our day-to-day lives but with a different approach, bringing different perspectives. These “Ten Talks” brought up ideas and concepts that we might not be thinking about but are quite imperative to the tasks that we do every day.

I absolutely applaud Keith and the team at Wireless LAN Professionals on the diversity of the selection of content. Not only does it keep with the main theme of the event, but it pushes everyone in the audience to lean into things they might not have thought about.

The Deep Dives

Each conference attendee gets the opportunity to choose a deep dive that they can participate in. These deep dives give everyone some dedicated time to get hands-on with hardware in an instructor-led learning environment. You get to do something fun and educational and even take home your class projects!

Wireless site surveys, introduction to wireless penetration testing, and 3D printing were some of the options. You get to sit in a class with an instructor and a group of enthusiastic individuals while getting to apply your knowledge to a piece of hardware or software.

This element of the event is incredible. By taking you out of a listening & learning environment and giving you a task to complete with something you love, WLPC taps into that tinkering spirit that exists in so many tech enthusiasts. We don’t just want to hear about stuff, we walk to talk about it and do it too. WLPC encourages that.

The Networking

The networking here is incredible. Absolutely incredible. I am surrounded by some of the brightest minds in this industry at the current moment, as I write this on day 3. Everyone who truly gives a damn about what they do and wants to be better at their jobs are the kind of people that make up this event. You WANT to be here. You are not sent here, you are not required to be here, you WANT to be here, and so does everyone else.

The feeling of wanting to be better in your role, your contribution to the industry and to the customers that you serve, resonates with everything at this event. There are tons of opportunities to get together, grab a beer, have a very casual conversation and get to know people who you wouldn’t normally be in the room with. CEOs, CTO’s, VPs, and plain out normal people who are interested in technology and making it work the way it supposed to all share this common thread of wanting to be at this event.

The great regulator here is the desired to be involved. Educationally, emotionally, as a contributor, or as someone who just appreciates the opportunity, it puts everyone at the same table. It doesn’t matter where your from, what language you speak, or what position you hold, everyone is here for the same reason and that naturally lends itself into creating relationships, forming friendships, and getting to know people who have the same interests that you do.

I Can’t Wait ’til Next Year.

All in all, there’s not much else that I can say about this event other than, if you haven’t been here, I would highly recommend that you make it.

Start saving a few dollars now because this place is totally worth it. It’s easy to get to Phoenix (or one of the 5 other global events!) via a quick flight just about anywhere in the U.S. The price of the hotel, breakfast, and lunch are included, and you get to meet amazing people. You get to do amazing things and walk away with one of the most notorious swag bags in the wireless industry.

Thanks for including me.

This year we were fortunate enough to be featured in the bag with one of our Wi-Fi stands for every single participant. That means a lot to me; not just because Keith and the crew took a chance on me to to show off what we can do, but because it involves the spirit of the community that the event is all about.

This show and the community it serves are about people in this industry helping people in this industry. It’s about people using their minds and ideas to help make us all better at what we do and giving us a venue to show that off. This event is unlike any event I’ve ever been to, and I hope to attend every chance I get!

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