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How to Make the Most of Kafka Summit San Francisco 2019

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Kafka Summit San Francisco is just one week away. Conferences can be busy affairs, so here are some tips on getting the most out of your time there.

Expo Hall at Kafka Summit San Francisco


Go and check out the schedule. Spend a bit of time familiarising yourself with what sessions you want to get to, and mark them on your calendar. How do you pick which sessions to attend? My advice: diversify! If you eat and breathe Apache Kafka® internals, go to some of the Internals talks (because who wouldn’t want to know the gory details of Incremental Cooperative Rebalancing), but also broaden your awareness by going to some of the fantastic Use Case track talks, such as The Art of the Event Streaming Application: Streams, Stream Processors, and Scale or Using Kafka to Discover Events Hidden in your Database on the Event-Driven Development track. Can’t bear to miss out on talk X or Y? The great news is that they’re all recorded and available for your viewing pleasure online forever after.

  • Protip: go to the talks you want to go to, not the ones you feel you ought to go to—unless, you know, your boss who paid for your trip told you to go and find out about upgrading Kafka, in which case, you probably should. But in general, all the talks are going to be interesting, and you’re going to learn something wherever you go to.
  • Protip: by all means, block out a full day of sessions, but mark the ones that you really really want to go to. Why? Because there are actually five tracks at Kafka Summit, the fifth being the “hallway track.” Conversing about connectors? Discussing deduplication? Strategising about streams? Sometimes, you’ll find that those conversations just happen, and when you glance at your phone, you’ll want to be able to know whether to continue it whilst you’re in the zone, or if you’re about to miss that one session you flew all the way to San Francisco for. You know, like maybe this one. 😉

Don’t plan too much

As alluded to above, sometimes it’s best to just go with the flow. Conferences are one of the best places to chat with, interact with—dare I even say network with people using the same technologies you are. There are plenty of opportunities to do this, including the party on the first night, but oftentimes you’ll just want to have those conversations and follow your nose as to what’s going to be interesting and relevant to you. All sessions are recorded afterwards, so don’t worry about missing one—it’s the in-person chats and chance encounters that you won’t be able to recreate once you’re sitting back at your desk after the conference.

Say hello

Instead of getting your phone out, why not turn to the person next to you and say hello? Lots of people at conferences may be new to it or don’t know other people—so say hi, introduce yourself, and find out what’s brought them to Kafka Summit.

Remember that speakers are human, too

Go and say hello to the speakers. They generally won’t bite, and they will want to speak to you! Ask questions. Hopefully they like what they talk about so they’ll love to say some more about it. Don’t have a question but just want to say hi? Go and do it! Not sure what to say? Take a streaming selfie with them. Trust me, they will almost certainly not mind if you ask. 🙂

One of the great things about Kafka Summit is having a concentration of so many experts in one place, so make the most of it. Also, note that the best place to chat with the speakers is in the hallway, rather than at the end of a session when they’re trying to pack up their stuff before the next speaker, who is waiting to get on stage.

Know the logistics

The venue

Kafka Summit San Francisco 2019 is located at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square.

Coming and going

Kafka Summit starts with keynote talks at 9:30 a.m. that Monday morning, so you’ll probably want to arrive in San Francisco on the Sunday night before at the latest. There’s then two jam-packed days of talks, up until until 5:35 p.m. the following Tuesday, including this fascinating one from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

If you’re in town early, consider signing up for the half-day tutorial on September 29th, or make a week out of it by sticking around for the developer, KSQL & Kafka Streams, operations, and adv.Kafka optimization training courses.

Look after yourself

Conferences are intense. Drink plenty of water, and take time to step out into the daylight and fresh air once in a while. Don’t feel bad about skipping a session if you need to; just hang out in the hallway, chat to the vendors, grab some swag at the booths, or simply go outside and walk around the block to clear your head. There’s lots to learn and take in!


#KafkaSummit is the hashtag to use, and you’ll find plenty of people posting #streamingselfies too. In fact, you’ll probably find a bunch of people at Summit whom you only recognise based on their Twitter handle or avatar, so consider writing your own Twitter handle on your conference badge as well.

Enjoy it!

You’re going to learn a lot, have a bunch of interesting conversations, and hopefully enjoy a great time at Kafka Summit!

Don’t miss the last week to register with the code blog19 to get 30% off. See you in San Francisco!

  • Robin is a Principal DevEx Engineer at Decodable as well as an Oracle Groundbreaker Ambassador. His career has always involved data, from the old worlds of COBOL and DB2, through the worlds of Oracle and Hadoop, and into the current world with Kafka. His particular interests are analytics, systems architecture, performance testing and optimization. He blogs at and and can be found tweeting grumpy geek thoughts as @rmoff. Outside of work he enjoys drinking good beer and eating fried breakfasts, although generally not at the same time.

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