Preparing for VMWorld the second time around

VMWorld 20162015 was my first VMworld and it ended up leaving quite an impression on me. Prior to arriving, I read a lot of tips and advice for newbies such as myself. One of the big tips was a comfy pair of shoes … and I have to say that was good advice. After the week was done I looked at my Fitbit stats and found that I did something like 80KM of walking!

I wrote a post last year, and by no means am I a seasoned pro now, but I want to share some insights that I picked up from my first VMWorld.

Packing

Note what the weather will be like, as well as in relation to where you will be staying (e.g. walking to and from the venue). In SFO, things cooled off quite a bit a night, and a long sleeve shirt or light sweater came in handy. This likely won’t be the case in Vegas – however, it might still be possible that you end up somewhere with the A/C cranked all the way up. Regardless, take a look at the weather forecast and pack accordingly. If you plan on doing anything outside of conference hours, think about items such as hats, sunglasses, and maybe even sunscreen.

Other considerations when packing:

  • Laptop – there is a lot of walking; do you want to be carrying this around?
  • Charging accessories – Your phone will run dead; consider charging cables, battery packs, and adapters. I ended up grabbing a Belkin surge suppressor last year. It has some USB ports on there for easy device charging. It’s a great way to make friends quick 🙂
  • Business Cards – be sure to bring some; you can easily go through a stack of 100.
  • BackpackYou’ll get a backpack along with registration. Do you want to bring your own, or use the one provided? In the past, refillable water bottles were also provided.

With regards to your contact info, be very aware of the fact that vendors will be contacting you. I remember last year getting calls before the conference was over. You’ll see a lot of suggestions that you use a Google Talk number when you register, and some sort of throwaway email address.

Scheduling Sessions

One of the main reasons for heading to VMWorld is to further your education. When you take a look at the sessions you’ll find that you’ll have no problem filling up your schedule. With the amount talent and the sheer number of topics, you could pretty much pick random sessions and still end up in great room.

A word of advice, though – don’t bank on attending every session in your schedule. It just won’t happen. In a lot of cases, you’ll either have a decent size walk (at least this was the case in San Francisco, not sure about Las Vegas), or you can just as easily bump into someone and start having a conversation. Don’t worry about it – most (if not all) of the sessions are recorded and can be viewed at a later date. You won’t be able to have that chance encounter once you leave, so take advantage of it.

Certifications

One of the perks of VMWorld is the discount on certification exams. Personally, I don’t think VMWorld is the right time to write the exam. Unless you are doing it first thing, you’ll be spending the rest of the time either preparing for the exam and not taking in the present. If you do take it first thing and fail, then you’ll have that at the back of your mind all week.

Solutions Exchange

VMWorld 2015 Solutions ExchangeThe Solutions Exchange is the vendor space. Initially, I thought that I wouldn’t spend much time here, after all, who likes talking to sales folks? There is usually an opening event where they roll out the drinks and food and you can roam the floor. I highly encourage you to do this. Yes, there will be a lot of giveaways (and be sure to consider luggage space when you accept this stuff), but there is also a lot of great things to see while in there.

I quickly realized that I spent a lot more time in the vendor space than I would have ever imagined. I found myself talking to all sorts of vendors, and getting acquainted with offerings that I never knew existed. In some cases, it was also a great chance to chat with vendors that I currently use to bring up pain-points or look for solutions.

VMWorld is a big-time event, and vendors will likely send their best and their brightest engineers. Take advantage of this. My go-to phrase is usually something like ‘So, what makes you folks special / different’ – that gets me familiar with the product quickly.

Socializing & Parties

One of the biggest sources of hype around VMWorld is always the parties; whether it be the official VMware one, a vendor-sponsored one, or even a community driven one (VMUnderground / vBrisket), be sure to stop by. You’ll see all sorts of gimmicks, and you’ll probably end up getting double or triple booked, but let me tell you this: these are fantastic networking events. Some of the strongest connections that I made have been at these parties. Along with that, don’t fall into the trap of free booze – it is all too easy to lose yourself in the moment and end up paying for it later. This year especially since it is in Las Vegas, be sure to stay hydrated.

Along with the social aspect, I would highly recommend getting on Twitter and getting engaged. The event hashtag is #VMworld (note that there is no year along with it), and individual sessions use their session ID as the hashtag. Twitter is also a great way to find out about events that may be going on, or as a way to coordinate with other attendees.

VMWorld 2015 PartyDuring the day, be sure to stop by the Hang Space. This is what I would call a ‘vendor free’ zone where you can get in on some great conversations. vBrownBag will likely also be there recording videos, so be sure to check out their schedule once it is published and stop by for a recording. Last year I spent a lot of time here and was glad that I did. I saw great talks, and met some fantastic folks.

Now I say ‘vendor free’ because vendor employees will come in there, they just typically won’t try and ‘sell’. I had a fantastic conversation in the Hang Space last year with an engineer from a vendor that I had heard of but had no idea what they really did. We ended up chatting for about 30 minutes, no sales talk, and all of a sudden I realized why folks used their product and what good use cases were.

Wrapping Up

One final consideration is planning your trip home. You will be dead tired by the end of Thursday. Last year I ended up leaving early afternoon (despite the fact that my flight wasn’t until early evening) as I was wiped and was hoping to grab a nap at the airport (didn’t happen). I ended up falling asleep within moments on the plane and woke up when the attendants were handing out the customs cards.

This year I am planning on stay until the Friday. This allows me to attend sessions until the end, but it will also give me some extra time to either network with my peers (new and old), and give me a chance to recuperate a bit before heading back home.

If you happen to see me in Vegas, don’t hesitate to stop by and say hi. Whether it is your first VMWorld or your 10th, I would love to hear about how things are going.

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