With VMWorld 2015 in the books, I thought I would do a sort of round-up post to collect my thoughts and experiences as a whole. I wanted to wait a week or so to let everything soak in and give me time to reflect on the event. Keep in mind that this was my first VMWorld and I’m sure that there was tons that I missed. This is also based on what I was hoping to accomplish going into this, which won’t be the same for everyone.
First off, there is never enough time at this this event – get used to it. Stop worrying about which session you’ll need to skip or attend, and make a decision and go with it. There were some sessions that I booked but decided at the last minute to skip due to various reasons. Unless it is a session where you want to talk to the presenter(s) after the fact, or have specific questions to ask during the sessions, you might as well not worry about skipping it as the sessions are recorded and available after the fact.
Next on the list is the social / community aspect. If you leave VMWorld without meeting at least 10 new people, then you are doing it wrong. Let me clarify – you can’t count vendors that you meet in the Solutions Exchange. I was amazed at how many new people I met – what is even crazier is when you realize that you know the person you are talking to by their Twitter handle and not their name. There were numerous times where I was chatting with folks only to find out that they are a well known author, blogger, or even a VCDX. Having that personal experience is something that you can’t replicate over Twitter or other social media means, however you can still use those mediums to get the ball rolling.
Know your limits – I’m not just talking about controlling your drinking at parties (but that is very important), but also don’t push yourself too hard physically. I was about 10 blocks away from Mosconne, and from Sunday to the end of Thursday I ended up doing over 125,000 steps (about 80 Kilometers). Luckily I had a great pair of shoes, and the backpack that was given out was well padded. I made sure to keep the load light, and my water bottle always had water in it. Along the same lines, be sure to get your sleep and schedule time for meals – there is no sense in attending sessions and not being able to retain anything because you are too tired or hungry.
Spend some serious time in the Solutions Exchange. I usually skip the vendors at the VMUGs as I don’t get much value out of talking to sales folks. The Solutions Exchange is stuffed with sales engineers – these are the guys who can give you all the detail you need, and if they can’t answer your question they know who to ask. Sure there is a lot of swag to collect (I personally don’t grab much as I don’t have much use for it), but you’ll find a lot of interesting vendors there with new products. One of my favourite questions to ask is ‘what makes your product special?’ That is usually enough to get the conversation going.
Lastly consider coming in a day early and leaving a day later if you can swing it. Sunday is traditionally supposed to just be registration and orientation for newbies. This year Tintri had their annual conference on the Sunday, which also conflicted with a handful of official VMWorld sessions that were pulled to Sunday, which also conflicted with the vBrownBag talks and panels that were going on. My point being that Tintri aside, there was still plenty going on to warrant coming in a day early. I also left Thursday afternoon to head out – normally I would have stayed over another night, however I was heading up to Vancouver which is in the same time zone and I figured that I would rather get the travelling done with. In hindsight, I would do that again, however if I had to fly back to Toronto, I would definitely leave the Friday morning after (hopefully) a good night’s sleep.
VMWorld has been a very unique experience for me as up until this point the largest event that I had attended was Storage Network World about 5 years ago. The value that I gained from this (networking, hands on experience, and product overviews / demos) was fantastic. Although it is far from an inexpensive trip, it was something that was well worth the money in my opinion (of course my company paid for the trip, so that helped). Hopefully I’ll see some of you in Las Vegas next year.