VMworld Tips for First Timers

Justin Bias bio photo By Justin Bias

VMworld 2017 is almost here!

In a mere 10 days I’ll be heading out to Vegas for my 3rd consecutive VMworld, and this year I have a few coworkers that will be attending for their very first time! A few days ago I found myself trying to pass on some of the lessons I’ve learned from the previous two years - what I consider as my keys to having a successful, productive, and enjoyable VMworld - and it struck me that the topic would be a worthwhile blog post, so here we are!

These boots are made for walking…

Seriously, I know you’ve read most of this advice in other places, and I hope this will serve as even more reinforcement for the idea: you are going to do a ton of walking at VMworld. This goes double if you happen to be staying at hotels that are further away from Mandalay Bay and you don’t want to take a cab/Uber/Lyft. I stayed at MGM Grand last year and was easily putting in 20K steps each day - that’s a huge difference from the steps I’d put in during a normal work week. Do whatever you can to make all this walking easy on yourself!

Bring comfortable shoes! If you’ve got the space in your luggage, bring two pairs and alternate them between days! Cushy insoles are a definite bonus.

Do NOT bring brand new shoes that you have not broken in. If you get blisters or arch pain or any other myriad of issues caused by new shoes then you’re going to have a bad time.

VMvillage

Slightly tied in to my last tip is this: take a load off once and a while! I mean it! Have a seat, relax, and just take in the moment and the atmosphere. There’s really no better place to do this than at the VMvillage. The Hang Space is chock full of places to sit back and recharge. There are games like table tennis and pool available if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s also a great area to meet up with friends or meet new people and strike up a conversation.

Other cool stuff you’ll find in the VMvillage is the blogging area, official VMware lounges for groups like Education and VMTN, VMware {Code}, and a bunch of other stuff. You can even grab lunch in here if you want to try something that’s not in the main buffet area.
Make sure you check out the vBrownBag Tech Talks in the VMTN Community area! These are quick presentations from amazing community members that will be sharing real world knowledge, experience, professional lifehacks, and so much more.

Burnout

I’ve been where you are; staring at the VMworld Content Catalog and Schedule Builder at the hundreds of available sessions and meticulously structuring your schedule so that you can go to every single session that you have interest in. Next thing you know your calendar looks like a wall with gaps that a mouse couldn’t fit through. This is a great way to burn yourself out. I won’t make a recommendation on how many sessions you should attend in person - that’s going to vary from person to person - but there’s a lot of information to digest in each and it can become mentally exhausting if you don’t break up your schedule properly. Also, most sessions, if not all sessions, are available to consume online in digital format after VMworld is over, so don’t be afraid to skip a session if you need to!

P.S If you happened to really want to make it to a particular session but it was full in the schedule builder, there will be a standby line forming outside the room maybe 10 minutes before it is scheduled to begin. Get in that line! I don’t think I’ve been in a session yet that didn’t get everybody from the standby line in and seated.

So, what might you do instead of grinding through sessions? Well, first off, see the above section about relaxing and the VMvillage. Meet and talk to your peers! I know social situations can be tough for some folks, but in reality you’re probably going to have a lot in common with most folks attending VMworld and the types of conversations you can find yourself having are really rewarding. Talk about the cool stuff you’ve seen or learned, talk about your experiences in general, and hell, share some “war stories”.

What else? Well, how about the Solutions Exchange and Hands-on Labs? Read on!

We’re gonna need a bigger boat backpack

The Solutions Exchange, or the “Land of Swag” as I call it, is a giant hall filled with booths set up by VMworld sponsors and exhibitors ready to talk to you all about their products and offerings. If you want swag, these booths are where you get it. Anything from t-shirts to stress balls to portable electronic chargers - the list goes on and on! Bring your official VMworld backpack that you’ll receive when you check-in/register in Vegas. Here’s a blog post about what the bag will look like this year. Oh, and you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the room in your luggage to bring it all home with you or prepare to ship it back via UPS/FedEx/etc.

However, be prepared to have your badge scanned if you want to collect on any of this swag. What does that mean? Well, the marketing folks at that booth will have access to your phone number and email that you signed up to VMworld with, and you better believe they’ll be contacting you after the event is over!

A lot of the vendors will be raffling off prizes throughout the week as well, though you may have to sit through a presentation to get a ticket. As far as prizes go, I’ve seen everything from Lego sets to drones to even a luxury car. Almost every instance I’ve seen requires you to be present at the vendor’s booth during the raffle to be eligible to win, so keep that in mind as well.

The most important feature of the Solutions Exchange, in my humble opinion, is the VMware Expert Bar at the VMware booth. Here you can have 1:1 chats with VMware product experts and ask all those tricky questions you’ve been aching to ask or just get great advice on product implementation and architecture!

Hands-On Labs

Want to get your hands on brand new VMware technology and take it for a spin, at your own pace, before they’re released to the public? Then these labs are for you! The best part about them? You don’t have to sign up ahead of time - just show up to the check-in desk, and if there is availability, you’re in like Flynn! It’s an absolute great way to break up your schedule or just switch things up a bit if you’re simply looking for a change of pace.

Of course there are some expert led labs, but they’re accessed and scheduled ahead of time through the schedule builder (listed as Hands on Labs - Expert Lead Workshops). They fill up extremely fast. Really, it always seems like they’re full within 2 or 3 hours of the schedule builder going live.

Let the drinks flow

There’s no better way to wind down after a day full of VMworld activities than to attend one of the many social gatherings/parties that will take place every evening. Most, or perhaps all, of these events are sponsored by VMware partners and exhibitors that can be found in the Solutions Exchange. Some of the events are open to anybody that can manage to register for them online ahead of time, but some might require you stop by a vendor booth and ask for a ticket.

Then there’s the big VMware sponsored customer appreciation party that will take place on Wednesday night. (Attendance to this one is included in your registration.) Food, drinks, games, music, and a couple of headlining bands. I’ll be honest here - this one can be hit and miss based on my experience. Two years ago it was at AT&T Park in San Fran and I thought it was a blast. Last year it was at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and found it to be pretty boring. This year it’s at T-Mobile Arena and will be headlined by Bleachers and Blink-182. There’s some more information here.

I encourage you to at least check out one event while you’re attending, and once again, try to be social! You can find a list of gatherings right here.

Final notes

Make sure you check out the VMUG Community when you’re out there! Especially if you’re not already an active member. Registration is free! It’s an absolutely amazing user community with an outstanding package of benefits if you subscribe to VMUG Advantage.

Also try to check out the VMware Code Hackathon that takes place on Monday night! More details about that can be found here.

I hope you found these tips useful, and if you’ve got any questions or want me to expand on anything then please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter.