Next Saturday I’ll be flying out to Las Vegas for VMworld 2017. This is not my first time so I thought I’d write down some of the things I’ve learned and maybe some useful tips. I’ve been to VMworld in 2006, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and now 2017. I’ve been speaker in 2006 and 2007, and a speaker and customer panelist in 2016. While I really enjoy presenting, and absolutely love being on panels, I’m going to enjoy not having that added task this year.
This close to VMworld it’s a little late to talk about best or favorite sessions, the popular ones are wait listed by now. There are a few things I’ve learned about sessions though:
- Most sessions only have about 50% or so or registered users show up. If there’s one you really want to sit in and couldn’t get it in your schedule show up 15 minutes early and get in the standby line. There’s a good chance you’ll get in
- Starting shortly after VMworld (2 weeks or so usually) sessions will start being posted for attendees to view, with audio. So don’t sweat it if you didn’t get that one session on your schedule
- Also, since sessions will be available after the show, don’t miss an opportunity to take that meeting with someone you been trying to talk to, or continue an engaging conversion about something you’re passionate about or about to implement. VMworld is first and foremost a networking opportunity in my experience.
- If your company or boss expects to see that you attended the sessions you said you were going to then ignore the above suggestion and be sure you get to your session! You’re going to want to go again and don’t want to give your boss a reason to say no!
People have some very different ideas about how to take notes on sessions, some of that I’ll cover in the what to bring/not bring section below. A word on notes/pictures in sessions though
- As I said above, the sessions will be available after the show, so unless you need the information the day you get back don’t worry if you missed catching a note. You can look it up later
- You don’t need to take pictures of the slides! They’re going to come out fairly horrible in most cases anyway, and when the sessions are posted all the slides will be there!
Some pointers on what to bring (or not):
First thing, because I forget them in my room way too often, bring business cards! You’ll be meeting a lot of people and a lot of them you’ll want to connect with after the show. Yes you can put their info into your phone, but a card is so much faster in a lot of situations. Also, some vendors use them for drawings at their booths, having them on hand is faster than filling out one of the little cards they provide.
I’ve been on every part of the packing spectrum over all the VMworlds I’ve been to. I’ve brought way too much technology and once not enough. Some of the decisions around what you bring are going to be based on your work parameters as much as anything else. The time I didn’t bring enough technology had to do with needing to connect back to work for an issue and only having and iPad 2 with me and it not being a robust enough connection (at that time, the technology has improved).
Over packing mostly was from bringing too much technology I thought I’d need in the room to keep me busy at night. Honestly if you do VMworld right you’ll be busy networking and getting to know people late enough into the evening that you’ll pass out when you get back to the room, you don’t need much to keep you busy, the show will do that! Now, to contradict myself. Last year at a different vendor event I won an Intel Compute Stick, plugs into HDMI, Core M3, 4GB and 64 GB of storage. I’ll be bringing that to test out as a travel computer, at least for entertainment like Netflix, Plex, etc. I’m not sure I won’t fall asleep before using it but if I do I’ll write up something on it here.
I bring the lightest laptop I have that I know can connect back to work and my iPad mini for the plane. For note taking I’ve tried a lot of different things, and I find for me only 2 things work well, a real keyboard, or pen and paper. I like a product called Rocketbook Wave as my favorite pen and paper solution. It uses Pilot Frixion pens which are “eraseable” with heat or friction. It’s paper is made so that you can put the notebook in the microwave with a cup of water and erase the whole notebook at once. What ties the whole thing together is the Rocketbook app that can scan the pages and send them to different destinations. Each page has icons at the bottom you can check off to pick your destinations. I’ll be giving this a serious try out this year, if you want to try it the company site has pages you can print on regular paper so that you can test the app.
As far as packing itself getting to Vegas is easy, I don’t pack that much and don’t need a coat or anything like in San Francisco. I bring some Dockers, a couple shorts and polos. Bring really, really good comfortable shoes or your feet will suffer.
The trip back is completely different, I always end up with more swag than I planned on, and as a vExpert I usually end up with an extra bag among other things that take up a lot of room. It’s possible to put some stuff in the conference bag and use it as your second carry on of course. I fly Southwest and can check two bags, if you can do that on your airline or you boss will pay for a second bag then you can do what I do. I pack a good sized duffel inside my large suitcase that I check and use both to fit the swag. I also bring a small digital luggage scale to make sure I’m under the 50 pound limit on each bag. That may sound like overkill, but I’ve had to leave stuff behind after weighing my bags, shirts get heavy.
Bring a good spill proof coffee mug, the paper cups are small, and you can’t put them in you pack. I bring a Contigo West Loop, keeps coffee hot for hours, is easy to clean out and will fit in most packs water bottle pockets
The rest of the conference:
The General Sessions are must attend events, there will be new things announced and I like hearing them right away. If you’re not the kind of person that likes being in a room with 20,000 of your closest friends then you can catch it online and in some other venues than the main room. I don’t want to give places to do that because I haven’t seen confirmations on those rooms yet. Ask around when you get there. Sessions are of course important too, get to as many as you can. There are more things I find important to do as well:
- Networking – I have made some of the most important connections I have at VMworld and they have served me very well the last 13 years. I find the rest of this list to be the best ways do do that
- Solutions Exchange – It’s not just sales people and swag, although who doesn’t like swag. A lof of booths have real honest to goodness engineers there that you can talk to. Some of these conversations have led to people at a vendor that I can call when i’m stuck or have an idea I want to run past someone.
- VM Village (Hang Space) – I believe they are now calling the Hang Space the VM Village. Stop in and walk around. It’s a good place to sit if you need a break, or if you need a table to set up the laptop. There’s also usually coffee and stuff available. In here you’ll find the bloggers table, the VMTN community, the vBrown Bag sessions among other things. I stop by a few times a day or more to see what’s going on.
- The VMUG booth – VMUG is the best user group in the world. Stop by the booth, I believe it’s next to the VMware booth in the Solutions Exchange this year. If you’re not a member yet you can sign up (it’s FREE!) and find out what local group is near you. You can meet other members, leaders from around the world and the HQ crew. I’ve been a local leader in Buffalo since 2005, it’s one of the best things I’ve done to give back to the community.
- Go to the parties that you can, it’s a great way to meet people and make connections. Of course you don’t want to miss the big party on Wednesday night, regardless of what you think of the bands, it’s a good time and another way to connect.
I’ll be flying in on Saturday early and just hanging out with my crew from work, but if you want to talk or have questions hit me up on Twitter @Virtual_Tom. That is my least scheduled day and good ideas for things to do are always welcome.
Enjoy the conference, don’t stress too much (like I did my first few), meet as many people as you can