It’s August, and that means it’s my birthday month, NFL training camps are coming to an end and it’s almost time for VMworld! VMworld is the largest virtualization conference in the world with an average of 20,000 attendees annually, and if you plan it right, you won’t feel like simply 1 of the 20,000 in the crowd. There is so much to do at VMworld – from breakout sessions, to keynote addresses to hands-on lab time – that it can get pretty overwhelming. I’m going to help you understand how to prepare for VMworld – or any large tech conference – and plan out your trip so that you have the best experience possible.
How to Prepare for a tech conference
Attending a mega tech event like VMworld is all about preparation. Preparation is key. First off, you need a good pair of comfortable shoes – the kind of shoes that are more comfortable than they are good looking. Unless you are a flashy sales guy, VMworld is not about looking your best, it’s about being comfortable. This year’s U.S. show will take place August 26 – 30, 2018 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada. The venue is pretty big and you can easily rack up the steps. Not only that, but you can easily be on your feet for many hours each day while walking the Solutions Exchange Floor. Get some good shoes that you can walk and stand in all day. The show is literally sun up to sun down with parties at night.
The next thing you want to ensure you have is a good backpack that you can handle wearing all day long. You’ll collect many things throughout the day and you don’t want to carry it all in your hands. In that backpack you want to make sure you have a “VMworld Emergency Pack,” yeah, I made that up, but it’s true. So, what’s in a VMworld Emergency Pack? First off, Advil or Tylenol (disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, but these have helped me) for the aches and pains, a backup battery pack to charge your phone/tablet/etc., an extra phone charging cord, chewing gum (you’ll meet a lot of people), and any other personal items you might need. Between a good pair of comfortable shoes, a good backpack and a VMworld Emergency Pack you should be good to go for spending your entire day at a major tech conference.
How to Plan Your Days
VMworld can be a circus if you don’t plan your days appropriately. Now, some of us need to have every minute of every day at VMworld planned out, however, from experience I would suggest that you don’t plan too much out. VMworld is all about networking, meeting people and learning. You can achieve all three of those objectives with very little planning, but it’s important to plan nonetheless. There are many sessions that are worth going to, unfortunately many of them are scheduled at the same time so you have to choose what’s best for you.
Fortunately, VMware has a VMworld app that is fantastic and allows you to plan out your schedule for the day. Keep in mind most major tech conferences today have a mobile app. You may think it’s a waste to add to your phone – it’s not. At a major conference with multiple simultaneous sessions, the app is key to keeping track of what you’ve attended, and what is still on your list. Use the schedule builder to plan out your days. Find the sessions that are most important to you, and register for them early (show up early, too, if you want a good seat). On Monday and Tuesday, start your day with the keynote sessions which generally take place right after breakfast. Those sessions are a can’t miss opportunity to hear from Pat Gelsinger (CEO) and various CTOs (mostly on Tuesday) about roadmap items and the latest and greatest from VMware. At a major tech conference there is always a temptation to sleep through the keynote sessions, but don’t. If you want to make the most of your experience, you’ll want those big picture overviews from key players and motivators.
Spend the bulk of your time walking the Solutions Exchange floor and meeting vendors who will give you a demo of the latest and greatest tech they have to offer. On the floor you will also have an opportunity to meet other people in your career field – bloggers, vExperts, VMware personnel (Duncan Epping!) and other interesting people. Now, a note about the Solutions Exchange floor, be aware that every time you visit a booth, they want to scan your badge, and when they do, you will get an email from them and a call throughout the next year (there are over 300 vendors on the floor, do the math). Create yourself a separate email address specifically for VMworld so you don’t get your main personal email address spammed all year, because you will… all at the expense of a free t-shirt!
Most importantly, make sure you have fun. Go to as many community and vendor parties as you can. Some of the vendors give out party tickets on the Exchange Floor early in the week and most parties are on Tuesday nights. The food is good, the company is good and most have live music and entertainment (one year there was an incredible Michael Jackson impersonator). The VMworld party is awesome; don’t miss it. It is usually Wednesday night and there is food, a well-known band and just all-around fun. One year it was Imagine Dragons and Train performing at AT&T Park.
VMware puts a lot of time and money into making the show as good as possible, but it’s up to you to plan, prepare, and have fun in order to have the best experience you can. Keep in mind that every tech conference or tradeshow is an investment – of your time, and your money. Make sure you can show the value when you leave – it’s up to you to do so.