As I have just come back from VMworld in San Francisco, I thought that I would put together some tips for first time visitors and some for people who have visited before… hopefully this will allow people to get the most out of the conference. These tips count for both San Francisco and Barcelona.
- Purchasing your ticket – make sure that you get the relevant discounts that you are entitled to… if you are able to book early, utilise the earlybird discount; if you are a VCP make sure that you get your VCP discount; the same counts for VMUG Advantage people and also Alumni (if you have attended two conferences before) – spending less on a conference is always a good thing
- TAM Day – If you are a TAM customer, then make sure that you register as one during the registration process as this will allow you to attend the TAM day which are a series of special sessions on the day before the main conference starts… these can include such things as road maps and exclusive sessions just for TAM customers. – this is only available for TAM Customers
- Planning your flights – if you wish to see a little more of the city you are visiting for the conference, then make sure that you add on an extra day to your trip… you may not get the chance to again
- Hotels – In San Francisco, you should aim to book a hotel from the VMworld Hotel list (something like the Marriott) as these are within easy walking distance of the conference and the local drinking establishments in town. For Barcelona, I would advise booking a hotel in Barcelona town (the conference centre is quite a way from the town centre) and utilise the free transport tickets that are provided.
- Planning your sessions – Use the schedule builder as soon as it opens to plan sessions that you wish to attend. My advice is to initially look through the schedule listing and apply to attend lots of sessions… this initial schedule building session could take up to 2 hours to complete (due to the amount of sessions). After a little while, you should go back through your schedule and re-evaluate the actual sessions that you really want to attend. Please remember that lots of sessions back-to-back can be very tiring and therefore you may wish to build in some time away from the sessions. The main sessions are all recorded and will therefore be available to view again after the conference has finished.
- Packing – if you are expecting to pick up freebies (or swag), then make sure that you travel light on the clothing front or bring along a second bag. Remember that if you are flying that you may need to have multiple checked bags and allow for the cost of them.
- Packing 2 – Remember that you will receive a laptop bag when you pick up your pass at the event and therefore this usually ends up being your carry on luggage… if you go out with a carry on bag, then make sure that it is small enough to place in your checked bags on the way back.
- Packing 3 – bring enough clothes, especially underwear for both the daytime and evening – often there are vendor gatherings or parties in the evening and therefore a change a clothes is a good plan.
- Pass Pickup – Registration and pass pickup often opens the day before the conference begins and it is highly advisable to collect your pass during this day to avoid large queues one the first day
- Pass Pickup 2 – you should receive an email with a QR code enclosed on it, utilise this to go through the ‘Express Check-In’ process to get your pass, during the first day of the San Francisco conference in 2014, this saved approximately 1-2 hours of queuing.
- TAM Sessions – at the time of writing, the TAM sessions were not included on the schedule builder – the session listings are available from ‘TAM Customer Central (TCC)’ – you can also use the TCC as a good hub away from the main hoards of people. Please note that the TAM Sessions are NOT recorded and therefore you may wish to give these higher priority than the main sessions (which you could catch after the conference). – these are only available for TAM customers
- General Sessions (Keynotes) – These can be some of the highlights of the conferences, where the new announcements are made etc. These start relatively early in the morning. As there can be thousands of people attending these, you should make sure that you get seated relatively early or you will end up being to one side or right at the back… the doors usually open 30 minutes before the session is due to start. If you are running late or do not wish to be in the main room for the session, then you can consider grabbing a seat in the ‘Hang Space’ as the sessions will also be televised in there.
- Vendor Parties – There will be a large number of parties laid on by vendors during the conference, these often include alcohol but some also include some good food. You may wish to register for multiple parties and then make your final decisions on which to attend a little closer to the conference. Also don’t forget to become a VMUG member and attend one of the VMUG parties.
- Sleep – the conference includes long days, with some days starting from around 8am and sessions finishing around 5pm or 6pm… after this is when the parties begin which can go on until the early hours of the morning. Do not be afraid to leave some of these parties a little earlier to make sure that you get some good sleep or you may end up burning yourself out before the end of the conference or falling asleep in sessions (snoring in a session is not a good thing to do).
- Hang Space – this is a very good place to relax, grab a drink and chill out. There are often games and items to take part in along with lots of seating… this can also be a good place to meet different people.
- Solutions Exchange – this is where all of the vendors stands are located. The main aim of the vendors being there is to get the information about their products out to the general public. They do this by enticing people into their stands using games or offers to win prizes. As an example, this year some of the stands were offering people the chance to win cars. You can quite easily spend hours in this environment, some people are lucky with prizes and others are not. Do not be afraid to speak to the vendors – you are more likely to get a good freebie if you engage with them. Also be aware of the number of phones call that you will receive after the event from the vendors. Allow yourself to look around the solutions exchange but don’t get caught up in there at the expense of sessions etc.
- Hands-on Labs – These are a great way to learn about a new product by actually playing with it. My advice would be to go to the Hands-on Labs during the day before the main conference starts as this is usually the quietest and will have less queues. Please remember that you can use one of their terminals or take in your own device to run it on.
- VMware Shop – If you are interested in some VMware merchandise and do not wish to spend the shipping fees, then take a look in the VMware shop at VMworld. I usually end up purchasing something from the shop each time I attend the conference. VMware books are usually 20% off during the conference but there is a whole host of merchandise available. Visiting later in the week can be quieter than on the first day.
- Food – In San Francisco this year, there was a lot of unhappy people with regards to the food being served. The breakfasts were often tasteless and really that nice, with the lunches consisting of a box meal with some questionable fillings in the rolls. During the Barcelona conference, there is only usually some pastries provided for breakfast but for lunch there are sandwiches and then a host meal section which include some very nice food. This year due to the food quality in San Francisco, a lot of people visited the local food establishments for their lunches… this means that there can be quite large queues for food. Sometimes vendors will sponsor breakfasts, and therefore taking advantage of these is worthwhile.
- Alumi Lounge – if you are an Alumni, then you will want to seek out the Alumni Lounge as an alternative to the Hang Space to grab a drink or relax.
I may add to this list as I remember more tips but I think that this covers most areas.