I have attended more than my fair share of conferences in Las Vegas but nothing prepared me for my first visit to AWS re:Invent in 2017. It was a madhouse! Over 45,000 people, 5 Hotels, 100s of sessions. Sometimes it was like Disneyland; you pay a lot of money to queue.
However, nothing would stop me going back this year to AWS re:Invent 2018! Here are my top ten tips, born out of brutal experience, to make the most of your time on the famous Las Vegas strip during the best conference in cloud.
- Book your sessions on the app as soon as you can
There are so many people at AWS re:Invent that you have pretty much zero chance to get into a good session if you haven’t booked it using the app before the conference. I arrived in Vegas, then checked out which sessions I wanted to attend …. Big mistake! If you are going to take notice of anything in this list, take notice of this one!
- Talk to as many people as you can
I was in the information gathering mode so I tried to talk to as many people at the conference as possible. I was very surprised at the variety of companies people worked at and I learned a lot about the different use cases and different scenarios people used AWS for. Everyone is there to learn and you never know, the person you talk to next may already have an answer to that tricky project you need to complete when you get back.
- Try to organize meet-ups/meetings beforehand
One of the best things about conferences is the number of people who you already know that will be there too. The trouble is, with thousands of people spread across multiple hotels, you’re not just going to bump into them on your way to the bathroom. It’s best to try and organize as many meet-ups and/or beers as possible beforehand.
- Forget the shuttle bus, use rail or Uber/Lyft/Taxis instead
There is an AWS organised shuttle bus between the various Hotels. There are horror stories of it taking over an hour just to get between the MGM and the Venetian. My advice is to use the many other options that are quicker and a lot less hassle. These options are cheap and when you take into account the money you spent to get there why skimp a little and miss that important session you really want to go to.
- Try and get out of the strip for food at least once
The strip is jam-packed with great restaurants but sometimes it’s good to get away and try something new. I always get to Hobak Korean BBQ every time I stay in Vegas. Great BBQ at a reasonable price. It’s only a 10 to 15 minute Uber ride away.
- Overflow rooms work almost as well (although busy)
If you don’t get into a session, look out for overflow rooms where they have a large screen and headphones for you to watch the sessions that are taking place. Some of the overflow rooms will have multiple screens showing different sessions so you can session hop just by walking a few steps.
- Don’t be afraid to go up and talk to the presenters
All of the AWS staff and other speakers are more than happy to talk to you about what they just presented. If you have a particular question get up there and ask it after they have finished, just be mindful they may be in a rush to get to the next session (like most people) so keep it concise.
- Try out the extra-curricular activities
AWS put on quite a few extra-curricular activities. My particular favorite is the Tatonka Challenge (that’s me on the left!). I was a bit dubious at first, but it was a hell of a lot of fun... and you know… free chicken wings! What’s not to like? Of course, your mileage will vary but have a look at the options and give one a go.
- Bring a good, comfortable pair of shoes
The hotels are big. The conference centers are big. The Las Vegas Strip is big. You’ll be doing a lot of walking, standing and queueing. Make sure you bring at least one pair of good, super comfortable shoes.
- Bring your own tea
This one is for the Brits (and maybe Aussies & Kiwis) out there. The tea is horrible, don’t even bother. Bring your favorite and just use the hot water they provide in between the sessions. There are Starbucks all over the place if you don’t mind that though.
Get planning now to make sure you get the most out of your trip to AWS re:Invent 2018. Finally, don’t forget, sometimes less is more! It takes a long time to get between hotels and rushing around makes things less enjoyable and productive so maybe skip a few sessions to make it a more fulfilling experience. Of course, I’ll be there, if you want to meet, let me know on @stacehipperson.
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