AWS re:Invent 2021
It’s hard to believe that it's already re:Invent time again!
For obvious reasons, 2021 is shaping up to be another unique year in the event's ever-growing history.
Over the years, I've attended more than my fair share of conferences in Las Vegas, but nothing prepared me for my first visit to AWS re:Invent.
It was (is) a madhouse!
Over 45,000 people, 5 Hotels, and 100s of sessions.
Sometimes it feels like Disneyland - you pay a lot of money to queue!
No matter how much the madness keeps coming (and growing!), it never stops me from coming back!
Over the years, I've picked up some useful survival tips. Some gleaned from my own experience, some from the brains of others.
So here are my top 10 tips - take heed and you'll get off to a flying start at the world's most famous cloud conference (and the famous Vegas strip!).
My Top 12 Survival Tips
1) Book Your Sessions ASAP Using The App
A big one to kick the list off.
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.
The first time I arrived in Vegas, I checked out which sessions I wanted to attend... then realised I could only get into a handful of them.
2) Overflow Rooms Work Pretty Well
If you can’t get into a session, look out for overflow rooms - 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!
3) Talk To As Many People As Possible
I'm normally in 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; 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!
4) Organize Meet-Ups In Advance
One of the best things about conferences is the number of people who you already know that will be there with you.
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 drinks) as possible beforehand.
5) Avoid The Shuttle Bus At Peak Times
There is a handy AWS organised shuttle bus that runs between the various hotels, but... there are horror stories of it taking over an hour just to get between the MGM and the Venetian.
I'd urge you to consider using one of the faster, albeit more expensive options (Rail, Uber, Lyft, etc).
They are still relatively cheap compared with the time you'll save... and, let's face it, you probably spent a fortune getting to Vegas in the first place.
Don't risk missing an important session for the sake of $30!
6) Leave The Strip For Food At Least Once
The strip and its numerous casinos are jam-packed with great bars and restaurants. But, sometimes it’s good to get away and try something new.
A personal favourite of mine is Hobak Korean BBQ. I try to get there every time I stay in Vegas. Great BBQ at a reasonable price, and it's only a 10/15 minute Uber ride away.
7) Don't Be Afraid To Talk To a Presenter
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 that they may be in a rush to get to the next session (like most people) so keep it concise, or see if you can agree to meet or connect with them separately.
8) Try Some Extra-Curricular Activities
AWS are nice enough to put on quite a few extra-curricular activities that are worth checking out.
My personal favorite has always been the, now infamous, Tatonka Challenge. 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!
9) Wear Comfortable Shoes
The hotels and conference centers are huge.
The Las Vegas strip is almost never-ending.
Everything is massive!
Like it or not, you’ll need to be on your feet a lot to get the most out of your experience.
It's a tiring mix of walking, standing and queueing.
Make sure you bring at least one pair of good quality, super comfortable shoes.
10) Rest in Overflow Rooms
All that time on your feet inevitably takes its toll, especially towards the latter part of the week.
There aren’t many places to take a load off your soles; you’ll see people just sitting down in the corridors, hoping that they can overcome the potent mix of jetlag, sore feet, and dehydration.
So, if you need to rest, head for your nearest overflow room and you’ll usually find a seat.
11) Less Can Be More
It's difficult to avoid the fact that it takes a long time to get between hotels.
Often, rushing around makes things less enjoyable too - that's not going to make you more productive.
Don't beat yourself up for missing a few sessions if you're feeling burnt out. It's the right thing to do.
12) Bring Your Own Tea
And finally, this one is largely for the Brits (and maybe Aussies & Kiwis) out there.
The tea on offer at re:Invent has a track record of being pretty ghastly - my advice would be not to bother with it.
Instead, bring your favorite variety from home and use the hot water they provide in between the sessions. Hey Presto!
PS - There are Starbucks all over the place, if that's your thing!