VMworld 2011 in Las Vegas will kick-off in 7 short days! While the excitement continues to build for VMworld, it is important to not get too caught up in getting there, but make sure we are prepared for the barrage of information and events that await us on day 1. Last year was my first experience at VMworld, and it was in San Francisco at the Moscone Center, which is a HUGE place. From what I’ve heard from others that have been to VMworld in Vegas in the past, it’s a much bigger venue than Moscone, and that scares me. I can remember arriving at the Moscone on Sunday last year and getting checked in, and thinking where do I go, what am I supposed to do now? It can be very overwhelming, and I want to help you in understanding some steps that you can put in place to make your VMworld experience fun and not stressed out.
Pack Only What You Need
Right about this time is when I start packing, a week out from VMworld. My first time to VMworld, I packed way too much. I packed my full 15.6″ Toshiba laptop, and my 10″ Gateway Netbook, and way too many clothes. In reality you only need one computer with you, and if you have the option, go with the smallest one you have, preferably an iPad or tablet style PC. You might even get away with just having your smart phone, unless of course you plan on doing some heavy blogging. Don’t bring any books you don’t want to tote around with you everywhere you go. Speaking of toting things, forget bringing a backpack, if you don’t already know, you’ll get one as soon as you get there and check in at registration. There’s nothing worse than trying to lug a bunch of stuff through airport security and then carrying it around on your back for 8 hours a day, trust me, I did this last year. As a side note, I went through 3 VMworld backpacks last year at the conference, but from what John Troyer pointed out, the stitching is upgraded this year and it should be a better quality bag.
Be Prepared To Network
The real essence of VMworld is found in networking with peers from across the world who share the same zeal you do for virtualization. This was by far my favorite thing about VMworld last year and I’m looking forward to meeting at least twice the amount of people as last year. What’s nice is that the authors of your VMware books are there, the big time bloggers, vExperts, VCDXs, and Jason Boche are just there and are very willing to stop and spend 15 minutes chatting with you. I don’t know anywhere else that people are so nice and willing to chat with a total stranger and share their expertise. This is something you want to soak up while at VMworld, don’t pass up the opportunity to stop Scott Lowe or David Davis in their tracks and get some solid advice or just get to know them better, I didn’t meet a single rude person throughout the entire conference. There are also opportunities to get your book signed, or to buy a book and get it signed by the author. Last year inside the VMware shop, they had several different authors set up at a table for book signings, such as Scott Lowe, Eric Siebert and Edward Haletky. Make sure you get some business cards printed up with your Twitter handle, email address and web address on them so you can make good contacts and follow-up with them throughout the year, I’ve done this and it has worked to my advantage this past year. You can get some pretty cheap business cards made up online, or just head to Staples/OfficeMax and buy the business card paper and print your own. If you’re going to be at VMworld this year, you’ll most likely get a vDestination card!
Plan Your Schedule This Week
If you haven’t planned out your schedule yet, take this week and sit down to figure out what you want to do, where you need to be and what parties you’re planning on attending. What? You haven’t planned your schedule yet… you need to! I didn’t do very well planning last year and I paid for it for the first two days. There is so much stuff going on at VMworld, you can’t possibly keep track, unless of course you plan ahead. What you first need to realize is that you can’t possibly do or see everything at VMworld, it’s impossible. Last year there were so many things I wanted to do and I thought I could do it all, but I failed miserably. My opinion is that you don’t want to spend so much time going to the sessions. I would pick out maybe 3 or 4 that you really want to see in person, definitely don’t miss the keynote address, and then understand that you can always watch the rest on VMware.com shortly after the conference wraps. The two sessions I wouldn’t miss are CEO Paul Maritz’s keynote address and CTO Steve Herrod’s keynote address. To give you an idea of what VMworld looks like, watch the video below which is a summary of VMworld 2010, it should give you a good idea of what to expect.
Last year I spent the bulk of my time on the Solutions Exchange floor which was incredible. On the Exchange floor you can touch all of the newest technology related to virtualization as well as visit with some of the brightest SE and SMEs in the industry. Cisco had a huge booth, Wyse was a great booth, Veeam was huge and EMC’s booth was impressive, make sure you visit all of these booths if you don’t visit any others. Also on the Exchange floor you can enter to win prizes galore! I think I entered to win at a minimum 10 iPads last year, and came up short. However, I did win an 8GB iPod Nano just by getting my business card pulled out of a fishbowl, you see… business cards are a must! My good friend Luigi Danakos aka NerdBlurt came away from VMworld last year with 2 iPads and a Flip camcorder… unreal, very unrealistic, but hey you might get lucky.
Don’t Forget To Have Fun
There were times last year when I spent too much time getting from place to place, trying to do as much as I can and see as much as I can, that it really wasn’t much of a vacation. You’ve got a whole week, make sure to set aside time to decompress and chill out. There were 17,000 people in attendance at VMworld 2010, there are sure to be more that 20,000 this year, it gets crazy at times and if you don’t relax and have fun, you’ll go crazy. Make sure you attend a few parties, there are a ton of them going on it would be hard to miss one. Enjoy Las Vegas… there’s a ton to do in Vegas. I’m planning on spending some time by the pool at my hotel, in the spa, maybe even the gym, who knows… ok, that might be stretching it, but enjoy yourself nonetheless. VMworld can either be strictly a work trip or it can be a well balanced vacation, it is what you make it.
Check Out Spousetivities
If you are traveling with your spouse/significant other/domestic partner/soul mate/etc. (I think I covered all the bases), make sure the check out Spousetivities. Spousetivities is affectionately subtitled “The fun side of technology conferences” and was created by Crystal Lowe, wife of virtulization giant and author extraordinaire Scott Lowe. My wife participated last year and quickly met another vWife and they hit it off and ended up visiting museums and shopping together throughout the week. Spousetivites is loaded with different outings and excursions, there’s always something for every type. This year Spousetivities is sponsored by Dell Tech Center, eGoup, EMC, HP, HyTrust, Train Signal, vBackup, VMUG and The Virtualization Practice. Start off at the “Get-to-Know-You Breakfast” and meet other spouses that have been dragged along to VMworld, it’s a great place to start, no reason your spouse can’t enjoy their time too! Great job Crystal.
See You There
Make sure to watch this wrap up summary from VMworld 2010, it should give you a general idea of what VMworld looks like and sounds like for the most part. I hope this list helps you get a better understanding of what to expect at VMworld. See you there.