Additional VMworld tips
There's a lot of great blog posts out there for VMworld. I wanted to add my own thoughts about how to navigate that intense week. I'm also doing this as a community effort - please send me PRs to add your own insights!
What’s really important
Shoes, endurance, clothing
What if loud parties are not for me?
Twitter and vCommunity
But what about…
There are a lot of blog posts out there that give you VMworld tips. I did a quick google search and found links that are spot on and have lots of good info. Some of these are 2018 or older but the advice still resonates:
The following is a little bit different - it's part experience and thought process. It's how I decided on how much time I would spend at a certain activity and how I weighed one choice over another, in my past life as customer. There's also insight into things that don't apply to the general public, but navigating private commitments is essential to have fun too.
VMworld is full of decisions for every hour of the day. I’m hoping that by sharing these tips you will get more enjoyment out of VMworld!
By now you have probably heard that you shouldn't focus too much on sessions since most of them are recorded. That is true but it's important to understand which are not recorded. The ones that are not recorded are anything that seems like a workshop; anything that is a meeting, especially executive meetings such as the ones TAM customers get, and anything that is small or requires NDA. Small sessions may only get audio recording and when you go look for their video it's just slides with audio.
In general, apply this rule:
- If the session has information that you are looking for, and
- You think you may have questions that you want to ask at the end of the session (by the way, get up as soon as you have the question and make the line in the microphones, waiting and being 3rd in line may mean you don’t get to ask it!), and
- you want to talk to the speaker or at least be able to create a relationship and get their name
You should go to the session.
If you can take a meeting and sit down with an expert to discuss your case (2-way communication) instead of going to a popular session and watch the recording later, you should probably take that meeting. Remember to write down who you spoke with, and hopefully their title. As a TAM, it’s so helpful when you can give me the name of one of our specialists that you already established some communication with.
That is not to say that you should not go to sessions. For some things you need the information as soon as possible and if you don't go to the session you have to accept that the recordings are not going to come out very quickly. They will take at least a week and in some cases, it can take considerably more time before you watch all of them.
A common mistake that first-time attendees make is that when they see a session is full in schedule builder, they assume they will not be able to get in. This is false. People sign up for sessions and either decide last minute not to attend or they simply run late. There is always a standby line available for every session. 10 or 5 minutes before the session starts, the standby line is allowed to go in. Important corollary: showing up just even a little after when the session starts will not necessarily assure you will be able to get in! If you want to get a good seat at a session you should be there at least 10 minutes before it starts.
There are at least two dedicated timeslots where VMworld brings all the attendees to the expo floor and food/drinks are served right at the booths. This will be the loudest you will find this space. I actually prefer walking to the vendor booths with a customer after this because you don’t have to shout as much :’( and also because it helps bring back ideas for the future.
I always take time to find out what the latest hardware can do, who are the up and coming startups with new capabilities in the smaller booths, and seeing friends who may be working. VMware has a lot of VMware experts in the booths – every VMware tech has a booth and a person. For example, the retail booth will be in the Expo floor, and it will be easy to pull any other expert for whatever question you can bring. The demos tend to be high quality – pictures can be worth a thousand words!
Stickers, shirts and USB thingies will be all over the place. Make sure you have enough space in your baggage to bring everything back. I don’t really bring more than 3 t-shirts with me because I know I will get so many, just from walking around.
Vendors can talk to you without you allowing to be scanned. Be selective with your time and badge. You are giving permission to get contacted every time a vendor scans you. Some vendors are worse than others, but if you’re not interested, don’t let them scan you.
It is important to understand how much time you have to go from one session to another. It was worse in Vegas when sessions were farther away, but San Francisco is still going to have sessions over several buildings, and the Moscone buildings are big and have several floors. Going from a private meeting in a hotel to a session which may be in a third floor of the farthest Moscone building is easily going to take you 20 minutes and that’s walking briskly. If you know you have to transfer and get to another building, it’s best to leave 30 minutes between sessions.
What’s really important
For me, the most important thing you should be doing at VMworld is talking to whoever is around you. When you sit down somewhere next to someone say hi, ask them what they do and what they are working on, and what they're expecting to get out of the session/meeting you are both going to see. I call this group learning. You may find out more tidbits of information than what you originally came for and you can also have another person with whom to discuss the topic of that meeting. Please take this advice to heart. Each session you go to, the people next to you are looking for similar things as you are – treat each session is a loosely organized "birds of a feather" and once you find someone good, ask them what they are going to do next.
Shoes, endurance, clothing
Every VMworld blog post mentions shoes, but it deserves to be repeated. Bring comfortable shoes. I don’t use dress shoes unless I have already used them extensively and they are comfortable for walking 20,000 steps.
My favorite trick is to change my shoes when I'm done with sessions around 5pm. I go back to my hotel room, change out my socks, put on a t-shirt, wash my teeth and change out my shoes, take some time to call my wife and get ready to go out. This means you should have two or even better three pairs of comfortable shoes in your baggage and several socks. Different shoes pressure your feet differently and this way you don’t develop blisters. If you feel you are starting to get a blister, change your shoes before you do - that can make a huge difference as a conference with a blister is super painful.
There will be A/C all the time in the conference, so I’ll very likely always wear a light hoodie. Going back to my hotel room in the afternoon gives me the opportunity to get a heavier sweater which I didn’t have to lug around all day. SFO can get windy/chilly, make sure you check the weather before heading out.
Let's talk about parties since we already changed into more party friendly attire. There simply is no way you can go to every big party. More than likely you will go to 2 or maybe even three parties every night. In order to be able to do this, it's very important to understand when parties begin and when parties end. Most parties being held at public places will not kick you out, but they will allow the general public to enter and at that point the bar will just become a normal bar.
There are great community pages for the parties, here’s two:
There are some parties which are humongous. The VMUG party, Veeam party, and the VMworld party are traditionally big and can take a big crowd. This means that you can probably show up an hour after it starts and you will still get in (this is only guaranteed for the official VMworld party, which is the only one sized to accommodate every attendee). Other parties will be smaller and you either must arrive on time, or arrive 30 minutes or even an hour early. The Rubrik party is particular in that they always have an excellent musical act, so it gets filled up rather quickly and once it's full you are not getting in.
A very important aspect of VMworld and hosting 25,000 people in a small part of downtown SFO, with every partner and vendor in the ecosystem, is that there will be a lot of private parties. If you got an invite to a private party, it is a not a good idea to share a link that was sent to you amongst your friends. It is better for each one of your friends to request a party invite. This is because they may be checking your name against a list. Try to arrive early as extra time may be needed because of this, and I want you to enjoy the party, not wait 20 minutes in line.
Let's talk about the subject of party-hopping. Probably the minimum time to spend at each party is around 1 hour. If the party is good and you're having fun don't leave! The people make the party so if you're having good discussions, you're learning, you're having a laugh and a blast, keep doing that! If everybody that you're having fun with is going to another party and you signed up for it go right ahead and go with them. If everybody you're having fun with is going to a private party that you aren’t invited to, try to remember their names or other contact information and tell them you'll see them tomorrow. It's better for you to know that you are going to be able to get in without issues and not to walk 20 or 30 minutes for a disappointment at the gate and seeing everyone go in except yourself. I know this sounds harsh but trust me there are a lot of parties so you will not be out of options and people to have a good conversation with.
Some advice with San Francisco especially at night. At night, don’t cheap out and take a Lyft to your hotel. Uber and Lyft have excellent service in San Francisco. San Francisco is very much like any big city. Actually, I consider New York City to be safer! Having some drinks and walking through dark streets, especially alone, is a surefire strategy to get robbed. It is best if you always walk in a crowd, and if you must separate, let everyone know through text, email etc. so they know you are alright.
What if loud parties are not for me?
Parties can be fun. The speakeasys in San Fran are a fun bit of history and they serve mean cocktails. But personally, one of the most rewarding experiences is to have dinner with people that know more than you and be able to learn from them. If you can get a vendor to pay for dinner that’s probably the best deal but remember it’s all about the people. You might get more enjoyment out of going to dinner with other customers and each one paying their way. Just be aware that San Francisco is not a cheap city.
Twitter and vCommunity
Finally, and I can't stress this enough, make sure you use and take advantage of the vCommunity and all the Twitter hashtags. Twitter is a great way to disseminate information quickly. I will be very aware of at least #vmworld #vbrownbag and #vmworldhackathon hashtags during the events.
But what about…
There’s lots more to cover. HOLs for me fall in this category. If we just announced something interesting and there’s an HOL, go do it! Go in knowing it’s an hour of your time, but the important part is there’s a lab captain nearby who can answer your questions as you are doing it. If it’s something you already kind of know, your time is best spent elsewhere.
Hang space, maker sessions, the VMworld shop, CIO forum, TAM sessions, late night at the hotel lobby bars – you will hear names, activities and foreign terms all day. Ask me and I can probably guide you enough for you to decide if you want to pursue, but don’t be afraid to ask others or take a gamble and change plans. The conference is big and wonderful and chaotic all at the same time
Right by the time you are starting to feel comfortable, VMworld will have ended. I always say you get 5 quality minutes with everyone you meet, and you may not see them again. Don’t be afraid to ask for contact information – twitter tends to be what works since it’s public and non-committal. Most people are nice and it’s a very welcoming conference.