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May 03, 2016

Citrix Synergy 2016 Survival Guide - Tips for First Time Synergy Attendees

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Citrix Synergy Survival 

Let's face it, it's been a wild 12 months for Citrix since last year's Synergy event.  But things appear to be taking shape quite nicely for the company, and I expect we'll get quite the education as to the direction of the company for the remainder of the year and beyond during Synergy 2016.  Things should prove quite illuminating.  But on a personal note, the one thing I will definitely miss at this year's conference will be Mark Templeton.  Not seeing and hearing him on the big stage or catching up with him 1:1 will be difficult after all these years.

But that means that conference attendees will also get their first look at the new Citrix CEO, Kirill Tatarinov.  Tatarinov, a 13 year veteran of Microsoft, where he was most recently Executive Vice President of the Microsoft Business Solutions Division, is putting the finishing touches on the company’s new plan.  Expect to hear all about it during the keynote presentations.Citrix Synergy 2016 takes place May 24-26th and this year the venue moves to fabulous Las Vegas at the Venetian and Sands Expo. Whether this is your first Citrix pilgrimage made to Synergy, or, whether you are an old pro and card carrying alumni member, I'd like to share a few tips and tricks with you to help make your coming event as smooth and as successful as possible.  I'm sure I'll miss a number of key tips or tricks, so please feel free to chime in to help others.

Let's begin! 

Preparation and Packing. 

Packing 

Yes, even before you leave to start your adventure, make sure to plan and pack appropriately!  Citrix says the dress code for the event is business casual (slacks, polo shirts, etc.).  But it really is up to you.  The fashion police aren't walking around handing out citations for what you're wearing.  But, don't take that as an invitation to wear just anything.  I would say, like most things, the attire really depends on what you're doing at the conference.  Dress for what you are doing at the show, but also be comfortable.  You're going to be there a few days, and your main focus should be on learning and networking.  However, I cannot stress this enough... make sure you pack and wear comfortable shoes!  Trust me when I say, you are going to be doing a lot of walking.  And by bringing comfortable shoes, your feet will thank you later. 

As we've said, this year's conference is in Las Vegas.  I realize you're at a conference, and for the majority of the time, you'll be inside the convention center.  But remember, indoor activities during the conference can crank up the A/C, so if you're the type of person who needs a light jacket to keep the chill off, remember to pack it.  And don't forget, you will also be outdoors in the evenings and the temperatures can catch you off guard.  Do a little research on the weather forecast ahead of time.

  • Go through your normal check-list: 
    • equipment
    • charges
    • battery packs / sticks
    • adapters
    • passport / ID
    • flight information / ticket
    • hotel information
    • etc.
  • Set your out of office email to notify people that you might be slow to respond (or won't be available, to contact someone else).  
  • Change your voice mail at work.
  • Download the Synergy App for your mobile device
  • Update your credit card company to let them know you are traveling -- may not always need it, but you don't want your credit card or debit card getting frozen or blocked.
  • International travel?  Make sure to get roaming enabled ahead of time.

Pack Business Cards

Business Cards 

Yes, even in 2016, business cards can come in handy!  Even if you don't want to swap physical cards with the people you meet while networking -- remember, you can't drop something digital in a fish bowl for a chance to win a prize.  And yes, there will be prizes.

Transportation. 

transportation 

Arriving to Las Vegas by plane?  Think about and pre-plan how you intend to get from the airport to the conference.  Typically I recommend looking into using a shared ride service like a Super Shuttle Service rather than taking a cab.  But unlike San Francisco or Los Angeles, a cab ride from the Vegas airport to the conference won't be as bad since the distance isn't as great.  You can also look into using Uber and Lyft, both of which support Las Vegas.If you're only coming in for the start of the show (Opens up Tuesday May 24th) -- arrive early on Sunday or Monday.  If you can get there on Sunday, do it.  Walk around and get the lay of the land.  That way, come show time, you know where everything is and you aren't scrambling to figure it all out.  It's a lot easier to register and get your badge on a Sunday when the crowd is a little less, well, like cattle being herded.  It's also a good time to meet up with friends, colleagues, vendors, partners, etc. before the chaos of the show begins. Contact your vendors and partners ahead of time.  Let them know you are going to be at Synergy.  Vendors and partners like to make face-to-face contact when and where possible.  So help forge a stronger relationship, and meet up with them to find out the latest.  And let them know what's going on with your company as well.  And remember, vendors like to throw parties, so make sure you get added to the guest list!

What about Food? 

There are plenty of opportunities to never spend a dime and get your fill of food at the show.  Citrix does a great job feeding attendees -- one of the better run shows I've attended.  They have a number of meals planned for you.  Breakfast, lunch and morning and afternoon refreshments will be provided on each full day of the Synergy conference.  Attendees are invited to the Welcome Reception on Tuesday, May 24, where heavy hors d'oeuvres will be served as a dinner experience.  Dinner will also be provided at the Final Night Party on Thursday, May 26. 

And remember when I told you to let your partners and vendors know you're attending Synergy?  You can always hook up with one of them to be taken to a restaurant or attend one of their parties where drink, food and fun can be had. 

Plan your session schedule ahead of time

The Synergy session catalog is available on the website and those registered for the event can begin building their schedule.  The show can be hectic, and you may not be able to stick to your schedule completely, but it is still a good idea to have a rough agenda planned out ahead of time.  You'll thank yourself later.

Download the Synergy Mobile App.  Should help with scheduling and keep you on task.

Don't waste time taking notes during sessions.  Pay attention and learn.

Pay Attention 

Relax!  Some sessions will be recorded, allowing you to view them later.  Check out the schedule for SynergyTV.  Presentations will also be posted and made available from your Synergy My Account tool approximately two weeks after the show concludes.   

Make time for the Solutions Expo. 

I can't stress this one enough.  I realize the first thing most people think of when they register for a show like this is that they need to fill up their schedule with breakout sessions.  And while those are absolutely wonderful, I want to make sure you understand that you can learn a lot by walking the Solutions Expo floor. There are dozens of sponsors and exhibitors at Synergy, each of whom paid a lot of money to have a booth at the show.  This is your chance to find out about a number of different software products that you may not have even heard of yet.  Don't just let them scan your badge and move on -- ask them for a demo and see the product in action.  Take advantage of the one-on-one interactions you can have with developers and those that created the product. This is also the place to get swag!  So grab a free bag on your way in, and start stuffing it with items.  Admins can walk away with a brand new Summer wardrobe of T-Shirts!Network, network, network.

Networking 

Remember, these are your fellow Citrites.  They are users with similar experiences and interests as you.  Trade war stories with one another.  Find out best practices you may not know about yet.  Help someone else out with your own personal experiences.  Meet Citrix employees (those people building the technology), Citrix CTPs, industry bloggers and reporters, community members, etc.  Ask the tough questions!  Or, just say hello and get LinkedIn with people to help build up your personal network.  Meet up with the folks you only know by Twitter handle, and get to know the person behind the @.  Lunch is another great time to try and meet new people.  Don't sit at the empty table (come out of your shell) and find a table with people already seated and ask to join.  Strike up a conversation.

Better yet, try out the Lunch Table Tech Chats.  At the Solutions Expo on Tuesday, May 24, Wednesday, May 25 and Thursday, May 26, you can join informal discussions led by volunteer Citrix User Group members and Citrix Technology Professionals.  Each Tech Chat table will feature a sign indicating the topic of discussion. Tables are arranged by technology solution: mobility management, desktop & app delivery, networking, security and cloud services - plus an open, anything-goes category called Speak Your Geek.  Tech Chats will also feature industry-specific tables with discussions exclusively for attendees in healthcare, education, financial services and government.  Pick up your lunch, choose a table and add your viewpoint to the discussion!

On Monday, check out Citrix TechEdge.  Citrix TechEdge is a free one day annual event hosted by top Citrix Support engineers prior to Citrix Synergy for our valued support agreement customers.  Citrix TechEdge will show you the insights from the experts on deploying, optimizing and troubleshooting your mobility, virtualization, networking and cloud computing technologies.

And don't forget Meet the Geeks.  These are other great ways to network with the technology experts.  Try out Match.Geek, attend Geek Speak Tonight, try the Ask the Experts Bar or attend a presentation at the Meet the Experts Theater. 

Stay connected with Twitter

The last few years I've attended Synergy, Twitter has been one of my primary "stay connected" tools.  You can learn a lot of the goings on at Synergy by following the #CitrixSynergy hashtag: talk about (and during) the keynotes, favorite session updates, valuable insights, freebies, party details, where to eat, etc.  Twitter serves as a pulse of the conference and helps attendees make wise decisions.  Help others, Tweet your own findings, happenings, etc. using the hashtag.  Got a question, give it a try and see if someone else will respond. 

Get Certified!!

Citrix certification is recognized as one of the most valuable IT certifications in the industry.  Enhance your professional development while attending Synergy: the convenient on-site Certification Center provides a unique opportunity to achieve recognition for your skills.  If you had registered for a certification prior to March 31, it would have been free.  But, there is still time to enjoy discounts.  Register for an exam between April 1, 2016 and May 23, 2016, and you can still enjoy a 50% discount. 

Try a Hands On Lab

Hands On Labs (HOL) are extremely popular!  Attendees learn to install and configure various Citrix products, and can do so at their own pace and ask the instructors questions along the way.  This is a great way to play with technology that you perhaps don't normally have access to.  Check them out, your self-paced labs await you!  But remember, they are popular, so it's important to register for these early.

After completing a self-paced lab, remember to grab the PDFs and take them with you.  You can do these labs again in your own environment, you can share them with co-workers, and they will act as a good reference throughout the year. 

If you want to take an instructor-led learning lab be aware you'll need to pay an extra $99 as part of your conference registration.  Doing so will get you access to up to three labs which are all taking place on Sunday and Monday only.  Also note, this training is BYOE, so bring your own Windows or Mac laptop and power cord to plug in and go.  Oh yeah, bring a VGA adapter as well.

If you can't come up with the extra $99, give the self-paced labs a shot since they are included in your conference fee.

Listen to the Keynotes. 

The Keynotes usually offer some "key" information.  Want to hear about the future direction of Citrix?  This is the place.  Want to hear about upcoming technologies straight from the horse's mouth?  This is your chance to see and hear from Citrix executives. The Keynote is usually a packed house.  So if you want to sit anywhere near the front, get there early.  If you're late, pick a seat where you have a good visual of one of those large screens instead of a big column or the back of a camera man. And if you're hung over (you know who you are), stay in your hotel room and watch the live streaming of the Keynote.  Hey, it happens.  We understand.  No judgement here.  :)

Wi-Fi, Connectivity

I hate to be pessimistic, but like any tech trade show, don't expect to count on the Wi-Fi connection for super speeds.  Remember, Synergy will be packed with many thousands of tech savvy people just like you.  And guess what?  Like you, they are all going to be traveling with multiple devices, all sucking away at the Wi-Fi spigot.  So don't count on being able to connect to the Wi-Fi at all times during the show.  And even if you do, expect it to be spotty and slower than anticipated.  Hey, it's a fact of life.  Also, don't expect the hotel to be much better.  Some hotels will charge you a daily rate, but that won't stop everyone from connecting.  

Have Fun!

Fall Out Boy 

You are hear to learn, but let's be honest... all work makes Jack a dull boy.  Have some fun and recharge more than just your phone battery! 

Enjoy the Welcome Reception on Tuesday, May 24, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., gather with old friends and make new connections.  Enjoy the evening’s hors d’oeuvres and beverages.

Check out the Beer Crawl on Thursday at 3:30-4:30PM in the Solutions Expo.  Enjoy a cold beer as you walk around the Solutions Expo for one last visit with show sponsors.  It's a great way to relax and revisit some of the great technology on display as Synergy comes to a close.

Don't forget, Synergy Park will be open on Tuesday from 11:00 AM-6:00 PM, Wednesday from 11:15 AM-5:30 PM and Thursday from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM.  That's where you'll find The Citrix Shop for great conference swag, the Social Media Hub and the Citrix Corporate Citizenship Booth, where you can Gamble for Good on the slot machine and win prizes for yourself while helping Citrix grant wishes to three local under-served schools.  

And if you've never been to Synergy (or heck, iForum), know this... Citrix really does know how to throw a party!  Make sure you have your badge with you (or you won't be allowed in), Thursday evening, May 26, at 7:30-10:30 PM, Citrix will transform downtown Las Vegas into a food and music festival exclusively for Synergy attendees.  Do not miss this party!  This year, they are providing a free private concert with Fall Out Boy.

Remember, ask around and find a vendor party!  HINT: You might check out AppSense and M7 Global Partners.Finally, don't forget to follow VMblog's live coverage of Citrix Synergy 2016 and follow VMblog on Twitter @vmblog.

Last modified on May 03, 2016
David Marshall

David Marshall has been involved in the technology industry for over 19 years, and he's been working with virtualization software since 1999. He was able to become an industry expert in virtualization by becoming a pioneer in that field - one of the few people in the industry allowed to work with Alpha stage server virtualization software from industry leaders: VMware (ESX Server), Connectix and Microsoft (Virtual Server).

Through the years, he has invented, marketed and helped launch a number of successful virtualization software companies and products. David holds a BS degree in Finance, an Information Technology Certification, and a number of vendor certifications from Microsoft, CompTia and others. He's also co-authored two published books: "VMware ESX Essentials in the Virtual Data Center" and "Advanced Server Virtualization: VMware and Microsoft Platforms in the Virtual Data Center" and acted as technical editor for two popular Virtualization "For Dummies" books. With his remaining spare time, David founded and operates one of the oldest independent virtualization news blogs, VMblog.com. And co-founded CloudCow.com, a publication dedicated to Cloud Computing. Starting in 2009 and continuing all the way to 2016, David has been honored with the vExpert distinction by VMware for his virtualization evangelism.

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