August 17, 2017

VMworld 2017 Survival Guide - Key Tips and Takeaways for First Timers

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Key Tips for VMworld 2017 - A Survival Guide

In less than two weeks, somewhere north of 23,000 virtualization and cloud users are expected to converge on the streets of Sin City to take part in the annual virtualization reunion known as VMworld.

VMworld US 2017 begins on Aug. 27th, 2017 in Las Vegas, NV and the show returns to the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Convention Center.  The event will feature more than 500 unique breakout sessions from VMware and its community of partners and customers, and the expo hall will be packed by more than 200 vendor sponsors and exhibitors.  

As the show is nearly upon us, VMblog would like to send out its "survival guide" for those first time attendees or those individuals who might just want a refresher.  Here are a few tips and tricks to help make your VMworld event a little bit more successful or enjoyable.  

[ Also Read: List of Parties at VMworld 2017 | VMworld 2017 Hands-On Labs - What to Expect ]

Let's begin!



Let's get our bearings first.  Where are you headed?  VMworld US is still in Las Vegas... not San Francisco.  Hopefully you received a discount for booking your flight and hotel early.  Remember, the event is being held at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Convention Center -- a fantastic facility!  You'll be spending a lot of time here during the course of the event.    

The good news about it being held at this location is that everything will be centered in one area.  The bad news, this is Vegas baby!  Even if you are staying at the Mandalay Bay, be prepared to do some walking.  Sure, it's all indoors and you may never actually see the true light of day, but you will be walking.  Don't believe me?  Remember to bring your Fitbit device and be prepared to be amazed at how many steps you achieve from start to finish at this event. 

If you go to DisneyWorld, you will constantly find yourself ending up in a gift shop, by design.  In Las Vegas, you'll take a turn here and there and end up in a casino.  So, have your cash or chips at the ready!  Or, just keep those feet moving until you clear the temptation of bells, whistles, lights and screams (some good, some bad).

In Vegas, don't be fooled by maps.  If you aren't staying at the Mandalay Bay or Delano, but instead booked a room at a hotel next door or across the street, realize that the distance from one hotel to the next isn't your normal city block.  As an example, if you're staying next door at the Luxor Hotel and Casino, and you start out on foot, know that you've got quite a walk ahead of you. 

HINT: While traveling in Las Vegas, look for and take the Las Vegas Monorail which is conveniently located behind The Strip connecting various casinos.  Also, be warned, if you selected a hotel on the other side of Las Vegas Blvd (across the street), be on the lookout for the elevated cross walks.  They help a lot.

What about before you leave? 

Before You Leave - Preparation and Packing

VMworld Packing

Make sure to plan and pack appropriately before you head out to VMworld.

Content Catalog - Schedule Sessions

Be sure to choose what sessions you want to attend before you leave on your trip.  There are a lot of sessions, labs, training and other activities going on and you cannot possibly attend everything.  So, ahead of your trip, utilize the VMworld content catalog to map out your must-see sessions. 

HINT: Speed things up by using search to navigate the catalog by topic of interest.

Browse for sessions of interest, click to pre-register, and that's it... you are scheduled.  You'll be able see all your reserved sessions by clicking the calendar icon in Content Catalog.  If there is something you absolutely want to see, you better register for it ahead of time.  The popular sessions will fill up fast, and you'll end up being on a waiting list, waiting in line in case someone who registered couldn't make it.  They typically open it up if there are seats remaining about 5 minutes before show time.  That's also important to note, because if you registered for something, you aren't guaranteed a seat.  You still need to show up on time!

Choose your sessions wisely.  Depending on your level of knowledge, you'll want to carefully read through the descriptions (does it mention things like deep dives, technical, or overview), look at the speakers (title, bio), and identify the technical level of the session (business solutions, introductory, intermediate, advanced).

If you really liked the presenter, stay after the session is over if you have time and try to have a discussion or ask deeper or more specific questions. 

VMworld 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 VMworld Mobile App to help keep your schedule straight and keep you on task.

Whatever Should I Wear?

VMware says the dress code for the event is casual to business dress.  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 the job, as they say; but make sure you are comfortable.  You're going to be there a few days, and your main focus should be on learning and networking. 

HINT: I cannot stress this enough... make sure you pack and wear comfortable shoes! 

Remember when I said you were going to be doing a lot of walking?  Well, you're going to be doing a lot of walking!  And by bringing comfortable shoes, your feet will thank you later.  This is not the time to break in those cool bright colored orange shoes so that you get noticed as the cool kid walking the show floor.  If you bought a pair specifically for the show, I hope you've been wearing them and already broken them in. If not, you have a great pair of shoes for next year (as long as you wear them months before next year's show).

Like I 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. 

HINT: Don't forget, you will also be outdoors in the evenings and the temperature changes can catch you off guard. 

Do a little research on the weather forecast ahead of time.

Follow Your Check List

Follow your normal travel check list to make sure you've packed everything: 

  • equipment
  • chargers
  • battery packs / sticks
  • adapters
  • passport / ID
  • flight information / ticket
  • hotel information
  • etc.

And don't forget about doing a little house cleaning before you head out:

  • 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 VMworld 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 for your mobile.

Print / Bring Business Cards

Business Cards 

Yes, even in 2017, business cards can come in handy!  VMworld is an excellent opportunity to network and make new connections.  Don't get caught off guard without a business card because people will inevitably lose the small scrap of paper or cocktail napkin you end up writing your contact info on.

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 where they ask for a business card. 

You've Arrived!



Compared to some other cities (I'm talking 'bout you San Francisco), the distance between the airport and the Vegas strip isn't too bad.  That translates into less time traveling to/from the airport and less cost.

Arriving to Las Vegas by plane?  Think about and pre-plan how you intend to get from the airport to the conference / hotel.  Typically, I recommend looking into using a shared ride service like a Super Shuttle Service rather than taking a cab.  But a cab ride in Vegas isn't too expensive (should be more than $20) since the distance isn't so bad. 

HINT: Even better, look into using a ride service like Uber or Lyft, both of which support Las Vegas.

If you can arrive before the actual show starts, 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.  Or, do a little sight seeing and spend some time in Vegas outside of the convention center while you can.

Contact your partners and vendors ahead of time.  Let them know you are going to be at VMworld.  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!


Get to registration early.  With thousands of attendees swarming the small amount of self-check ins, I recommend getting to registration as soon as possible to find the shortest lines.  After you're checked in, you'll have plenty of time to check out Vegas.  Don't delay!  

Hungry? What about Food?

There are plenty of opportunities to never spend a dime and get your fill of food at the show. 

  • VMware will be providing meals -- although let's be honest, they've been suspect as of late.  But, if you're looking for free food, they do offer a number of meals from breakfast to lunch, in between snacks, light food during the welcome reception and dinner during the final night party.  
  • Remember when I told you to let your partners and vendors know you're attending VMworld?  Here's your chance to meet up with them and get taken out to dinner where they can wine and dine you.  Or, if one of them is throwing a party, try to score an invite -- they usually have food, drink and fun (maybe not in that order). 

Got some money to spend to fill your belly?  Mandalay Bay also has a number of restaurants for you to choose from:


What does Vegas have to offer?  Try the breakfast buffet at Mandalay Bay.  Or venture out and get your breakfast on at places like:

  • Eat - 707 E Carson Ave (at Downtown Container Park)
  • Egg & I - 4533 W Sahara Ave
  • Peppermill Restaurant - 2985 Las Vegas Blvd S (Convention Center Drive)
  • Hash House a Go Go at the LINQ - 3535 Las Vegas Blvd S (at The Quad Resort & Casino)
  • Denny’s - 3771 South Las Vegas Blvd

Or maybe you're escaping for lunch or dinner.  This is Vegas, a foodie town.  But here are a couple of ideas:

  • Burger Bar (I absolutely love this place, and you'll find me here at least once during this convention) - 3930 Las Vegas Boulevard South At Mandalay Place
  • House of Blues - 3950 Las Vegas Boulevard Mandalay Bay Hotel
  • Ri Ra (Irish Pub) - 3930 South Las Vegas Blvd. The Shops at Mandalay Bay
  • Bayside Buffet if you need to pack it in - 3950 South Las Vegas Boulevard Mandalay Bay
  • Tilted Kilt - located in the LINQ

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, VMworld will be packed with more than 23,000 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 hotels to be much better.  Some hotels will charge you a daily rate, but that won't stop everyone from connecting.   


You should have already planned out your session agenda.  These are the life blood of learning and no doubt one of the main reasons you're attending the show (and why your employer allowed you to go).  Time to learn something new.  But, don't waste time taking notes during the sessions.  Relax!  Pay attention and learn.

Pay Attention 

HINT: Many sessions will be recorded or copies of the materials may be downloaded afterward, allowing registered attendees to view them later. 

In fact, go here to catch up on previous VMworld on-demand sessions.

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 more than 200 sponsors and exhibitors at VMworld 2017, 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.

HINT: Visit the Solutions Expo while others are at Breakout Sessions rather than during lunch, hall crawl, or welcome reception. That's when it is the most packed and you won't get any one-on-one time.

Show Me the SWAG!

The Solution Expo is also the place to get your swag on!  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!

Participate in as many booth events, giveaways and contests as possible to get all the free swag you can carry.  You might even earn an Amazon Echo, a drone, some cool Star Wars geek out gift, or a car.  Yes, I said it.  There are a couple of vendors who are giving away a car!  

HINT:  You'll want to visit IGEL and Tegile Systems for sure.  

Network, Network, Network


You are about to meet up with more than 23,000 of your closest virtualization and cloud loving friends. 

Seriously, keep in mind that you are going to meet a lot of new people who have very 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 VMware employees (those people building the technology), VMware VCPs, 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 @.  

HINT: Lunch is a great time to meet new people.  Don't sit at the empty table (get out of your shell), find a table with people already seated and ask to join. 

Then, strike up a conversation.  Very few VMware attendees bite (simply avoid those).

Stay Connected with Twitter

The last few years I've attended VMworld, Twitter has been one of my primary "stay connected" tools.  You can learn a lot of the goings on at VMworld by following the #VMworld 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!!

Success depends not only on having industry-leading technology, but also on having the knowledge and skills required to implement it.  VMware offers numerous certifications to help increase your knowledge and refine your skills for the latest virtualization and cloud tech.  VMware Education will be holding multiple training sessions across the line of VMware products. 

HINT: If you participate in the certification programs at VMworld, you get a discount (up to 50% on some programs).

Check out the certification programs and pricing, here.

Try a Hands On Lab (HOL)

Remember to check out the Hands-on Labs while at VMworld.  The Hands-on Labs at VMworld complement more than 600 sessions, panel discussions, and expert roundtables, offering a comprehensive educational experience.  This year, they will have more than 85 new labs covering the complete VM product catalog, including product versions newly released at VMworld.  They will also feature Hybrid Cloud labs that allow users to interact with third-party services such as AWS.

One of the best ways to learn is by doing it yourself, and HOL not only allows that, but it also affords you the opportunity to collaborate directly with VMware product experts.  You'll have the opportunity to troubleshoot and walk through any technical difficulties while having someone there to answer your questions and help guide you through the process. Plus, if you participate at VMworld, you get to try new labs before they go public!   

Listen to the Keynotes

The Keynotes usually offer some "key" pieces of information that you'll want to know more about.  Want to hear about the future direction of VMware?  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 VMware executives.

  • On Monday, Aug. 28, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. PDT, the event will kick off with VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger and VMware COO, Customer Operations, Sanjay Poonen partnering together to shine a spotlight on the key technologies responsible for reshaping industries -- Cloud, Mobility, Networking and Security.
  • On Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, at 9:00 a.m. PDT, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger and Dell Technologies Founder and CEO Michael Dell will begin the session, followed by VMware CTO Ray O'Farrell who will highlight, with a team of technologists, the journey enterprises can follow as they undertake a successful digital transformation. The session will highlight the power of VMware, partners, and open source technologies, from the cloud to the edge. VMware experts will guide the audience through technology demos showcasing how VMware and its ecosystem are innovating in exciting and unexpected ways.

The Keynote is always a packed house.  So if you want to sit anywhere near the front, get there early.  If you're late, find a seat with good line of site and don't get stuck sitting behind a large column or the back of a camera man. 

HINT: If that doesn't work out, the General Session Keynotes will be available live via webcast at the VMworld homepage:

Have Fun and Party!

Party Time 

You are at VMworld 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 Sunday, August 27th from 5:00 to 7:30 PM, gather with old friends and make new connections.  Enjoy the evening’s hors d’oeuvres and beverages.
  • Check out the Hall Crawl on Tuesday August 29th from 4:30 - 6:00PM in the Solutions Exchange. 
  • Finally, don't forget the VMworld Final Party on Wednesday August 30th from 7:00 - 10:30 PM at the T-Mobile Arena.  Enjoy food, drink and fun!  For your musical entertainment, VMware is providing a free private concert with Blink-182 and Bleachers.  

Remember, ask around and find a vendor party during the week.  If last year is any indication, there should be quite a few choose from.  Some vendors will be vocal about it and make them freely available with registration, others may offer exclusive passes to their party at their booth to those individuals who seem interested in the product (i.e. sales prospects).

HINT: VMblog has captured and made available a list of VMworld 2017 parties.

Know about a party that isn't on the above list?  Let me know, shoot me a message and I'll add it.

Finally, don't forget to follow VMblog's live coverage of VMworld 2017 and follow VMblog on Twitter @vmblog. 

Find me and say hello! (I'm one of the attendees that doesn't bite).


Last modified on August 17, 2017
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, And co-founded, 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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