Love it or hate it, VMworld has moved back to San Francisco this year now that the Moscone Center has completed its renovations. For the last three years, the event has been in Las Vegas while construction took place, so make sure you are booking your flights to the correct city. :)
If you've been preparing for VMworld for any length of time, hopefully you've already taken advantage of the discounts by registering for the show with an early bird discount and by booking your flight early with advanced tickets. And, hopefully you've already booked your room at one of the surrounding hotels to the Moscone Center. Hotel rooms in San Francisco near the facility are not cheap, even with the VMworld discount. So if you haven't already grabbed a room, don't delay any further. If you try to book some of these hotels outside of the VMworld registration process, you could be facing prices of $800 or more.
HINT: If you can't secure a hotel within walking distance of the Moscone Center, VMware will be providing bus transportation to and from the Moscone Center from many of its VMworld sponsored hotels. Check to make sure your hotel (or a hotel near your hotel) is on the list. Be sure to find out where the bus pickup and drop off is located when you arrive.
Be prepared to do some serious walking during this event. You may be traveling from your hotel to any of the Moscone buildings (West, North and South). Identify where everything is located on your schedule once you arrive and be prepared to track some serious steps on your Fitbit devices.
If you aren't as worried about how quickly you can get to and from the Moscone Center and your hotel, you might consider a cheaper hotel a bit further away, and taking an Uber back and forth. For some, that may be an option.
I've seen some folks asking around on Twitter if anyone is looking for a "room mate" for the week. If you don't mind sharing a room, this might be another way to cut down on costs.
Before You Leave - Preparation and Packing
Make sure to plan and pack appropriately before you head out to VMworld.
There is a lot to do and think about, so get ready to make a list and check things off so that you don't forget something.
Remember while packing, leave some room for your VMworld back pack and any swag you might collect.
What Should I Wear?
The first thing to keep in mind is that San Francisco weather can change on a dime from the morning, to the afternoon and then into the evening. Looking ahead (for what that's worth), they are expecting weather in the 55-70 degree range. So, pack and plan to dress accordingly.
VMware says the dress code for the event is casual to business dress. But don't worry, the fashion police aren't walking around handing out citations for what you're wearing. Just don't take that as an invitation to wear just anything. Dress appropriately. 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).
For the majority of the time during the event, 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 for parties and other events, so don't let the San Francisco temperature changes 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:
- battery packs / sticks
- passport / ID
- flight information / ticket
- hotel information
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
Yes, even in 2019, 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.
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 catalogto 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 can'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!
HINT: If you attempt to signup for something and it is full, make sure to add yourself to the waiting list. If enough people sign up, VMware will typically either move the session to a larger room to accommodate, or, it may open up a second session on another date or 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. And keep watch on the app, if a session becomes really popular, additional sessions may get added and appear on the app, so keep your eyes open.
HINT: If you can't get in to a particular session know that most sessions are recorded and will be posted after VMworld.
The distance between the airport and the area in San Francisco where VMworld takes place is much further apart than, say, Las Vegas.
Before your plane arrives, think about and pre-plan how you intend to get from the airport to the conference / hotel. There are a number of options available to you. If you choose to drive, it is about a 14 mile journey and around 20 min. give or take based on traffic and time of day. A one way cab ride might cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $70-95. You could also use a share riding service, such as a shuttle bus, which might run between $35-50. Or, an Uber ride for around $30-35. Another option is to take the BART which might take a little longer, around 45 min. but only cost you $6-9.
HINT: If your schedule and wallet allows you to arrive a day early, do it.
We talked about VMworld starting on Sunday, the 25th, but for most (if you aren't attending for any TAM or Partner Sessions), you probably are thinking about showing up late Sunday or early Monday if you can swing it. For general attendees, Monday is when everything really kicks off. Sunday night is the Welcome Reception, but other than that, there really isn't a lot to do "show wise."
Getting their early will allow you to 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 a day earlier when the crowd is less like a herd of cattle, trust me. 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 San Francisco outside of the convention center while you can.
The other major benefit of arriving on Sunday is being able to attend Opening Acts and the VMUnderground Party and a host of other 3rd party events. Opening Acts is a community run event that provides community led education and panel discussions. Topics are wide ranging and worth the effort.
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 or take people out for meals, 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 for other things. Don't delay!
Hungry? What about Food?
There are plenty of opportunities for you to never have to spend a dime and still get your fill of food at the show.
- VMware will be providing meals -- although let's be honest, this may be your free option but it won't be quite as tasty as finding food on your own outside of the event. VMware will 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.
- Contact a Vendor -- 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? The surrounding area of the Moscone Center in San Francisco has a number of restaurants for you to choose from.
Want to venture out and get your breakfast on? How about:
- Mel's Drive-in (a great meetup place with vCommunity, vExperts and VMUG members) - 801 Mission St.
- Dottie's True Blue Cafe - 28 6th St
- The Grove Yerba Buena - 690 Mission St
- Samovar Tea - Yerba Buena Gardens - 730 Howard St.
- Honey Honey Cafe and Crepery - 599 Post. St.
- Sears Fine Food - 439 Powell St.
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 21,000 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.
HINT: Yes, VMworld attendees are your friend, but consider using a VPN when connecting to the various WIFI hotspots.
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.
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 230 sponsors and exhibitors at VMworld 2019, 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, the hall crawl, or the welcome reception. Go when it is less crowded to get some 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, a bike, cash or even a car. Yes, I said it. There were a couple of vendors giving away cars last year.
HINT: Check out IGEL as they are running a contest that gives away a Porsche Taycan this year. Go here and sign up with code: VMBLOG
Similar to years prior, the 2019 backpack is multi-functional: Use it as a briefcase, messenger bag, or a backpack. Whether you love your devices or still use old school pen and paper, the backpack has plenty of pockets that will accommodate your storage needs. Be sure to remember your USB charging chord and portable power bank, because this year’s backpack comes with a USB charging port! And it is made from recycled RPET 600D material.
Network, Network, Network
You are about to meet up with more than 21,000 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), vExperts, 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 VMworld attendees actually bite (simply avoid those -- you'll know who they are).
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.
Other conference hashtags to keep in mind:
#vmworldHOL: hands-on labs at VMworld
#vmworld3word: 3-word creative tweets
#vmworldselfie: selfie or group photos
#vmworldhackathon: Hackathon at VMworld
#vmworldfest: VMworld Official Party, August 28 beginning at 7:00 PM
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 30% on some programs).
This year’s offers and discounts include:
20% off select Live Online trainings scheduled for the week of August 12
25% off select On Demand courses
50% off a VMware Learning Zone (our 24/7 training hub) Premium Subscription
50% off VMware Certified Professional (VCP) and VMware Certified Advanced Professional (VCAP) certification exams and practice tests taken at VMworld
Try a Hands On Lab (HOL)
Remember to check out the Hands-on Labs while at VMworld. The Hands-on Labs at VMworld provide a nice complement to the sessions, panel discussions, and expert roundtables, offering a comprehensive educational experience. You can explore a wide range of today's most exciting topics with a VMware-provided machine or your own device, all with product experts on hand to provide one-on-one guidance. Earn CloudCred points for taking labs, visiting HOL Connect and interacting with product experts, and win prizes for each level of achievement.
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!
Lab modules organize content into consumable units of 15-60 minutes that you can take incrementally throughout the week at VMworld. You can complete an entire lightning lab in just 30 minutes. Self-paced labs are delivered on a first-come, first-served basis and do not need to be scheduled in advance.
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.
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: http://www.vmworld.com/en/us/index.html. And you can usually watch the stream in the community or meetup areas.
Have Fun and Party!
You are at VMworld to learn, but let's be honest... all work makes Jack a dull boy and Jill a dull girl. Have some fun and recharge more than just your phone battery!
- Kick off your VMworld experience at the welcome reception, sponsored by Veeam, in the Solutions Exchange on Sunday, August 25, 5:00 – 7:30 PM. Get your first look at 200+ exhibitors on the show floor, network with fellow attendees in a fun atmosphere, pick up some new swag, and enjoy delicious appetizers and drinks.
- A fan favorite, the hall crawl gives you the chance to get up close and personal with the VMware ecosystem, sponsors, and exhibitors in the Solutions Exchange. Participate in giveaways, get in-depth product information, pick up some free goodies, and socialize while enjoying snacks and drinks at the sponsor booths. The VMworld mobile app will include a map of the hall crawl so that you can plan your route. The hall crawl is Tuesday, August 27, 4 – 6 PM.
- Finally, enjoy VMworld Fest, VMware's must-attend party, Wednesday night, August 28 beginning at 7:00 PM. Plan to enjoy some food, drinks, games, and, of course, great music from headliner OneRepublic.
Remember, ask around and find a vendor party during the week. 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). And there are a few private parties only being made available to existing clients, which is why you should ping those vendors you are already working with at your company.
HINT: VMblog has captured and made available a list of VMworld 2019 parties, most of which require RSVP so don't delay.
Know about a party that isn't on the above list? Let me know, shoot me a message and I'll add it.
Find me and say hello! (I'm one of the attendees that doesn't bite).