How to get the most out of VMworld
VMware’s conference, VMworld starts in less than a week in San Francisco.
The problem however with VMworld is that there’s far too much to see and experience that you can possibly fit into 4 or 5 days without converting yourself into some distributed processing kind of being which as far as I know is still a few years off.
So, you need a plan and a strategy to get the most out of it. Sure, some people are going on company money and may plan to get up late, see a few sessions and then get treated to beers at vendor parties and enjoy being out of the office for a few days.
Being an independent consultant means I’m paying my own way to be there so I really want to make the most of it as hopefully do most attendees. VMworld is a fantastic opportunity to get fully immersed in the world of virtualisation and take advantage of being in the same place with other like minded tech enthusiasts, so if you are like me getting as much out of VMworld as possible is pretty important.
So, we know there’s plenty going on, here’s a summary.
- Breakout Sessions – Presentations covering a huge range of technologies from VMware, partners and some independents.
- Group Discussions – Get together in smaller groups to talk about various topics/products/technologies.
- Keynotes – VMware gets to announce things and tell you what’s on its mind.
- Hands on Labs – Discover products yourself by sitting at a lab machine and following instructions.
- Certification Exams – Take the VMware product exams
- Meet the Experts – Schedule time with a knowledge expert to answer your burning questions.
- Solutions Exchange – See what the sponsors and vendors would like you to buy.
- Vendor Meetings – Many official and unofficial vendor meetings for attendees to find out what’s new.
- Customer Meetings – Many companies use VMworld as an opportunity to meet their customers.
- Parties – Vendor parties exchanging your eyeball time for marketing for beer. VMworld official party on Wednesday.
- Tweet/Meetups – Many official and unofficial tweetups of various groups at various locations.
- Saying Hi – Simply walking up to someone, be it VMware employee, industry guru or the person sitting next to you at lunch and saying hi
- Tourist Stuff – If you are new to San Francisco.
So, how do you manage your time to get the most out of VMworld?
Well, I suggest concentrating on what things you would most benefit from by actually physically being at VMworld and this means yes, actual human interaction and no, that doesn’t just mean parties!
Participation is the key word that you need to be thinking about during your planning and also when you are there.
If you are taking any Certification Exams then these should pretty much be top of your list.
If you need to attend Customer Meetings, these are probably not optional so should also probably not be missed
Group discussions are valuable as they are interactive. You get to ask questions, state opinion and be part of the story. Make sure you participate to get the most out of it.
Breakout Sessions are very good as you get to hear experts speak about particular topics but remember these are filmed and are available for viewing afterwards so I suggest you need to think about how sessions would help you when being there. If by going to a session you will get information that will help you to generate further discussions with people there then that’s a good use of your time. Asking questions during sessions or collaring the speaker afterwards is something you won’t be able to do if listening to the recording.
I’ve decided to concentrate on seeing sessions that look at the future (see my previous post) as this will allow me to then talk to people at VMworld about what’s coming up which will help me in my job to make better decisions for building IT solutions.
Keynotes are interesting to get the buzz of what VMware is all about and also what it hopes to be about in the future. They don’t conflict with any session times but the content will be available afterwards so maybe you can use this time for other things.
Meet the Experts are times you can build into your schedule to ask one-on-one questions from VMware employees, a great opportunity to ask your questions and get them answered by some virtualisation gurus. Also, a great group of guys to follow are the VMware Technical Marketing team, may of whom are presenting as well. I’ve met quite a few and they are friendly, helpful guys, who are nappy to answer your questions.
Hands on labs are great as you get to actually play with technology and get experience with the product in the flesh so to speak. VMware plans to open up the labs for access after the show so this may decide whether you take labs at the show or afterwards. There are some changes this year to help fit the labs into your busy schedule. All labs can be completed in an hour or less. Lightning labs are 15 or 30 minute modules of a bigger lab that you can take when you have limited time and come back and finish the other modules later. Also for the first time you can use your own device via wireless and run the labs from your laptop or tablet within the conference venue.
The Solutions Exchange is where the vendors get to pitch their stuff. Now, many attendees avoid the Solutions Exchange as they don’t want the hassle of getting spammed by vendors super eager to get your business. See the map to see how big it is! I think however the Solutions Exchange is very important and shouldn’t be casually dismissed. Walking the solutions exchange can give you great insight into the range of supporting technologies that you can’t get as easily by browsing vendor websites as its all presented in one place. Having to invite vendors individually to present at your company takes a lot more time. I would suggest first of all an initial quick walk around to get a feel of what products and services are on offer and noting which may be of interest for further exploration. Then either dedicate Solutions Exchange time or pop back when you have a spare 10 minutes to follow up on what you’ve previously identified. Also, you need to make the Solutions Exchange work for you. If you have limited time, drive the conversations with the vendors by your questions rather than leaving the talking up to them. Don’t be afraid of telling them you know enough of their marketing but want to know specifics about x, y, z or simply saying, “Sorry this product isn’t of interest to me.” and politely moving on.
Vendor Meetings are a great way to get up and personal with vendors and again participation is key so asking questions and finding out answers are key.
Tweet/Meetups This is your opportunity to meet your peers and chat about everything and for me is a vital experience of VMworld. Don’t be shy or afraid of speaking up. There are people from all over the world and so many companies and industries so a great knowledge sharing opportunity. You may be surprised how approachable some very recognisable people in the industry are so walk up and say hi. VMware has arguably one of the most vibrant IT communities so take advantage of being at VMworld to be part of it.
Parties are other more official networking events, certainly enjoy and have fun but remember why you are actually there and don’t land up sleeping off half of VMworld.
If you’re unlikely to get to San Francisco any time soon, maybe doing some Tourist Stuff is on your agenda.
So, to get the most out of VMworld you need to be part of it. Participate by speaking up & getting involved. Find the people who will help you learn and ask your questions.
Follow #VMworld for the latest information (which may be like drinking from a Fire Hose!)
See you there!