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How to get the most out of VMworld – 2013 edition

August 20th, 2013

vmw-web-vmworld-social-media-toolkit-250x400-CTA VMware’s mega-conference, VMworld kicks of in San Francisco in less than a week.

Nearly 22000 attendees are expected so you can get some idea of the scale of the opportunity or the challenge you have set for yourself if you are attending. The problem you have is actually too much to choose from and too much to do and its just impossible to fit everything in.

So, a plan of action is needed to get the most out of it. I’m sure there are a few people on expensed trips who fancy a bit of sightseeing, quite a few beers, a lie in and oh, yeh, attending a few sessions and enjoying a break from the office.

I’m an independent consultant so I have to pay my own way to be there so want to make sure I use the chance wisely and I would think most attendees in our vibrant community are interested in the same. VMworld is a fantastic opportunity to get fully immersed in the world of virtualisation/cloud 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 togethers 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 being at VMworld physically 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 extremely useful 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. You can’t see any slides from a group discussion if there any and get an idea of what was discussed.

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’m going to be concentrating on seeing sessions that look at what’s on the virtualisation / cloud roadmap, i.e.. future stuff as this will allow me to then talk to people at VMworld about what’s coming up. This will make me a better architect by knowing what the future may hold to make better decisions for building the IT solutions I do.

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 but it does set the scene for VMworld and are pretty impressive and interesting mass mega-presentations.

Meet the Experts are times you can build into your schedule to ask one-on-one questions from VMware employees, an amazing opportunity to ask your questions and get them answered by some virtualisation gurus. 

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 is likely to allow access to the labs after the show so this may decide whether you take labs at the show or afterwards.

Labs are generally 90 minutes but you can take them in separate modules of 15-60 minutes each to fit in with your time. Labs are also being structured around some themes which have up to 5 hours to content so there could be a lot to get through.

You don’t actually have to do a lab only at the dedicated Hands on labs space, There are quite BYOD hotspots at Moscone West – Second Floor, Moscone North – Hang Space and also the Marriot Hotel Lobby next door.  You will need to bring your own laptop.

VMworld US 2013_Revised Floorplan_07-15-13 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 at VMworld 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!

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