Your re:Invent 2014 Survival Guide
Hey! Are you reading this post in 2015? Check out our re:Invent 2015 Survival Guide for our updated list of tips and tricks!
AWS re:Invent can be overwhelming, especially for those who have never been before. So, we asked notable re:Invent veterans for their insider tips. Whether it’s where to eat, which talks to attend, or which parties to go to, read on for the scoop on surviving the biggest cloud conference of the year.
Planning & packing
Where to stay
Your best bet is the Venetian, as it plays host not only to the conference itself but to most of the after parties too. Didn’t get a discounted room before they sold out? The Mirage, Treasure Island, Harrah’s, and Caesar’s Palace are all close to the conference center.
That said, you’ll inevitably spend a lot of time at the Venetian whether you’re technically staying there or not. It’s a pretty huge place, so be sure you’ve bookmarked these links to help you navigate:
What to bring
Hopefully you don’t need a reminder to bring your toothbrush (but seriously, it’s crazy expensive to buy forgotten toiletry items once you’re there). Here are some additional must-haves beside the basics.
- Hand sanitizer: You’ll be shaking a lot of hands and touching a lot of doorknobs, banisters, etc.
- Moisturizer: No joke. Spending eight-to-10 hours in a casino can really dry you out.
- Emergen-C and Advil: Falling prey to a cold or headache can turn a would-be great conference into a massive pain.
- Healthy snacks: There are plenty of places around the conference to buy run-of-the-mill granola bars and pastries, but healthier snacks can be harder to come by—and opportunities for grocery shopping will likely not present themselves once you arrive.
- Mophie Power Pack: Keeping your devices charged for hours of use during the conference is key.
- Power strip: You’ll likely find that your hotel room is lacking in outlets. This will also come in handy at the conference.
- Business cards: Running out of these at such an important networking event can be a huge drag—bring twice as many as you think you’ll need.
- Gum: Is that spearmint I smell? Networking with you just got a little more pleasant.
- Backpack: The rooms are a 15-20 minute walk from the sessions, so if you need somewhere to stash your things, bring a small backpack or bag. Just make sure it’s small enough to fit under your chair in sessions.
- Comfortable shoes: You’ll be spending a lot of time on your feet during the conference.
This conference is huge, and staying in contact with your team as you spread out across the conference is critical. Group text message apps such as Slack, GroupMe, or WhatsApp can help your team coordinate session attendance, meals, meetups, and more.
When it comes to communicating more broadly with your fellow attendees, check out the the #reInvent hashtag on Twitter—it’s already buzzing.
At the conference
It’s never too early to start networking. Start posting about re:Invent on Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn up to 10 days in advance of the conference (so, uh, now!), then use a service like Calendly to set up times to chat.
On the day of the conference, don’t be shy. “Don’t overlook fellow attendees,” says Bernard Golden, author of Amazon Web Services for Dummies. “Many of them come from companies doing incredible things with AWS and can be a terrific resource to learn from. Of course, be willing to share your knowledge and experience so that both of you find the discussion valuable.” In other words, you can both benefit from a chat—so introduce yourself!
If you’re unsure where to start, “Look for the person in the room that no one is talking to,
says Justin Johnson, VP of Developer Advocacy at Keen.io. “They are usually super rad and appreciate that you took the time to say hi. That way you make a lasting impression instead of just getting another business card.”
But the networking doesn’t stop when the convention center goes quiet. “There are a bunch of private parties you don’t know about,” says Puppet Labs CEO Luke Kanies. “Find them, get invites to them. All the real networking gets done in the parties.”
Making the most of the conference means picking the best and most informative talks out of the hundreds available. If you’re interested in cost management, we encourage you to swing by our own two talks:
If you’re interested in additional topics, you can filter the re:Invent session catalogue by tag or track to start planning. And no matter your area of interest, make sure you don’t miss the keynote, which is often the source of big announcements or surprises.
If you want to learn the most you can, take the lesson off the stage. “Talk to AWS and end user speakers at end of sessions,” says Bernard. “I have made great connections and learned info they didn’t put into presentations just because I was willing to approach them after sessions.”
If you’re passed out in a corner, re:Invent isn’t going to do you any good. Consider bringing a Brita portable water filter to the convention center, which you can fill up anywhere and stash at your booth or in a bag when you’re not using it. For some additional hydration, try some fresh juice from The Juice Farm in the Palazzo at the Venetian as a pick-me-up in the morning or late afternoon.
But aside from that, “don’t bring food unless you have specific diet restrictions or are really picky,” says Justin. Breakfast and lunch are provided for attendees, but if you don’t see anything you like (or you just need an excuse to step away for a while), the Canyon Ranch Grill in the Venetian has some healthy options.
Keep the energy up for your electronics, too, by bringing along that power strip—charging stations are sure to be scarce, and you can share the extra outlets with your fellow attendees for some good karma.
Long story short, says Luke, “Never pass up an opportunity to eat, sleep, go to the bathroom, or charge your devices.”
It’s okay to take some time away from the conference. “Hit the pool at the resort to get a break from the buzz and all the indoors,” says Amandeep Khurana, Principal Solutions Architect at Cloudera.
Even if you can’t pull yourself away from the conference center, you should still make an effort to take some breaks. If your company has a room reserved at the conference center, you can use the space for a brief reprieve from the conference chaos. If not, pull up a chunk of floor next to an outlet to rest your feet and catch up on email while you recharge your devices.
Time to kick back
Almost everything you do this week will be at the Venetian, but what happens when you need to get somewhere else?
Walking is your best bet, says Amandeep. “I get some fresh air as well as not spend too much time commuting.”
If you need to get somewhere farther away, be sure to factor the long cab lines at hotels into your timeline. There is also Uber in Vegas, which might serve as a more convenient alternative.
If you play your cards right, you may not have to worry about finding a dinner spot. “Do what you can to get invited to evening mixers that are sponsored by companies or, even better, VC’s,” says Justin. “There are plenty of free drinks and typically enough great food to call it dinner.”
If scavenging isn’t your thing, there are plenty of restaurants in the Venetian at all price points, and several celebrity chefs with restaurants around town. For the less sophisticated foodie, the Heart Attack Grill and Public House are both sure to put hair on your chest, and the buffet at Wynn was voted the Best Buffet in Las Vegas. For what that’s worth.
To after party, or not to after party?
“To after party for sure,” says Amandeep. “Great way to meet other people working on similar kinds of problems in an informal atmosphere, connect, share ideas. At the end of the day, it’s all about collaboration and working together towards creating a better world.”
There are sure to be a lot of after parties to choose from—just be sure you don’t miss these highlights:
- T2.microbrews: Swing by the Public House on Tuesday to join Cloudability and Evident.io for our annual re:Invent party. After the success of last year’s t1.microbrews, we’re expecting a full room and a great time. Just remember to RSVP!
- The Pub Crawl. Join your fellow AWS’ers on Wednesday for a Las Vegas pub crawl of epic proportions.
- The re:Play Party. Last year’s re:Play party featured a little somebody called Deadmau5. What will this year bring? Only way to find out is to be there on Thursday.
No matter where you choose to after party, remember—it’s a marathon, not a sprint. If you find that you’ve partied a little too hard, buy some of these. Drink one before bed, and another in the morning. If that doesn’t work, you might just have to try this.
The Vegas experience
It is Vegas after all. Whether you’ve got time to kill (really?!) or have to pull yourself away, try to make your way to at least one famous Vegas attraction.
- Bellagio fountains: You’ve seen them in movies—now see them in real life!
- The Big Apple Coaster: For the adrenaline junkie.
- Sky Jump Las Vegas: For the real adrenaline junkie.
- Shark Reef at the Mandalay Bay: For when you tire of card sharks and want to see real sharks.
- The Neon Museum: Checking out the collection of iconic Las Vegas signs makes a great team activity.
- The Cleveland Clinic: Architecture buffs will love this—it was designed by Frank Gehry.
- Viva Vision Light Show: This light show runs every hour starting at dusk—and it’s free.
The city’s got a ton to offer—so take advantage of your time there!
What happens in Vegas…
Don’t let the scenery fool you: at the end of the day, it’s a business trip. While you shouldn’t hesitate to unwind with your coworkers after the long hours of the conference, you’d do best to remember that these are professional relationships. Just because “everyone else is doing it” doesn’t make something appropriate. Besides, keeping a level head will allow you to be the hero if anyone else gets into trouble.
Well, that’s it—the veterans have spoken. We hope that it’s enough to keep you alive and well-poised to learn at the conference—which is sure to be fun, educational, and absolutely insane.
See you in Vegas!