Your re:Invent 2015 Survival Guide
Whether you’re a seasoned re:Invent-er or a first-time attendee, you’ve never seen a cloud conference like this one. With over 18,000 registered attendees and its biggest venue ever, this year’s re:Invent conference is bound to be the most epic one yet.
With that in mind, we reached out to some re:Invent veterans for their wisdom on making the most of the madness. From getting into the best sessions to avoiding coffee lines, read on for tips and tricks for surviving and thriving at this year’s massive conference.
Planning your trip
Where to stay
This year’s event is once again being held at the Venetian. If you were lucky enough to snag a room, congratulations—because they booked up really early this year. You won’t find any rooms at The Mirage or Wynn/Encore either, but Treasure Island still has a few discounted rooms and rooms at Harrah’s are available at standard rates.
No matter where on the Strip you end up staying, knowing your way around the venue will be key to making the most of the conference. Keep these links handy to avoid getting lost:
- Map of the Venetian
- Map of the Sands Expo
- Directions to the nearest Walgreens (because you will want Gatorade at some point)
What to pack
Whether you’re an under-packer or an over-packer, make sure you don’t forget these essentials for your week in Vegas:
- Advil: Three days is a lot of conference.
- Backpack: Even if you’re staying at the Venetian, it can be a bit of a trek to get to the conference floor. You can avoid extra trips back to your room by taking the essentials with you in a backpack or bag.
- Business cards: Some say the business card is dead, but we say long live the business card. This event is a huge networking opportunity—bring extras and don’t miss out.
- Chargers: From checking the #reinvent hashtag to taking selfies with Werner, you’ll be using your devices a lot this week. Pack your chargers, and check twice.
- Portable battery pack: When it comes to keeping your devices charged on the go, “bigger IS better,” says Tim Prendergast, Founder & CEO of Evident.io
- Chapstick: You might find some for free at a vendor booth or two, but better safe than sorry considering the super-dry casino air.
- Comfortable shoes: You’ll be spending a ton of time on your feet, and blisters are a sure-fire way to ruin your week. Save your shiny new loafers for later and opt for shoes you’ve broken in.
- Earplugs: They’ll come in handy on the plane, and those with sensitive hearing might want to bring them along to the re:Play party.
- Extra socks: “Fresh socks are lovely before you head out for an evening,” says Colin Panisset, Tech Lead at REA Group. We agree.
- Hand sanitizer: Avoid the conference plague without resorting to fist bumps.
- Layerable clothing: “Some of the rooms are cold, some are hot,” says Tim. “Be prepared.”
- Mints: We’ve all met “the guy at the networking event who stands too close while he talks and has super weird breath to boot.” Don’t be that guy—bring some breath mints (although we can’t help with your personal space issues).
- Money: “Lots of it,” says Pavel Pragin, CEO and CTO of ClearScale. It is Vegas, after all.
- Snacks: There will be lots of food available at the conference, but finding healthy, reasonably priced after-hours food can be tough. When you’re famished after a long night of networking, some KIND bars can go a long way.
You should also be sure to leave a little extra suitcase space for the return journey—as Peter Sankauskas, CEO and co-founder of CloudNative points out, “You will pick up a bunch of t-shirts and other swag at the conference. Leave space.”
Coordinating with your team
With 18,000 people clogging up the escalators and over 250 sessions to choose from, chances are you and your team are going to get split up. When it comes to staying in touch, Peter recommends going old school, with phone calls and SMS: “Typically you want your phone on the Wi-Fi to save battery, but the Wi-Fi network is patchy. Stick with SMS until you get clear enough to use Slack.”
The morning of
What to wear
You’ll be making a lot of first impressions this week, and crafting your image plays a key role in doing so. Fortunately, as it is a tech conference, re:Invent attire can be fairly casual; “dress comfortably but respectfully,” says Colin. Remember to wear your comfortable shoes and clean, wrinkle-free clothes to make the best impression. Consider layering up with a blazer or sweater in case you get chilly, which can definitely happen in rooms with full-blast A/C.
There aren’t many hard “don’t”s, but avoid gigantic hats that will block someone else’s view in a session. And “no thongs,” Colin adds. “Aussie thongs, not what you’re thinking of—though those aren’t appropriate either.”
What to bring
As we mentioned above, you’ll likely want to take a small bag or backpack of essentials with you to the expo. Here’s what we’ll have in ours:
- Business cards: Why even put them in your suitcase if you don’t bring them to the expo?
- Conference badge: It’s entirely too easy to leave this lying on your bedside table. Be sure you’ve got it before you leave.
- Phone charger: It’ll be a long and busy day, and your battery will drain fast.
- Notepad and pen: There will probably be a complimentary notepad and pen in your hotel room. Toss them in your bag for jotting down session notes and contact info for new friends when you’re on the go.
- Laptop and charger: A laptop will be your best bet for taking notes during sessions. Plus, you can check email and get work done during break periods without hoofing it back to your room.
- Water bottle: There will be plenty of food and drinks available at the conference, but an extra water bottle is never a bad idea.
Planning your day
When it comes to making the most of the conference, planning is key. You can use the re:Invent Session Catalog to filter sessions by track, industry focus, and session level to find the sessions that appeal to you, then build and save a schedule accordingly.
How do you spot the best sessions out of approximately 250 options? “I look for a good mix of technical and social/cultural material in the abstract,” says Colin. “The best talks acknowledge the human element.”
Furthermore, consider how each session could benefit you: “How will this session make your life easier when you go back to work?,” says Tim. “Does it offer you an easier way to achieve the same results? Does it accelerate your career? Does it teach you magic? If so, GO!”
Here are some sessions we’ll be sure not to miss:
- The Science of Saving with AWS Reserved Instances (sponsored by Cloudability!)
- Enterprise Cost Optimization
- A Framework for IT and Business Transformation
- Efficient Innovation: High-Velocity Cost Management at Netflix
- Running Lean Architectures: How to Optimize for Cost Efficiency
At the conference
Getting into the right sessions
It can take quite a while to walk from your hotel room to the sessions, even if you’re staying at the Venetian. Factor in travel time and give yourself plenty of wiggle room for arriving at sessions in time, because they’ll fill up fast.
“Arrive early and get in line,” says Peter. “Sometimes they clear the room out, so being in the session before doesn’t help.”
This is especially important when heading to the keynote—be sure to arrive early so that you can snag a good seat in the massive hall.
Navigating the vendor booths
You’ll have around 350 vendor booths to check out this year, so give yourself some time to cruise the aisles. If it’s swag you’re after, be sure not to miss the opening reception: “Opening reception is madness,” says Peter, “but also when the most amount of swag is available.” If you spot some vendors that interest you during your swag quest, consider stopping by later for a longer chat; “During sessions, the vendor booths are nice and quiet–you can easily have an extended chat,” Colin says.
Overwhelmed by options? “Hit the Amazon central booth and meet the people behind the magic,” says Tim. “Ask them which partners they are excited about, and visit them first. There’s a ton of tech to see on the floor, so you need to plan your route and be diligent in finding things that meet your needs.”
Avoiding coffee lines
There will likely be some coffee stations around the expo. But if this year is anything like last year, you can still expect massive lines at the nearby Café Presse (especially during the break times between sessions). If you don’t mind a bit of exercise, you can actually save yourself some time by skipping the line and heading towards one of several coffee shops upstairs, such as The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.
Alternately, Tim’s got a tip for you—the Evident.io booth. “We have a lifetime supply of RedBull and other energy goodness.”
Connecting when it matters
Getting a moment with someone you want to connect with can be a bit of a struggle when you’re looking at 18,000 faces. That’s why we love this clever tip from Peter: “Create a Twitter list of interesting people ahead of time,” he advises. “Check it throughout the conference and make your own serendipitous occasions.”
Finding quiet places
The hustle and bustle of the conference floor can be a thrill, but sometimes you want to make a phone call, check your email, or even just sit and relax for a minute. Unless you know a vendor with big cabinets, “The best way to get away is to leave the Venetian,” says Tim. “Go walk to the canals, the Bellagio, or even to your room. That’s where you decompress — your sanctuary. Everyplace else, it’s game on!”
That said, sometimes you won’t have time to go too far. If you’ve got to stick around the Sands, the hallways on the upper floors are likely your best bet.
Between the food provided at the conference and the snacks available at evening events, you may not need to find additional grub at all. But if your tummy is a-rumblin’, there are plenty of dining options available at and near The Venetian and Palazzo:
- Cañonita is our personal favorite Mexican joint.
- Public House was voted the “best gastropub in Las Vegas” (and will be host to our party!)
- Del Frisco’s is an “AWESOME” steakhouse, according to Tim.
- The Tao boasts excellent Asian cuisine, and is a favorite of Pavel’s.
When the sessions are done for the day, it’s time to unwind, make some new friends, and enjoy the fact that it is Vegas after all at one of the many parties put on during the week. Unsure where the fun is? Secure an invite at the vendor booths: “Parties are put on by vendors… ask about them when they are scanning your badge,” Peter advises.
That said, we know of a few parties already—and will add more as we hear about them (hit us up on Twitter if you’ve got one we should add!):
- t2.microbrews: We’ll be kicking things off with our third annual t2.microbrews party after the first day of sessions comes to a close. Join us at the Public House on Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 7PM.
- Trend Micro EMEA party: Network and make new friends at Morels French Steakhouse on Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 9PM.
- Pub Crawl: Join AWS and its sponsors for a pub crawl of epic proportions on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 5:30PM.
- Riot Happy Hour: Meet new friends, enjoy some drinks, and play board games at the Palazzo Parlor on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 6PM.
- re:Invent After Party: Enjoy apps, drinks, and a DJ with Relus Technologies at the TAO Opium Room on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 8PM.
- AWS After Dark: Party with Redapt, Dell, and Juniper at LAVO on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 9PM.
- Bourbon, Cigars, & Jazz: Meet Endgame at 1923 Bourbon Bar for an open bar, cigar rolling, and jazz music on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 9PM.
- Cocktails and Appetizers: Join CliQr for snacks and drinks at V Bar on Thursday, Oct. 8 at 6PM.
- re:Play: AWS claims that this year’s party will be “bigger than ever.” Bigger than Skrillex? You’ve got our attention. Be there Thursday, Oct. 8 at 8PM.
The biggest party of the week will of course be re:Play, which is moving outside this year into the LINQ parking lot. Among the attractions this year will be music, video games, drones, and drinks, and if the re:Play parties of previous years are any indication, it’s guaranteed to be a wild time. As such, our biggest re:Play advice is to simply not miss it!
Past showing up, Colin advises against dressing too heavily—because ”chances are you’ll end up dancing around [with] your jacket piled up on the ground in spilled beer. Ick.” And speaking of dancing, that music is loud—”If you have sensitive hearing, bring ear plugs to lower the decibel levels,” says Tim. “Otherwise, get energized and have fun!”
Just remember to stay hydrated amidst the debauchery: “it’s very hard to say hydrated in the desert,” says Pavel; “the only way is not to drink alcohol and drink water.” If you want to imbibe anyway, try to minimize the inevitable hangover; “alternate water with alcoholic drinks,” says Colin.
While in Vegas
Chances are that between the sessions and the after-parties, you can keep perfectly busy for the duration of re:Invent without even leaving the Venetian. But Vegas has lots of fun, outrageous, and downright weird attractions to offer—if you find yourself with some time to spare, check out any of these Vegas must-sees:
- Bellagio Fountains: Pretty sure it’s illegal to go to Vegas without stopping by for a picture here.
- Gondola Rides: You’re not actually in Venice (hard to tell, we know), but sometimes it’s fun to pretend.
- The Gun Store: “Have fun shooting machine guns,” says Pavel. Why not?
- Heart Attack Grill: “They weigh you on the way in and the way out and paddle you if you don’t eat everything,” says Colin. “That’s just bizarre.”
- The Neon Museum: Also known as the Neon Boneyard, this is home to some historic Vegas signage.
- Pawn Stars: Tour the store featured on the History Channel’s popular show.
- Pinball Hall of Fame: If you ever played arcade games as a kid, prepare for a trip down memory lane.
- SkyJump Las Vegas: For the adrenaline rush and the bragging rights.
- Denny’s: For that inevitable 2AM Moons Over My Hammy.
Vegas, says Tim, “has been designed to nearly kill you—but not before emptying your wallet.”
When you’re out on the Strip, tuck your badge into a pocket rather than wear it around your neck; it’s an obvious sign that you’re a visitor to Vegas, and can make you a target for trouble that locals might know to avoid. Make a habit of traveling in groups; if a co-worker is ready to call it a night, don’t make them walk a mile on the Strip alone at midnight. The safety of your teammates is more important than your ability to get that one-last-drink in.
Once you’re back to your hotel, Tim recommends one last step: “When you return to your room, drink cold gatorade or other electrolytes.” Your future-self will thank you.
And as always, remember that it’s a business trip. At the end of the day, you’re there to learn—not acquire embarrassing new nicknames. Moderation is your friend.
Well, the veterans have spoken and that’s all for now. It’s going to be a big, crazy conference this year, so we hope you picked up a helpful survival tip or two. We certainly did!
We’ll be at booth #412 each day of the conference, so come find us for a t-shirt, demo, or just a high five—and don’t forget to RSVP for our party before it fills up!
Want us to set aside some time to meet with you? Fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch. Either way, we’ll see you in Vegas!
Meet us at re:Invent