Your 2016 AWS re:Invent Survival Guide
There’s an art to getting the most out of one of the biggest tech events of the year. This year’s guide by Cloudability will help you work hard, play hard, and get the most out of AWS’ flagship event.
These guides are a long-standing tradition at Cloudability (see last year’s guide here, for example), and we’re proud to help many of the estimated 29,000 attendees have a solid time at re:Invent.
What we’ll cover
AWS resources might be scalable and adaptable, but our human bodies can only take so much learning, meeting, greeting, and partying before we bottom out. To keep the energy levels up, the good times rolling, and the knowledge flowing, we’ll cover some fundamental things to have in place to fully enjoy the conference.
This guide covers:
AWS is holding re:Invent 2016 at The Venetian: Palazzo, The Mirage, and The Wynn: Encore. There are no rooms available at these locations through the duration of re:Invent, but we have a few alternatives that might have vacancy.
We recommend checking out rooms at Treasure Island and Harrah’s, as they won’t be too far from the event. There are also suites available nearby The Venetian at its Intercontinental annex, but this is an expensive, last-resort option that’s relatively close to the event.
Extra note: on the main AWS re:Invent event page, there are also flight codes through Delta Airlines that can be redeemed to save on travel.
Your room will be your home base for the week. So, be sure to make it as relaxing as possible. Part of this is to make sure you pack the essentials. Another part is to bring that extra “something” for your temporary home away from home. Here’s some advice from re:Invent veteran Drew Williams, Sr. Finance Manager at Tinder.
“For that week or so, your hotel room is home. Bring things that cozy it up as much as possible as it’s the closest thing to privacy that you’ll get,” said Drew. “Also, we all know that after the party, it’s the after party. So if you’re hosting, bring what you need to have a good time till dawn.”
We’ve curated a list of travel essentials recommended by our road warriors at Cloudability:
- Aspirin/preferred headache medicine: This is a tech conference that expects 29,000 people to attend. It’s going to get noisy, busy, but most importantly, fun. Be prepared.
- Empty backpack in your suitcase: For the event swag hunters, you’ll want to bring an extra bag so you can catch them all.
- Business cards: Be sure to bring a box and a holder to keep them pristine.
- Battery packs: Recharge your devices without being tethered to a wall outlet.
- Chapstick/Lotion: Make a good impression. That, and casino/event halls typically blast the A/C which can dry out your skin.
- Comfortable shoes: Bring a pair or two. You’ll likely be walking more than usual, so bring a few extra pairs of socks as well.
- Earplugs: For those sensitive to noise, bring a pair or two for the flight, the expo hall, and the parties.
- Hand sanitizer: Unless you take the MozCon approach and fist-bump everyone, you’ll be shaking hands with great new people. Bring hand sanitizer for some quick cleaning.
- Dressing in layers: Vegas in December can get as low as the 30’s at night, and as high as the 60’s in the day. While it won’t be parka weather, definitely think through which layers and jackets you’ll want to bring to be comfortable both inside the venue and when you’re out and about.
- Mints and gum: No-brainer here.
- Cash: Bring some if you’re into the gaming scene in Vegas.
- Snacks: While there’s always the option of piling on the room service bill to satisfy late-night munchies, strategically stockpiling your favorite snacks to stash in your room can save on travel costs.
- Hydrate: Plan on bringing plenty of water, gatorade, and other replenishing drinks to re-energize and hydrate.
- Candle: For those spending a whole week in Vegas, bring a little bit of home to your room with a familiar scent. It helps fend off that weird “where the heck am I?!?!” feeling that sometimes hits when you’re sleeping at a hotel.
Drew also would like to remind this year’s attendees to have the right gear on hand to keep devices charged:
“Having the right power cords on you at all times is a MUST for the week of re:Invent. No one wants to be stuck all day with a computer or cell phone that is powerless!”
Most of re:Invent is within walking distance of the venue and its surrounding hotels and casinos. You’ll want to have this map of the Venetian handy, since it’s where most of the event will be.
But, between sessions, booths, and parties, you’ll be doing a ton of walking. Take the advice of our Director of Sales, Gary Ellingson. Over the course of four past re:Invents, Gary’s logging in about 120 miles in steps (he has measured every event using a pedometer).
His advice: “Trust in the doctor. Doctor Scholls.” If our power-networking sales titan believes in the gel inserts, they might be a good idea for folks planning on being super mobile throughout re:Invent.
It’s also a tech conference. All eyes will be on the numerous bombshells and announcements that AWS will make. People will forgive you if you leave the leather shoes at home and whip out the fresh, comfier sneakers instead.
How to fuel up
Las Vegas has some well known eateries, ranging from the gourmet, Michelin-star meals to seafood buffet madness, and even secret hole-in-the-wall gems that satisfy. Here are a few highlights.
Nothing is worse than trying to answer the question of “where should we go eat?” with your newfound re:Invent friends. Here are a few spots to start making reservations at at The Venetian and nearby:
- AquaKnox (5:30PM-10:00PM): It’s not just another seafood joint, it’s “global water cuisine”. Bring all your seafood fans here.
- D&B Brasserie (5:00Pm-11:00PM M-F, 11:30AM-11:00PM weekends): American-French updated brasserie classics are here, including a great dinner menu and late happy hour options.
- B&B Ristorante (5:00PM-11:00PM): Whether dining on the recent “ugly” gourmet, or diving into Mario Batali & co.’s other dishes, adventure awaits.
- Bouchon (6:00AM-8:00PM): America’s Best Chef winner Thomas Keller runs this dining room featuring raw seafood creations, desserts, and other French-inspired fare.
- Nobu (5:00PM-11:00PM): This is the time to take your new re:Invent friends to the most popular authentic Japanese restaurant in the world.
- SUSHISAMBA (11:30AM-1:00AM): Come for out-of-this-world sushi. You’ll likely have impromptu meetings (or munchies) when you’re at re:Invent so it’s really convenient that they’re open til 1:00AM.
- Picasso (5:30PM-9:30PM, except Tuesdays): If you’re looking for a place to dress up and look fresh (seriously– business casual not allowed), take a look at this French and Spanish-inspired restaurant.
- SW Steakhouse (5:30PM-10:00PM): Meat eaters unite– this place has been a favorite on Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate”. Add it to your own food list.
- Denny’s (open 24 hours!): If you want to expense multiple Grand Slams after partying with your re:Invent friends, you’ll want to do that here.
Meals to make a great impression
- Andrea’s (6:00PM-10:30PM): A delicious cocktail of amazing music, Asian-inspired gourmet meals, and a “sexy, social atmosphere”. Kick off the business relationship building here.
- CUT (5:30PM-11:00PM): To impress your contacts, take them to the official Wolfgang Puck steak house.
- Lakeside (5:30PM-10:30PM): Not quite Hawaii, but this island-inspired seafood restaurant can provide a more mellow place to do business.
For the businesses on a budget and wanting to fuel up quickly and affordably, we recommend:
- Hash House a Go Go (open 24 hours): It’s the LINQ’s link to authentic southern comfort food open all hours of the day.
- Fulton Street Food Hall (open 24 hours): This is the food court of royalty. It’s a chef-driven marketplace for any foodie on a budget to explore.
- McDonalds (open 24 hours): An American staple, available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the cheap.
- Chipotle (10:00AM-11:59PM): The signature build-your-own burrito or bowl can handle a quick lunch on the go, or a late night craving.
Some of these places are a ways from the main event space. So, be sure to plan in plenty of travel time to not miss out on sessions. Not even the new Reserved Seating feature can save you if you’re fighting off a food coma miles away.
Keeping it lean and mean
For folks wanting to maintain peak energy levels, and perhaps absolutely destroy the re:Invent 5k run, maintaining nutrition is key. There’s the indulgent, decadent Vegas, as we described above, but there are also healthy joints, including some with vegetarian and vegan options, to hit up to stay fit:
- Canyon Ranch Spa (6:00AM-8:00PM): part spa, fitness center, and restaurant, it’s a great place for the active re:Inventer to refuel before a big conference day.
- Vegetarians and vegans can find a lot of alternatives to the surf and turf fare at any Wynn and Encore restaurant. Just ask for their alternative menus. Or, check out this larger list for more places to try out (just keep in mind the travel distance from the conference!).
Pro-tip: Hacking the conventional meeting
Our own co-founder, J.R. Storment, lends this gem of advice: “Change things up and schedule a poolside brunch meeting on Friday after the week’s insanity has quieted down. By that time, you’ll be ready to get some sun and it’s often the easiest time to get on that busy someone’s calendar.”
While it’s pretty standard for events and conferences to provide your basic carafes and pots of coffee, The Venetian has a few more options available, including Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and some 24-hour cafes, like the Grand Lux. Cafe Presse and Espressamente Illy offer a bit more specialized caffeination.
Getting the Most out of the Sessions
Before the event: registering for your sessions
If you haven’t, it’s time to check out the AWS Session Planner and start choosing talks to go to. For the first time, AWS is allowing attendees to reserve seats for their favorite talks. We explain how you can use the new Reserved Seating feature within the re:invent 2016 Session Planner in our walkthrough article.
If you want a place to start, Cloudability will be featured in two sponsor sessions, which we highly encourage you to attend. The sessions and their waitlists are full, but we’re working on opening up more spots.
- ENT307 – Saving at Scale with Reserved Instances (Tuesday, Nov 29, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM)
- ENT202 – Driving AWS Cost Efficiency at Your Company (Thursday, Dec 1, 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM)
We’ve been curating interesting talks about key AWS skills and concepts to know. Feel free to check those articles out for some ideas, too. You find sessions about:
Some of our customers are excited about AWS sessions that dive into cutting-edge topics like deep machine learning, VR, and serverless computing.
“Machine learning is a tantalizing proposition which could flip modern computing on its head,” said Christian Roth, Director of Cloud Services at Shutterfly. “I am eager to see how deep learning can unlock unique opportunities in our industry.”
With all this advice in mind, it’s time to hit the Session Planner and start registering for interesting talks.
Coordinate walking times
According to Google Maps, walking between each venue can take up to:
- Between the Venetian and Mirage: up to 8 minutes
- Between the Venetian and Wynn: up to 14 minutes
- Between the Mirage and Wynn: up to 16 minutes
Please keep in mind that there are only 30 minutes between sessions during re:Invent. So with possibly 28,999 other people trying to get to their sessions, expect some traffic on foot. A great rule of thumb: leave early and walk briskly.
During the event: take notes like a boss
Whether you’re an avid note-taker, live-tweeter, or something in between, be sure to bring your device and a portable charger to last through the day. Event Wi-Fi and internet is always up to chance, so ensuring your note-taking app has an offline mode is crucial. Or, just use the good ole pencil, pen, and notepad.
Pro-tip: When at individual sessions, it’s better to use the cellular capabilities of your device or connect to the event Wi-Fi. Launching a personal hotspot is usually handy, but with thousands of other folks doing the same thing, we end up with wireless congestion that overlaps and bogs down everyone’s networks.
You’re going to meet a lot of great people. So, it’s best to be prepared. For the traditional route, remember to bring enough business cards. Don’t forget that the event goes through the week, and there are parties to attend nearly every night, so bring extra cards.
For folks with a bit more of a digital style, now is the time to start polishing up your social feeds, personal websites, Github accounts, and other worthwhile cred. If you were curious, it looks like AWS is going to use the #AWSreinvent and #reinvent2016 to track live content.
After a long day of learning, networking, and getting really darn good at AWS, it’s time to relax. By default, there are the flagship AWS parties to attend: Pub Crawl and re:Play.
You’re always welcome to sign up for the Cloudability t2.microbrews party. It’s our annual tradition at re:Invent held on Tuesday night at the Public House. Hope to see you all there.
New for 2016: To get into the spirit of AWS Lambda, we’re also going serverless…with our bartending. Attend our part of the AWS Pubcrawl (also at Public House) and grab a drink from our Serverless Bar!
Drew, of Tinder, also reminded us that it takes a level of balance to get the most fun and reward out of re:Invent:
“It’s all about work hard play hard, so make it a balance. Make sure to get out there and network with others and enjoy yourself, but also be on time the next morning.”
Other ways to hang out and have fun
For folks who aren’t into the usual party scene, AWS has a handful of other fun events. For the first time, AWS will hold a 5K re:Invent run. Other ways to chill include the Hackathon, Tatonka wing eating contest (a big deal for foodies and food fighters alike), and the re:Invent Harley Ride. More information about these side events can be found on the AWS re:Invent 2016 agenda.
Stay safe and have a good time
At the end of the day, your boss paid for your attendance to re:Invent to learn all kinds of great new things about AWS, to meet awesome people, and to have a great time. By all means, have a memorable time, but we recommend everyone be respectful to other attendees, vendors, and the AWS staff that puts this amazing show on each year.
Finally, visit us at our booth!
This year, we’ll be at booth #1821. Stop on by to meet the Cloudability team, talk about all things AWS efficiency and cost management, and score a comfy t-shirt. We look forward to seeing everyone there this year.