For the last five days in November, an estimated 50,000 people will be in Las Vegas for AWS re:Invent, which is arguably the world’s largest event centered on the cloud. Spread over seven venues in the desert resort city, what began as just another IT vendor conference in 2012 has now metamorphosed into a must-attend event for many. Having been to four of the past six editions of re:Invent, I can’t help but notice the change in its magnitude and scope over the years.
I’ve attended other conferences, many in Las Vegas, but none are as focused and well-attended as AWS re:Invent. Whereas most of them have host sales people crawling all over the place, at re:Invent, most of AWS sales staff are not given passes to attend. The people who attend this event can be broadly classified into business executives, technical executives, technical staff, vendors and partners.
Given that most attendees spend at least two full days there (plus at least one day of travel), this adds up to between 1.5% to 2% of your entire year’s work time. With this significant investment of time and money, there are some things you can do to make sure AWS re:Invent is worth it. Here are my top 10 tips for making the most of the event.
The re:Invent app is a must. Because the event is so big and there are seven venues to contend with, there will be scheduling changes. The app can help you navigate through all of them. You can check the agenda, look for announcements about added sessions, and more. In fact, starting October 10, on How to re:Invent, there will be a video about the mobile app you can watch on-demand. Don’t miss it.
You should plan the sessions you want to attend way in advance. Ensure that you pre-register for the sessions you want to attend. Always assume that most sessions will be oversubscribed and will not always have standing space, so get to the session room early.
If there isn’t room for you in a session, don’t despair. Some of the more popular sessions will be repeated or a repeat session will scheduled on the fly, so watch out for these. As mentioned in the first tip, the mobile app can really help you out with these challenges.
Having a comfortable hotel room with plenty of space makes a big difference. You might think you’ll only be sleeping there, but you’ll probably have your laptop or tablet for checking email, and you might decide to have one quiet night in your room to unwind. To get that kind of room in Vegas, you should book it as soon as you register. Or, if you’ve already registered, but haven’t booked your hotel, do it now.
Watch out for the insanely cheap rates. They might look enticing, but they aren’t always the best rooms. Also, if you need coffee right after you wake up, some hotels, especially the ones with low package rates, don’t have coffee makers in the rooms. When making your reservation, be sure to check if they have them in the rooms.
Depending on whether you’re a business executive, technical executive, technical staff and so on, the sessions and activities that relate to what you do at your company will be of the most value to you.
If you are a business executive, you should look for sessions that involve customer presentations. Actual case studies give you more insights into how solutions work in the real world. And, after those sessions, you could meet with those customers to dig even deeper into their experiences.
If you are an AWS customer, potential customer, or partner, you want to look for the executive meetings, which are not necessarily on the agenda. Most senior AWS executives will be available to you at this event. Not only that, but you can have meetings with fellow customers and other partners of AWS at this event.
If you have a technical role, re:Invent offers you the opportunity to test all the AWS services, participate in hackathons, and earn certifications onsite. Don’t wait until you arrive at re:Invent to prepare for the certification. Prepare for it now and take it at the event.
The keynotes are a must-attend. Every new AWS initiative, solution, and roadmaps will be announced by AWS executives, such as Andy Jassy and Dr. Werner Vogels, at these sessions. Keynotes are always full. To get a good seat, arrive at the venue at least 30 minutes in advance. Although never as good as watching it where it’s happening, there are spillover venues around the main venue where the keynote will be livestreamed if you don’t get there in time to get a seat. If you’re a customer or partner executive, you can contact your AWS rep for reserved seating for the keynotes.
AWS re:Invent has a plethora of after-event activities every evening. There are regional get-togethers, vertical-based gatherings, pub crawls, an EDM concert, Midnight Madness, and more. Some of these events may be crowded, so a back-up socializing and networking plan is a good idea. Whether you’re going alone or with a group of colleagues and friends, try to meet new people and network. It’s amazing how many of the attendees you meet while having fun can help you later in your career.
The key to having a successful set of meetings at re:Invent is to engage with the AWS representative assigned to your account. Work with him or her on your objectives and set meetings with defined outcomes so he or she can guide you to the right AWS executives, other customers and partners. Start working on this early since most AWS executives will have a full calendar. It will also work in your favor if you know in advance who you want to meet from AWS or who you want to meet from the various partners or customers.
Visiting the partner exhibits is important. AWS partners—like TmaxSoft—have a lot to offer attendees, such as a chance to preview nex-gen technology or discover a new innovation. A good idea is to go through the list of sponsors and exhibitors to choose which booths or exhibits you want to visit. This is also a good time to set up meetings with the senior executives of the sponsors.
Try not to be attracted by the free SWAG or drawings for iPads or other technologies. You are giving away your valuable contact information when you scan your badge and are sentencing yourself to an inbox full of unwanted emails.
You’ll need to keep logistics in mind the entire time. With the multiple venues, you will have to plan for movement from one venue to another and that can be taxing. Always know beforehand the choices you have. Vegas is a small city, but it is quite congested and taxis tend to always take you on the long route to maximize their charges. Each venue is massive by itself, and it can take a long time to walk to different rooms in the main venue. Although there are shuttles between some of the venues and for the planned evening events, the main choices of transportation are the monorail and the cabs. Sometimes, you might find it quicker to walk from one hotel to the other.
Although you’re attending AWS re:Invent to learn, make new contacts, and do business, you should remember you’re in Vegas, so that means enjoying yourself, too. The great team that puts together this event makes sure to offer out-of-the ordinary activities like Broomball, a Harley Ride, 4K and 8K Runs, and more. But if those things don’t appeal, take some time experience the ambience of Las Vegas. Visit a casino or two, check out the Gangster Museum, or just walk down the strip and take in all the neon.
Whatever your agenda is at re:Invent, if you follow these tips, you’ll benefit from all this amazing event has to offer. And, when you’re there, be sure to find TmaxSoft. We are in booth #635 in the Expo Hall.
Moses Mathuram is the Vice President of Global Channels and Partnerships for TmaxSoft. In this role, Moses is responsible for enhancing and developing TmaxSoft’s global networks and alliances in addition to owning the overall channel strategy, plan and route-to-market. He held senior level positions at Infosys, IBM and Computer Associates. Moses is a member of the Association of Strategic Alliances Professionals and has a bachelor’s degree in Physics from Madras Christian College and an MBA in Marketing & International Business from the Hindu Institute of Management.