10 on Tech Episode 005 – VMworld Tips with David Davis

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In this episode, ActualTech Media partners James Green and David Davis discussed their top tips for attending VMworld (or any other conference like it). VMworld Las Vegas is coming up in a few short weeks, and as always, many conference goers will be experiencing the conference for the very first time. A few handy links that we mentioned in the show are below. And don’t forget that the transcript is below the player if you’d rather read than listen!

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Show Links

VMworld Website
VMworld Parties
Official VMworld App

Show Transcript
James Green: Hello again. It’s James Green with the ActualTech Media. I’m here today with ActualTech Media partner, David Davis. We’re going to talk today about VMworld. VMworld is coming up soon and we’re working on our preparations, so we thought it would be fitting to talk about some of our best tips for VMworld having been VMworld veterans. David has been quite a few times. When did you say was the first time you went to VMworld, David?
David Davis: It was 2008.
James Green: Eight years now, I think, going to VMworld so you know the ropes. We are going to cover some of the things that we think are most important. Especially, if it’s your first time. First of all, David, thanks for joining me today. I’m excited to have you here.
David Davis: Absolutely. Thanks for having me, James.
James Green: I’ll let you start. Out of all the times that you’ve been to VMworld, I’m sure you’ve learned a lot of things. What is your top tip for somebody who’s going for their first time to make the most of their experience.
David Davis: There’s a lot of good tips. It’s hard to pick just one. I think, a lot of these things apply to anybody, returning even. Because even just in thinking about these tips for this podcast, I thought of a few things that I probably would have forgotten to do myself. I think, if I had to pick just one or the most important tip, it’s to plan your VMworld before VMworld. Set your schedule. Look at the agenda of what’s going to happen. When are things going to be open. When are things going to be closed. You might think you’re going to go to the Solutions Exchange on Thursday. Then, you find out, “Oh, no. It’s not open on Thursday, at all.
  You might also miss important keynotes or the VMworld party or whatever it might be. Maybe some cool sessions, so make sure you plan your schedule ahead of time and set some goals to make the most of your time. What do you want to learn about? You want to meet certain people. You get more NSX. What’s your goal for VMworld? I [add up 00:02:21] to say that’s my number one tip. Make a plan and try to stick to your plan. Have it on your phone so you can reference it a few times a day. Make sure you’re sticking to your plan. Once you go home, you can tell your boss and you can feel happy about the time you spent at VMworld because you’ve accomplished your goals.
James Green: I think, it’s important when you’re building that schedule too, just to be realistic about what you’re actually going to be able to accomplish. I remember, at my first VMworld, I used the schedule builder to book sessions just back to back to back, all day, for everyday of the conference. You find out pretty quickly that, say for a few people, who are especially suited to that, you won’t be able to maintain that pace. You’ll get caught up talking to people and you want to go off and get some food with some people that you met or something like that. I think, when you’re building your schedule, it’s important to leave yourself some gaps and leave yourself some time to just go and check out something you saw that you didn’t know about or something like that.
David Davis: Absolutely. A lot of times, even if you have back to back schedules, sessions that you want to go to, in many cases, there’s not even a way to get to them from one convention area to the other side of the convention area in the amount of time that you have between the schedules. It’s just not impossible, unless you run, perhaps.
James Green: Right. Right. Speaking of getting from one side of the convention center to the other, if I had one top tip, it would be to wear some nice walking shoes. I don’t, personally, follow that advice. I’m miserable every single time, but if it works out for you, you should definitely be wearing some nice supportive tennis shoes or something. Because there is so much more walking involved than you’re probably expecting if you’ve not been to a conference like this before. Has that been your experience too, David?
David Davis: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, whether you’re at VMworld in San Francisco, where you have to walk from your hotel to the convention center and back. Maybe uphill, both ways, I don’t know. Like, this year, when you’re in Las Vegas. I mean, I remember in 2008, just being exhausted from the time that I got to the convention area or the expo from my hotel room. It’s like walking a three or four cruise ship links. If you’ve ever been on a cruise, the halls, they just go on forever. The hotels in Las Vegas, the halls are the same way. Once you get to the convention area, you have to usually go through the casino and so forth. Yeah, I mean, you’re pretty exhausted. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes if at all possible.
James Green: All right, let’s talk about what to do and what not to do, because there’s just a plethora of things that you could do while you’re at VMworld. Experienced attendees know that not everything is necessarily the right thing to do while you’re there. Your time could be better used doing something else. Especially, know that there is a number of things you don’t actually have to miss out on. They’ll be available later so spending your time doing them while you’re there might not be the best use of your time. Let’s talk about those things. I’ll start with a few.
  Sessions are really interesting and a lot of fun, but it is important to know you can get access to pretty much every session recorded and watch it later. If you’ve got yourself booked for a session and something else really interesting comes up. Going, like I said, to eat with some people that you just met or going to an event that you didn’t know about. It’s probably okay if you miss the session, unless it’s super important to you, because you can go back and watch that later online.
  The same thing goes for the hands-on labs. The hands-on labs are made available online and you can walk through those later. Doing them at the conference is a lot of fun and you can talk to people who helped built the labs and talk to VMworld engineers while you’re out there doing it. That’s something you would miss out doing it at home, but if just walking through the lab guide is what you’re after, you can do that after the event. Your time is, probably, better spent doing something you won’t be able to do later. What else do you think people should either do or not do while they’re there, David?
David Davis: One of the things I recommend is, downloading and installing and using the VMworld app on your phone, because it makes it so easy. You can see your schedule that you’ve built. It can guide you through the conference as to what you need to be doing next. Because it’s easy to get distracted, like you said, talking to someone or whatever, and forget, “Oh, yeah, I had the whole plan this afternoon of things to do.” Which, like you said, might not always be the best interest of your time if you plan on going the whole afternoon of schedules. You get to sit down with the CO of some company, well, shoot, take that opportunity. Network with people and learn.
  I recommend, definitely, spend your time networking. There’s no replacement for that after the conference. You won’t get to see those people again maybe until next year. Network with people, use the app on your phone. Speaking of your phone, one of the things you might have experienced James is, phone battery seem to die pretty fast at VMworld.
James Green: Especially, if you’re using the VMworld app all day.
David Davis: That’s right. That’s right. Make sure you’ve got a charging device of some kind. You can’t count on finding power at the conference yourself. Have a phone that’s charged and a back up, a battery, and maybe another battery, to get you through the whole day.
James Green: If you find yourself in a pickle on day one and you run out of battery, don’t worry to much, because I can almost guarantee you’ll be able to head out to the Solutions Exchange and find somebody who’s got rechargeable battery thing that they’re handing out at their booth. If you don’t bring one with you, by the end of day one, you can probably recover.
David Davis: That’s right. That’s right.
James Green: Just remember to keep charging that. How about extra-conference activities? There’s often other things going on around the same time. There’s old vendors who are looking to engage with their customers and potential customers will organize events that are not official conference events. What do you recommend people check out outside of the normal hours of the conference and on premises at the conference venue?
David Davis: I bet the super smart engineers, they’re probably back in the room after the show, developing or testing or something like that. I bet that most of the people at VMworld aren’t actually doing that, because like you said, there’s so much to go and do. I mean, there’s the VMworld party, which this year is at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which is awesome if you’re never been there. They’re going to have Fall Out Boy and a number of other bands performing. I’m betting, you’ll be able to drive a car, ride on the truck, ride in the van, or something. There will be tons of video games and all kinds of cool things to do.
  Also, there’s, like you said, tons of vendor parties so we’ll post a link to David Marshall’s VMBlog. He’s got a list of parties and events that are happening at VMworld. It’s a really nice list. There’s also the official VMworld gatherings document, which at the time of this recording, isn’t populated yet. I’m betting, by the time VMworld rolls around here soon, it will be. That’s always been the single best place to go for gatherings, meetups, parties. There’s the VMunderground on Sunday. As well as, the opening acts. There’s VFlipCup. The VM party is well-known for being pretty awesome. What other cool things are there to do after hours, James?
James Green: A lot of the things that I like to do are, meeting up with old friends. There’s a number of, like, the vExpert party. I can meet up with a number of vExperts that I only get to see once a year, or various influencer dinners. I think, I am actually excited about the VMworld party this year. Some years, I’ve gone. Some years, I’ve not gone. This is one that, I think, would be fun. I would like to hang out with some people there. Well, I’m going to give one last tip to wrap it up.
  David, you talked about how the highest value in the conference for a lot of people is the networking. With that in mind, don’t forget a nice big stack of business cards. You’re going to meet a lot of people and you’re going to want a way to be in touch with them so don’t forget to have something you can give them. Also, it might not be a bad idea to have some way to organize all the stuff you’re getting. I use an app called, FullContact, to scan those so I don’t have to keep track of all of them. Something like that would be a good idea. Have a plan anyway to manage all the new connections you’re making and make sure that you can follow up and make use of them later on.
  Well thanks for your time, David. Really appreciate it. If you are looking to find out more about how you can have the best experience at VMworld this year, check out the show notes. Also, we’re going to be there and if you want to chat with us, we’d love to meet with you. Just hit us up on Twitter, @actualtechmedia. I’m @jdgreen, and you can get David at @davidmdavis on Twitter. We’d love to hang out if you’re there. Especially, if it’s your first time. Welcome you to the event, and get to know you a little bit. Thanks, everybody. Thanks, David.
David Davis: Thanks, James.
James Green

James is a Partner at ActualTech Media and writes, speaks, and consults on Enterprise IT. He has worked in the IT industry as an administrator, architect, and consultant, and has also published numerous articles, whitepapers, and books. James is a 2014 - 2016 vExpert and VCAP-DCD/DCA. Follow James on Twitter

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