See you at the show! The time is almost here where several thousand people from around the world will make this year’s pilgrimage to San Francisco for VMworld 2013. This will be my last post before the start of the show and as people are packing and preparing to leave I wanted to share with you what I think is the way to get the most out of your time at the show.
For me personally, one of the most important parts of the VMworld, or really any other conference, is the networking with your peers in the industry. At these conferences you have tens of thousands of people attending, all with the same generalized interest, love, and/or passion for the technology. With everyone all in one place, the chance to have some really good shop talk is around a hundred percent. Not quite sure where the best place is to network or what is a good way to strike up a conversation? The first and foremost networking opportunities are around food and drink and are a great place to start a conversation with others. During the meals at the event, roll the dice and grab a chair at a place where you don’t know anyone, and you just may be amazed at who you might get a chance to meet. Along the same lines, during some of the meals you will find tables marked off as “Birds of a Feather” on a specific topic. Maybe there is a specific technology that you are looking to deploy or at least gain greater insight on. These Birds of Feather meetings are a great opportunity to sit down and know you are going to get a chance to talk about a specific topic and meet new people at the same time. It should also go without saying, but worth mentioning, that you should look for the vender Genius Bars in the expo centers. This is your time to have a one-on-one with extremely smart and experienced engineers that can most likely talk you deep into the weeds of the technology that these subject matter experts represent. You might be working on something where you have to work outside of the box, and the opportunity to sit down with these experts to say, “Hey I am working on a solution where I need to get creative and I was thinking about doing this….” That can be absolutely priceless.
When it comes to the expo hall, are you interested in finding a solution, or are you just interested in the new technology that is out there? If you have come to the show with the idea of finding a solution to a use case, take the time to research the venders beforehand and make sure you see them first. Everyone is excited and full of energy at the start of the show and not so much towards the end. If you have specific question or information you need, get that done early. Another tip is to scout the hall and make a plan of what to see. Usually, as part of the conference guide, there is a map of the expo hall with a listing of where the different sponsors and venders are located. When the expo hall opens, or when you get your first visit to the hall, start on one end with your map open and see what products and or technologies you fancy. When you find something that seems interesting, circle or make a mark on the map so you can come back later to spend some quality time at those booths.
Whether this is your first time at the conference or you are a seasoned veteran, you will find that you can get a lot of extra conference value with Twitter. You will find Twitter feeds on all the main boards, and this can give you insight into what people are doing and where they are going. Twitter is another tool to enhance your networking and conference experience as well as give you another method to try to find any specific people you might be looking to talk to. Last year I found a number of influential people hanging out at The W (one block from the Moscone) in the lower level bar in the evenings, so I would like to recommend sticking your head inside there. You never know who you might see.
In closing, I wanted to say something about the sessions and the labs. Please remember that the sessions will be available for download to your personal device sometime within a few weeks after the show. If you miss a session, don’t sweat it;you will have the opportunity to listen to it as many time as you need after the show. In my opinion, if you are presented with a choice between a session and a lab, go for the lab. The hands-on experience, to touch some technologies that you might not have had the chance to play with yet, is well worth the time and effort.
I hope I get a chance to meet any of you that I have not had the pleasure of meeting before, and I look forward seeing my friends and peers once again. I spend a great deal of time in the VMTN and Blogger hang space. Come by and say hi, and I will see you at the show.