Top VMworld tips for vNewbies

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So you want to be a “VMworld-er,” huh? Actually, I’ve never heard anyone who goes to VMworld called that before, I just made it up.

About 70 percent of the 21,000 people who attend VMworld North America in San Francisco this week have never been to the conference before. Perhaps you are one of them, or you want to be one of them next year. How will you be prepared when you go?

This VMworld will be my sixth VMworld. No, I’m not one of the 17 attendees who have been to all 10 shows, but I’ll guarantee you that after attending one or two shows, you become a pro at navigating the conference.

For those of use with a less VMworld experience, here are my top tips the “vNewbies.”

Unless you are speaking in a session, or you work for a vendor at the show (and thus are customer facing), I just recommend jeans (or even shorts on Wednesday and Thursday). After all, this is a casual show and no one cares what you wear. One exception (other than being a speaker or vendor) is that if you’re at VMworld hoping to land a new job (which many people are, either consciously or unconsciously) then you’ll want to dress professional.

vNerd

Pluralsight employee and vExpert sporting vNerd shirts at VMworld 2013.

As for me, I tend to start the show in slacks a button down shirt and, from there, just get more casual. By Thursday I end up in shorts and a t-shirt.  After hours, I’ll be wearing shorts and a polo-style shirt (or vNerd shirt) since all of those events are casual (unless you work for the company throwing the after-hours party).

The most important thing to remember is to wear comfortable shoes! In 2008 I walked the show floor for eight hours doing product judging and just about couldn’t walk the next day. Inevitably, wherever you want to go will be far away from where you are. Go shopping now and just buy the most comfortable shoes you can find. (You’ll thank me later.)

This is a conference of IT pros. 99 percent of them are just “regular people” who enjoy talking about virtualization, cloud, and their jobs (since most are VMware admins). Default small talk starters I use are “so how’s life back at the office? What’s your data center like these days?”

Most importantly, just be yourself, but go out of your way to get to know people. (Again, you’ll thank me later). I know that most IT pros aren’t known for being social and outgoing, but if there is any time to break out of your shell, it’s at VMworld.

What to attend during the day:

The sessions are always amazing but the best ones are going to be on all new tech/features, the vExpert and VCDX discussions, or the cutting edge sessions by some of the best and brightest in this industry. I would stay away from third-party vendor sponsored sessions as they tend to be (in many cases) just a sales pitch for their product (but not ALL of them).

Make sure that you go to the Monday and Tuesday morning keynotes as you’ll get a lot of excitement from there to carry throughout the day. Also make sure you spend some time in the community lounge/hang space because that is where you can meet experts, bloggers, and watch the community/vBrownbag presentations.

What to attend at night:

Before VMworld, make sure that you get on some of your most favorite vendor email distribution lists because that is where you will likely get your invites to vendor parties. Unfortunately it seems like all the night events  are on Tuesday night so you usually have to pick one or two.

The VMworld party is always fun to attend, see, and find out what VMware dreamed up this year (a cool band, NASCAR, or something else…)

Sights to see:

While in a fantastic city like San Francisco, make sure you get out and see some sights. I have walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, through Crissy Field and around just about all of the piers, as well as dined at great restaurants away from the venue. One year I even went with a group up to the Russian River Brewery.

If you are bringing your spouse, make sure you checkout Spousetivities. Every year Crystal Lowe plans some amazing activities that part of me wishes I could skip the show to attend.

People to meet:

This year, vDestination put together a contest called vExpert Paparazzi (sponsored by TrainSignal) where people could win prizes by posting a picture of them with a vExpert. This is certainly a cool way to meet some of the 581 vExperts and win some great prizes. However, also keep in mind that with roughly 21,000 people at the show, from customers, vendors, VMware employees, reporters, and developers, you have a lot of smart and inspiring potential contacts to network with. So, if you haven’t met John Troyer, Tony Dunn, Pat Gelsinger, John Arrasjid (VCDX #1), Susan Gudenkauf (VCP #1), Scott Lowe, or Duncan Epping,  take this opportunity to meet them, but also take this opportunity to meet as many amazing people as possible. (They are everywhere!) Every person at the show is worthy of having your picture taken with :)

Why you MUST socialize:

If you think that VMworld is only about learning what’s new with vSphere and vCloud, you are missing, I estimate, 80 percent of the value of the show. The real value of the show comes from socializing, online and in person, throughout VMworld week.

Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. You need to shake everyone’s hand, give them your card, get a card from them, follow them on Twitter, and tell them your story.

Don’t leave VMworld without at least 100 handshakes, 100 business cards, and at least 100 new Twitter followers.

I know it may sound like I’m exaggerating but VMworld can change your life if you take advantage of it.

To keep up to date with me and my VMworld fun, follow me on Twitter @DavidMDavis

TrainSignal Pluralsightl

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