I know I’m supposed to start this blog post with all sorts of yada yada about what re:Invent is and why you should go, but I’m thinking you’re here for the juicy tips, so let’s just get on with it. At the end of this blog, you’ll find a huge list of tips from the AWS and BTS communities.
To Do Right Freaking Now
If you’re not registered already, for all that is holy, do that right now. Rumor has it that this year’s re:Invent will cap out at 60,000 tickets. Given the demand at other in-person conferences, I fully expect that it will sell out. The AWS New York Summit sold out. That should tell you something.
When I registered someone a week ago, all of the reserved hotel rooms with the AWS rate were gone with the wind. You’re going to have to book directly at this point. Your best bet is to pull up a map of the Vegas Strip and work your way from the middle of the strip on out. However, you might have to get what you get at this stage of the game. There is a marijuana conference happening concurrently with re:Invent right in the middle of the strip (you can’t make this stuff up), so it’s going to be packed in Vegas.
Ditto to flights. Get that ish booked right now. While the airlines sometimes add flights when this route gets full, you don’t want to count on it. Can you even imagine paying over $2k for a ticket, securing lodging and then not being able to physically get there?
The App and Sessions
If you haven’t already, get to your favorite app store and download the AWS Events app (here for Android and here for Apple) and start RSVPing to sessions. The most popular sessions run several times during the conference. Don’t despair if you’re locked out of one time. Look up that topic to see the other times it’s running.
While AWS has made some improvements to the app experience, it can still be overwhelming to schedule on mobile. Luckily, the community has come to the rescue and put together some third party solutions to make navigating the catalog easier (not without some drama, I might add) - such as this one from Raphael Manke. You can also use the desktop AWS event site to make it a little easier to compare different session times and then just use the mobile app to book it.
If you had dreams of getting up close and personal for the keynotes, don’t. Sixty thousand other people want to do the same thing. I’ve found it best just to stream those and/or follow people on Twitter who are live tweeting it (yes, I’m aware that it’s X now and no, I’m going to call it that, because it’s stupid).
One last tip here that I learned from personal experience. If you’re like me and generally suck at pictures, take a second to upload your profile picture. Last year, I had the brilliant idea to get my picture taken at the Vegas airport (which I shall forever call McCarren) after flying across the country on Spirit Airlines (0 of out of 10, would not recommend). Needless to say, it took my usual level of awful picture abilities to a new level and I was stuck for a week looking like the female version of that prisoner ID shot of Sirius Black in the Prisoner of Azkaban. It was decidedly not cute.
Also realize that if you take your photo at the conference, the lighting isn’t great. A different member of our team could have passed for a member of blue man group in his badge photo.
Yep, I sure am talking about a packing item a month out. Start testing your shoe situation. I generally bring three different pairs of comfortable shoes with me so I’m never wearing the same pair of shoes two days in a row (this helps keep your feet from having the same pressure points hit). It’s not unusual to clock 30-40k steps in a single day at re:Invent. This is not the time to be breaking in new shoes or discovering that ah, you don’t wear that pair of Pumas because the toe box is too small and they are insanely uncomfortable when worn for more than an hour (that was oddly specific for a reason).
Around now, I’ll start testing shoes for comfort when I’m out and about. If I find I need to buy a new pair, I do it now so they can be well broken in and battle tested.
If you’re one of those crazy people (you know who you are) who are used to doing 20 mile days, make sure your insoles are fresh and your favorite boots that you’re going to be living in for the next week are up to snuff. If it takes an emergency visit to the cobbler to throw on a new pair of soles and heels, so be it. Hiking the casino forests of vegas will wear ‘em pretty thin. And the last thing you want to do is to be running to the local pharmacy to try to glue your footwear back together.
Prepare to Party
Is “red solo cup, I fill you up, prepaaaaaaare to party” in your head? If so, mission accomplished. Anyway, part of the value of re:Invent is community. Many partners/vendors put on happy hours or other experiential events. If you work with partners, ask them if they are doing anything with their customers.
If you don’t know who your vendors are or yours aren’t doing anything, never fear…re:Invent Parties is here. Head to their website and check out all of the parties you can RSVP to. Cool tip: these same fine folks cover Summits and other tech industry-related events too, so be sure to check them out before any tech conference (go to their main site - Conference Parties). Before you ask, it’s not too soon to start RSVPing and planning because many events will be at capacity by the time you hit the strip. Yes, the bigger events will have overflow lines, but are you really going to re:Invent to stand in a line to not get in somewhere? .
Side note: be cool to the folks shelling out loads of money to do this. Don’t RSVP to every single event and then be a no-show. Take into account where you’ll be beforehand and where you’re likely to actually show up to.
Before You Go
Let’s talk packing. The intersection of re:Invent and Vegas necessitates bringing some things you might not otherwise think of.
Taking Care Of Your Body
It’s a conference in a literal desert. That does some not nice things to your body. Here are some items you may want to consider bringing with you:
- A refillable water bottle. AWS is pretty good about having water stations around. I’m not an avid water drinker, but at re:Invent, I drink it like it’s my job. Again, back to the desert thing - and then combine that with dehydration from flying (and maybe some adult beverages during the week). I generally chug a bottle the minute I wake up and then I don’t stop all day - and neither should you.
- Chapstick. Yeah, I know. Who uses this stuff on a normal basis, right? Well, it is so dry out there that you will want to. Bring it with you or you’ll get to pay $8 in a casino shop like I had to one year. You’ve been warned.
- All of the eye drops. I’d recommend some hydration drops AND allergy eye drops. Last year, it hadn’t rained in quite some time and everyone had dry, red eyes.
- Allergy meds. See above.
- LiquidIV or something similar. I’ll typically do 1-2 of these a day in my water to assist with hydration. You know your body and contraindications to meds you’re taking, so talk to your doctor if you have issues with electrolytes.
- First Aid things. I keep bandaids, icy hot, blister band aids (if you’ve never used them, buy them - they are amazing and so much better than regular bandages), ibuprofen, etc. in a little kit that I usually carry with me. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten to be someone’s hero by being able to help them out of a jam.
- Travel Humidifier. I found a little handy bedside humidifier for travel. You just pop in a water bottle and you’re good to go. I never use this thing for anything other than re:Invent. I cannot stress how much the dryness will zap your energy and murder your skin.
- Hand Cream (and maybe even gloves). In case I haven’t made the dryness thing abundantly clear, it’s SO dry (how dry is it?!) that every year, my hands end up looking like I have frostbite. I’ve finally gotten it down to a system where I bring heavy duty hand cream and cotton gloves to sleep in. It doesn’t totally stave it off, but it helps a ton.
- Shoe deodorizer. 30-40k steps a day. You do the math. Those little shoe balls are great or a small travel bottle of Gold Bond (no larger as you’ll get stopped by security). Another alternative is to get disposable shoe liners from Amazon.
- Cough drops. You’ll be yelling pretty aggressively over lots of people. You’ll do a number on your vocal chords and will be grateful for these.
Other Handy Things To Have And Know
Here are a few random things you may find helpful to bring:
- A reusable bag. The show floor is MASSIVE and you’ll want something to carry stuff in (your backpack may not be enough). Rather than hunt around to find a booth giving them away, just throw one in your suitcase.
- An extra duffle. In case you end up getting lots of swag or doing a little retail therapy, have a light duffle that you can carry on or check at the airport. There’s nothing worse than hitting that scale and finding your only suitcase is overweight and pulling it apart in public to figure out what you have to throw away. For those swag lovers out there, also consider dropping by the UPS/Fedex/USPS office. There’s some near the strip, and it might be cheaper to ship a box back home than dealing with lugging it all cross-country.
- An extension cord. I always travel with one in case there are massive delays at the airport or limited places to charge. This way, I can be the hero and take up one plug and other people can insert their charge. I have a travel one - here’s the link.
- Mints. A lot of talking plus dehydration equals nasty breath.
- The LinkedIn app. Sure, bring business cards if you want, but connecting immediately on LI makes more sense. See more on this below.
- Backups of your credit cards. Make a copy of your cards to leave at home (or some people like to put them in the hotel safe) in case they are lost or stolen.
- Notify your credit card company. I once had my credit card shut off on my last day because my credit card company assumed it was stolen. Notify them in advance that you’ll be traveling.
Once You’re There
- It’s okay to rest. The days are really long and you’ll be walking literal miles. Go easy on yourself. Whether you need to just get away from people for 10 minutes or take a nap, do it. It’s better to take care of yourself rather than try to push through. You’ll pay for it later.
- You don’t need to be in sessions all of the time. Take time to go visit the show floor or have random hallway conversations. These things are just as valuable as a session. re:Invent is just as much about community as it is learning.
- If you’re looking for a job, ask. Fun fact. Vendors are precluded from recruiting at re:Invent. So you’re going to need to initiate that conversation if you’re interested in working for someone.
- Force yourself to socialize. Use this time to widen your network and to meet random people. You never know what you’ll learn, where it’ll lead, or what you’ll learn.
- Connect immediately on LinkedIn. You’ll lose those business cards in the shuffle. Be sure you’ve got the LI app on your phone. When you meet someone new, click on the search button on the app. There will be an oddly placed QR code symbol. Click on that. You’ll be brought to a screen that will either scan someone else’s code or another tab with your personal QR code for the other person to scan. It’s a game changer.
- Be reasonable. Vegas is a huge place. Don’t expect yourself to make it from one end of the strip to the other in 15 minutes for a session. Your sense of scale is going to be ALL sorts of messed up.
- A note on transportation. AWS has shuttle buses at the main venues. While they are handy, they are slow AF. Most of the time, I’ll opt for a taxi because they are right there. Uber is my backup for long taxi lines. Sometimes walking a block and calling an Uber is the quicker way to get where you’re going when everyone lets out of something at the same time.
- Don’t try to eat at The Venetian. Most restaurants are bought out by vendors for private events. It’s a nightmare to eat anywhere but in the food court. Vegas has some amazing food. Get outside to another property and get a proper meal.
- Follow on Twitter. Fine. X. Whatever you want to call it. There are people like Corey Quinn live tweeting about the conference. Follow the hashtag and use it if you have questions so the community can help you.
When You Get Home
- It’s okay to rest. See a theme? It takes a good couple of weeks to feel normal again (especially if you’re from the east coast and have gone hard). Give yourself grace to recover. Don’t schedule a bunch of things for when you get back.
- Message your new connections. Go through the people you’ve connected with and shoot them a DM to renew the conversation.
- Do a post-mortem. I like to make a doc reminding me of what went well and what I will switch up for next year. Are there things I wish I had brought? Things that wasted space? Things I wish I’d done? Restaurants I want to hit up again? Write it all down so you remember next year.
Tips From The Community
We reached out to the community on LinkedIn and here’s what they had to say. Here’s the original post in case more comments have been added after this blog has been published.
Lip balm! As someone who usually never uses it, cvs was a God send. The air con environment you’ll be in constantly takes its toll.
Whatever you schedule yourself for, plan to attend about half of it! There’s so much to do and so many people to run into, lots of spontaneous activities and talks, you never know what or who you’ll stumble upon, so plan for the unplanned!
First timers should pair up with someone who has gone before to get advice.
Make sure you attend the following:
- re:play so not miss it and make sure you get the free t-shirt
- expo on first day it opens, attend during the first 2 hours (best swag and hallway convos you will have at the event)
- factor in you will be walking through casinos when going to/from.
- if you are certified, hit the certification lounge at least once a day for refreshments / cool swag
- lunch time, boxed lunches are your friend on tight schedules.
- bus rides take up a lot of time (1hr+ at peak times). Try to plan your time at one location each day, or split it around lunch to eat a boxed lunch while I'm the bus.
- I try to avoid Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand venues to avoid those bus rides. Walking there from the Venetian is approximately 50-60 minutes after factoring Casino floor walkthroughs
- Lunch wise, food is better at the Cesar Forums than at the Venetian expo basement (main cafeteria) and about a 15 minute walk.
- starting Sunday you can get your badge at the airport (will be around baggage carousels), but don't forget to check in to get your event swag (typically a hoodie, and a very nice one at that)
- Chapstick & Throat Lozenges. The Expo is LOUD. You will lose your voice.
- Double socks. Thick ones under fun ones. 😂 Your feet will Thank You.
- Pick a location for the day. Moving between hotels cost you 30-60 minutes.
- Hit the after hours events. http://reInventParties.com
Here are my top-tips: https://cremich.cloud/aws-reinvent-uncovered
Key points for me:
- It's okay to have nothing planned. Meeting people in the hallway or at the expo is great.
- Walk alot, drink loads of water and enjoy the snacks.
- Bring chapstick. Vegas is dry
- Listen to your body. It's okay to chill all alone.
1) Eat a healthy start to your day. You don’t know what your meals are going to be like and living off appetizers/coffee/cocktails is a rough 5 days. I like to pack some protein bars or shakes, and bananas for breakfast with Liquid IV Hydration mixes.
2) self care. Small refillable water bottle, chapstick, and sneakers will make the difference in how you feel at the end of the week.
3) Seriously, I wasn’t joking about the sneakers. Bring multiple if it suits you but don’t plan to show off your cute new boots. You’ll walk multiple miles a day!
- Join a table with strangers during breakfast and lunch, you never know who you meet and what interesting stories they have.
- Pay close attention to session levels, you probably don't want to join a 400 level session an a service / topic you are unfamiliar with, and vice versa.
- Vegas, Casinos, and rePlay can be loud, bring earplugs.
- Wear comfy shoes, you will walk A LOT
- Don't underestimate the "hallway track", don't push yourself into sessions all day, have some spare time to actually network and discuss with people you meet - this is the real benefit of being on in-person conferences. You can watch all breakout sessions on YouTube later on
- Focus on a few services and then build your schedule around those. AWS has so many services you can't do everything in a week, so figure out your own priorities then choose sessions wisely and try to connect and network with people who are experts in those services. You will gain way more long-term benefit having those connections that listening to one 1h session
Bonus tip! Take a day or two to recover once you get back home!
Leave extra room in your luggage for swag... and put your clothes (and swag) in compression bags to help save space!
Oh, I got this! As a first timer last year..
- Everything is not close. But you'd rather walk than wait for the ubers. So be ready to strut the strip!
- Comfortable shoes and light layers, the hoodie is cool but don't underestimate the chilly night weather.
- Tip well, apparently AWS peeps tip less than the rodeo folks!
- Take naps and count your energy! I went a little hard last year and dragged for a bit. Being present is cool but being all there is even better!
- That random person who feels an aura about you and wants to tell you your future.. don't..
- Set yourself some boundaries both back in your hotel room or while you're out and about.
- Check out conferenceparties.com for all the events! I will never go to Vegas unless it's for a conference. "Free" drinks and dinners go a long way in this town!
Stay hydrated and dress in comfortable shoes. Depending on your session locations, you can easily cover 20k steps in a day.
- Use lotion
- Drink more water than alcohol
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