This year VMworld has changed its name to VMware Explore and the US event is back ‘in person’ at the Moscone Center in San Francisco from 29th August to 1st September 2022. The European event takes place in Barcelona from 7th to 10th November 2022. There are also an additional 4 Explore events this year: Singapore and Japan (both 15th-16th November), Brazil (October 19th – 20th) and China (November 17th-18th).
As someone who has been lucky enough to be able to attend 9 previous VMworld US events (2011-2019), I thought it would be worth sharing my experiences and tips to get the most out of the event.
As always, there is a heap of activity at the conference from sessions, gatherings, brownbag talks, exhibition space and (of course) the social events organised by vendors which can often go late into the night.
It can definitely be overwhelming for those attending for the first time to know where to focus, what to do and who to see. Hopefully these tips will help you make the most of your time at the conference.
Tip 1: Look after You
It’s extremely easy to spend all your day/nights at the conference in meetings, sessions and activities and end up dehydrated, exhausted and starving.
Make sure you schedule time for meals, keep hydrated (I strongly recommend a water bottle) and wear comfortable clothing and (especially shoes).
I didn’t understand before my first event just how much walking is involved and new/painful shoes will make your life miserable very quickly.
By all means go out to the parties and social gatherings, but try not to drink too much alcohol and leave at a reasonable time if you have a busy day following (which will be almost always).
Tip 2: Travel Light
I see many (often miserable) looking people at conferences who look like they are carrying around a small office worth of equipment with them.
Due to the amount of walking/travelling involved at Explore (see above) this will almost always be a bad idea – find a comfortable small rucksack and only carry the essentials of what you will need for the day.
Tip 3: Plan Meetings
VMware conferences are a huge opportunity to connect with your peers, vendors and partners, especially in getting access to people it would not usually be practicle or possible to meet with in person.
Make sure you contact your vendors/partners early and get meeting slots booked with key people you’d like to see. Don’t leave this until the week before the event as calendars fill quickly and everyone has limited time available.
Tip 4: Travel / Register Early
I travel up to the US from New Zealand for Explore and always try to get in to town at least the day before the conference starts. I’d definitely recommend getting in early if travelling from overseas or a significantly different timezone to give your body clock a chance to adjust.
I’d also recommend going to the early registration which usually happens the day before the conference starts to avoid any queues or delays in registering at the start of day 1. There’s nothing worse than missing an opening keynote while stuck in a registration queue.
Tip 5: Be Selective with Sessions
One of the mistakes I made in my first few attendances at VMworld was to try and fill every hour and half-hour of each day with sessions.
While I love attending breakout sessions, I’m much more selective these days of the ones I need to attend in-person vs. the ones I will watch the recordings of later. I would always recommend to try and get to the ‘General Session’ sessions though as these are where the ‘big’ announcements are made.
The schedule builder for VMware Explore is now available which is a great resource to help plan our your days (and can include your other appointments so you’re not continually switching between apps).
Tip 6: Plan some time in the Exhibition Space
Some of the best outcomes I’ve achieved personally and professionally have started as a result of seeing something interesting in the Exhibition Space and following up afterwards.
Especially if your role involves technology evaluation and assessment as mine does it’s worth making time to properly tour the exhibition space and get details on anything new to follow up on.
Many vendors will have technical people attending too so you can get to ask the awkward questions up front and be able to quickly qualify a new product or service for your potential use-case.
Tip 7: Report back to your Organisation
I’ve spoken to many managers who have funded people to conferences like VMworld (and now Explore) and never heard back from them about what they experienced, learnt or found.
Unless you’re funding your own path to the conference, I recommend setting aside some time during the event and immediately afterwards to document and report back to your business.
In particular make sure you identify key contacts you’ve made, new products and services and how you plan to follow up on these. Also include any announcements and impacts which could impact your business and how it consumes products & services.
Tip 8: Be Prepared for your Travel
If you’re travelling from overseas (in particular), make sure you understand all of the relevant Health & Safety requirements and keep up to date here with specific conference guidance.
Also make sure you understand the travel rules for your country around COVID, including testing & process requirements to be able to safely travel to (and return from) the United States.
I’ve been in the unfortunate position (more than once) of travelling with someone who hadn’t completed their US ETSA visa application prior to attempting to check-in to a flight, so make sure you understand any visa requirements too (if needed).
I’d also recommend not booking flights too closely together so you risk missing a connection which seems to be a more common occurrence these days due to more prevalent airport delays.
Tip 9: Enjoy San Francisco
I’ve had the pleasure on many of my previous conference trips to enjoy the area in and around San Francisco, if you can manage to get some free time before or after the conference days I’d definitely recommend doing some site-seeing and activities.
My personal favourites have been a boat trip under the Golden Gate Bridge (seriously, that thing is huge from below) and a wine tour of Napa Valley, but whatever interests you there’s probably something nearby worth doing.
One word of warning though – if you want to tour Alcatraz Island it’s probably too late to book now as tickets tend to sell out serveral months in advance.
Tip 10: Enjoy Yourself!
VMware Explore will be a massive opportunity to connect with key partners and vendors, make new friends and have some fun while learning about what’s next from VMware and a multitude of leading industry vendors, enjoy it! (Just don’t overdo the vendor parties…)
Bonus Tip: Come and see my Breakout Session
A bit of a shameless plug, but it would be great to meet you all and after several attempts I’m thrilled that I’ve had a session accepted to present at VMware Explore US and EU this year. So if you’re interested in “A Customer Journey to Modernizing Their Cloud Using Datacom Sovereign Cloud Services [CEIB2016US]” I’d love to see you there!