Tips for Attending AWS Re:Invent

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As I sit on the return flight from AWS Re:invent, I reflect on my time at the conference. Overall, it was a great experience. I learned a lot, met a lot of interesting people, and even made a little money playing blackjack :). The following are a few thoughts on how to make AWS Re:Invent the best it can be.

Wear comfortable shoes

The conference campus is spread across 6 hotels on the Vegas strip. To give some context, it is about a 40-minute walk from the southern most hotel, MGM Grand, to the northern most hotel, Encore. Even with the shuttles between hotel venues, you’ll most likely need to walk awhile to get to a session. After the first day of the conference, my Garmin activity tracker read over 30K steps.

Side note: You’ll also most likely be walking through a lot of hotel casinos, which are filled with tobacco smoke. Something to consider if you are sensitive to second hand smoke.

Second side note: If you plan on gambling, the highest odds for winning comes from playing blackjack. Playing the slot machines have the lowest odds.

Download the conference app

You’ll need the conference app to find and reserve seats at sessions. It’s also a good way to become aware of upcoming conference events.

Group sessions together in same venue

Since the campus is so widespread, it is hard to make it in time to back-to-back sessions in different hotels. Also, each hotel’s sessions have similar topics so there is not much to gain by jumping around venues. A good strategy is book all or half a day’s sessions at one hotel.

Make sure to reserve seats– especially for smaller sessions like workshops

This was my biggest mistake when attending my first Re:Invent. Each conference session has a reserved and walk up line. For most of the larger sessions, one can walk up and get in no problem. For the smaller sessions like the workshops, very few walk ups get in. I missed out on two workshops I wanted to attend because I failed to reserve a seat in time.

A good planning strategy is to view the schedule within the app. Then filter on venue, topics of interests (e.g. Devops, Machine Learning), day of week, and hour. Iterate through each hour/day of week to find the one session you want to attend at that time and reserve it.

Don’t budget much for food

On the first day, I didn’t realize that breakfast was included and ended up spending $25 at Starbucks for a coffee, water, and breakfast sandwich. Breakfast and lunch are provided at each hotel venue. The food is decent. Take advantage of the free, i.e. included in conference price, food.

Side note: There are both grab-and-go (if you are in a hurry) and buffet options (if you have time to sit down) for each meal.

Attending re:Play

The night before the last day of the conference is a huge party. There’s free food catered in, an open bar (complete with micro brews and top shelf liquor), world-class DJs, and a bunch of unique fun things to do. If you have a bit of partyer in you, it’s a must attend.

Value outside of sessions

There’s a lot of smart people at the conference. Striking up a conversation on the shuttle bus or in the hotel lobby is sometimes more valuable than the sessions themselves. Vegas also has some great shows right on the strip. Don’t be afraid to skip a session or two to take advantage of other opportunities Vegas and the conference offer.

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