5 tips for getting the most out of re:Invent 2019

For five days, re:Invent 2019 takes over the Las Vegas strip. There are 3,473 sessions spread over nearly a dozen venues. This means you can’t go in without a plan if you want to walk away with meaningful information.

Don’t worry: we’ve been to re:Invent for years now, most often with a team of colleagues. Together, we put together five tips anyone can follow to get the most out of re:Invent 2019.

1: Plan Your Schedule Before You Get There

Yes, we’ve already said this. Yes, it bears repeating – and expanding. As you’re choosing sessions to register for, keep a few things in mind:

Choose sessions that match your expertise level. Sessions are coded like college classes, with 100 and 200 levels offering more introductory content and higher numbers offering more expert content. If you’re hoping to get into the nitty-gritty on a topic you’re already familiar with, skip the intro stuff. If you’re looking for an intro to a topic, skip the detailed sessions.

Look at the map. A lot of people underestimate how spread out re:Invent is and overcommit geographically. Don’t stress yourself out by leaving too little time to get to the sessions you’re most excited about. Plan sessions with a map handy so you can verify that you’ll have time to physically get yourself from one to the next. Also, plan more time than you think it will take to get between locations. It will take twice as long as you think.

Tap into the power of standby seating. As of right now, many of the most popular sessions are booked; however, you may still be able to get in. Because so many people overcommit themselves, most sessions end up being able to let in some standby attendees. If there’s a full session you’re really, really interested in, plan to stand in line before the start. You may get in.

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Plan for unannounced sessions. At re:Invent, AWS always makes announcements about its latest and greatest capabilities – and it doesn’t announce sessions on those capabilities until the conference itself. For example, we’re excited this year about AWS savings plans. No sessions have yet been announced on this topic, but we’re standing by to register as sessions are announced.

Planning ahead will go a long way toward making sure you leave Vegas with useful new insights. But there’s more to re:Invent than sessions.

2: Visit the Developer Lounge

If you’re interested in talking to highly technical folks about how they’re using AWS in their day-to-day work, be sure to visit the developer lounge. Here you’ll find a more casual atmosphere where AWS users give talks and informal presentations about their boots-on-the-ground, fingers-on-the-keyboard work.

If that appeals to you, we recommend stopping by early in the conference. Developer Lounge events aren’t on the main schedule, so you’ll have to find out by word of mouth what’s happening when. This is time well spent.

3: Visit the Expo Floor

At many conferences the expo floor is something people skip. It’s crowded, it’s loud, and it’s hard not to get bombarded with vendor t-shirts you don’t want.

The re:Invent expo floor is different. (Well, there are definitely t-shirts – but there’s also a lot more.)

This is the premiere conference in technology today so a lot of vendors send their best and brightest folks to work the floor. That means you have access to some of the smartest people who work for the software products you use.

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If you show up with an interesting question, you can have some really meaningful conversations. For example, last year, we were having trouble getting our heads around a problem with the AWS transit gateway. We sent a team member to the expo floor to talk the problem through and we ended up having five (five!) engineers help them work it through.

We paid exactly $0 for that consulting – which is priceless because it isn’t available anyplace else.

Keep in mind: these people are in a place where they’re doing the same demo hundreds of times per day. If you come to them with a question of actual substance, they’ll be more than happy to help you work it through.

4: View the Keynotes in Comfort

Registration for keynote speeches opened November 19, and chances are that if you haven’t reserved your spot in the room by now, you might be too late. This doesn’t mean you can’t view the keynotes!

A lot of big tech companies hold viewing parties in their suites at the Wynn or other hotels. If you’re interested in hearing these thematic presentations, get yourself invited to a viewing party and skip the crowds.

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5: Divide and Conquer with a Team

Even with a plan in place, AWS is a lot to tackle alone. We’ve found that the most effective strategy is to plan as a team. You can split up sessions thematically or by geography. You can make plans to visit the Developer Lounge (and the Quad and the Village) at different times to make sure you don’t miss anything important. You can divvy up the keynotes.

Whatever your strategy, focus on what your company would most like to learn from AWS and make a plan that will get you there.

See You in Las Vegas!

The re:Invent experience is like nothing else. Whether this year’s will be your first or your fifth, know that there will be ample opportunities to learn new skills, engage with fascinating people, and hone your technical chops. Even if your carefully laid plans get derailed, remember that there are incredibly valuable resources almost everywhere you turn. Enjoy scoping out your conference strategy, and see you in Las Vegas!

Written by Brendan Caulfield, co-founder of ServerCentral Turing Group, and Wayne Geils, AWS technology evangelist at ServerCentral Turing Group.

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