I have had the pleasure of attending a number of VMworld events including two in San Francisco. I figured since we are about a month out it would be time to post some helpful tips I have learned along the way. Please feel free to comment with additional tips.
The food at this venue is universally hated. It personally does not agree with me. It’s not VMware’s fault the food is provided by the venue. I think there are two factors that contribute to my dislike of the food:
- There is too much food (snacks every two hours with drinks plus two meals)
- The food is not the kind of food I would eat everyday
I am a person who eats the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day… all the options really don’t agree with me. So my advise is pace yourself. Don’t over eat the convention food. San Francisco has tons of really good restaurants so you might be tempted to skip the meal situation 100%. This is a major mistake… the meal time is the best peer networking you will be able to do. At every table there are hundreds of people with the same problems as you. I started eating before the meal and just going for the networking. I highly recommend not skipping the meals for the networking.
If you are looking for food options similar to what you might eat at home try the following (see map for locations):
- Mel Diner and Drive in (Blue) ($12 per plate) – it’s a good american food location
- Whole Foods (Green) – They are a market but include a food bar with lots of hot and cold options ready to eat
- Target (Brown)- It’s a target store downtown which has a lot of food options and the cheapest prices in the city as far as I can tell (it’s also right across the street from the convention) bring your own bags they will not provide plastic bags (city rules)
- Metreon – It’s like a mall with a movie theater across the street from the convention – they have a food court with mostly asian options on the first floor
- Westfield San Francisco Centre (Purple) – it’s a real mall with a movie theater and lots of food options
I don’t drink any type of alcohol so I don’t know any of the good spots to drink. As for non-alcohol you conference attendance normally comes with a backpack and water bottle. The venue does not provide any bottled water. They have cooled water available everywhere but no bottles. They offer coffee and tea all day long and soft drinks in the afternoon. I highly recommend that you drink lots of water… your out-of-town and want to flush with water.
You booked early and got a close hotel right? My first year I didn’t and was stuck at fishermans wharf. Which was a lot of fun… it’s a tourist trap with lots of seafood. It was fun… other than the 20 minute bus ride to the convention each day. Or the 45 minute walk. If you booked a convention hotel they have shuttles for free. Just catch them outside the West building. At this point I hope you have a hotel.
You will see just about every type of dress code. The CIO’s and VMware brass will be wearing sport coats and dress shoes. Duncan Epping will be wearing a tee-shirt and levi’s it really just depends on what you want to wear. I do recommend you wear comfortable shoes (I always wear tennis shoes) you will do a ton of walking and standing. You really want the comfortable shoes.
This is not a party convention during the day. Respectful attitudes and conversation are a good idea. You will knee-deep in vendors, customers and partners all with their own agenda’s. Be respectful of everyone… no one enjoys having their product thrown under the bus by the random walk by.
There are at least 3 parties each night. Talk to your vendors before you go to get invites. The official VMworld party is different each year but normally is drinks, food, music and games / sports. It is loud if you like that sort of thing. I understand it will be at the baseball stadium again this year… which was awesome in the past. Last time they had stadium food (all you can eat… don’t eat that much) carnival games and of course the band. It was a lot of fun. Don’t kill yourself with parties… it will remove your ability to learn from the sessions.
The forms of transport available are:
- BART’s (metro train system) they have an app for smart phones that rocks. It’s very inexpensive and safe to ride. It’s a great cheap way to get from the airport to hotel. If you plan on riding Barts get the app. You can also see routes here :https://www.bart.gov/schedules/bystation
- Cabs – Yep they are available and a pain to hail… you stand by the side and stick out your hand… make sure they turn on the meter…
- Uber – Yep it’s available and works great just download the app and setup before you need a ride
- Cable cars – the classic cable cars are more a tourist attraction than a method of transport. If you really want to ride one (for example market street to fishermans wharf) just walk past the first stop to the next stop on the line and your will avoid all the crowds at the first stop
- Cars – don’t rent a car… parking is really expensive
- Bikes – you can rent bikes everywhere
- Walking – San Francisco is a very walking friendly city the area near the convention are pretty safe, I would avoid finding yourself alone on a dark street in parts of SF thou.
The first instinct is to attend everything. Bad idea. Do not schedule back to back sessions… most will require walking between buildings. The sessions are draining on a good day you will only get to four sessions. Remember that most major sessions are recorded and available afterwards so you can rewatch. This year there is a new type of session called quick talk (30 minute) I think these sessions will be really awesome and look forward to attending a lot of them.
The vendor hall is awesome. It’s a great place to meet vendors and understand their wares on the surface. It’s my experience that most vendors don’t bring their highly technical people to VMworld. It’s mostly sales people. It’s also too noisy for any real technical conversation. I have my best conversations with the small new vendors. If it’s swag you want then this is the place. Every kind of swag will be available. Near the end of the conference they have an awards show where VMware awards new vendors and products (titles like most innovative new product etc..) . Watch for this list/presentation and visit these vendors.
VMware offers discounted training the week before VMworld if you want to attend.
VMware certifications are normally 50-75% off so it’s a great time to get some certifications done.
Hands on Labs
This is a site to see.. VMware provides on site labs for hundreds of people. Most run in vCloud air and are awesome. I personally skip this event all the labs are available two months later to be done in your own home for free. If you are feeling tired and want some computer time it’s a good place to hide (I prefer the movie theater). For last years labs go to hol.vmware.com
What to bring
It’s hard to determine what to carry for the conference. I would carry as little as possible. I suggest you bring the following:
- Notepad – yep I am old school (replace with ipad or tablet of choice if you prefer)
- Back pack – you will get stuff to carry
- Business cards – yes bring lots with you it’s an awesome networking experience
- Twitter – it’s used a ton get a twitter account to track activities and goings on
- Extra phone batteries – I use my phone a ton in between and with the app… you want a small phone battery add-on
Outside the conference
The city is awesome. Fishermans Wharf and chinatown are great. The redwoods north of town also rock. Honestly I could walk around this city for years it’s a ton of fun.
I hope to see you there this year. Feel free to follow me on twitter @Gortees