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How to get ready for AWS Re:Invent

With less than a month left until this year’s re:Invent, I wanted to share what I’ve learned about getting ready and making the most of it. This will be my third AWS re:Invent, and the first time I’m speaking. This year’s re:Invent is bigger than ever, and it could already be an overwhelming experience. With a full five days of workshops, sessions, talks, and events to explore, it’s best to prepare ahead of time.  These are my tips on how to get ready.

If you’re interested in attending my talk on Chaos Engineering at Audible, some seats are still available here https://www.portal.reinvent.awsevents.com/connect/search.ww#loadSearch-searchPhrase=ARC308&searchType=session&tc=0&sortBy=abbreviationSort&p=

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Plan the day ahead of time. Start by choosing a single track and building to focus on for the day. The conference now spreads over almost all of the strip, and though they make look close, it can be a considerably long walk between them. Stick to a single building for the day to avoid time lost in walking or waiting for the shuttle. If there’s something you just can’t miss, you can take the shuttle, but be ready for a long wait.

Wear comfortable shoes for the day. Even when sticking to a single building, you’ll be walking around far more than you might expect. I averaged over 30,000 steps each day over the past two years. Trekking between sessions, across casinos, around the expo, and between happy hours really adds up, so bring a good pair of comfy shoes.

Register for as many sessions ahead of time as possible. While it’s possible to get into some by walking up, it’s much better to have a reserved seat to avoid the risk of missing out. It’s a bit late to register now, but many sessions are still open and new ones keep getting added. If there’s one you just can’t miss, or can’t find something during a time, use the boards they have up almost everywhere throughout the conference spaces, or the app to find a nearby session where walk-ups are allowed. It’s getting harder to do this each year, but my first year I didn’t know to register and pretty much did this for the entire conference.

Take time to explore the expo. The expo, like the conference itself, grows bigger and better every year. In a massive space, there are hundreds of booths from sponsors, exhibitors, and AWS partners. Even if you don’t find something to help your business, which with all the demos you should, there’s a ton to see, learn, and of course pick up. Experts know to bring an extra bag just for the swag you’ll find here. Last year I picked up eight pairs of socks, multiple phone chargers, and a ton of shirts and stickers. You might even find a few companies throwing parties you can pick up a wristband for.

Party like a cloud star at the sponsored happy hours and parties. You can pretty much make it through a week at re:Invent without paying for a meal or drink if you find all the parties. The happy hour is a good place to start with a multitude of locations; almost every bar throughout the hotels that make up the campus have sponsored drinks – and some have food. There are more throughout the entire week, going late into the night at some iconic Las Vegas locations like the restaurants, bars, and clubs. It’s a good way to see a ton of Las Vegas without breaking the bank. Of course these companies are paying out for the events, so please actually talk to them to learn more about their products. Just don’t stay out so late you miss the morning’s sessions. Thankfully the oxygen rich atmosphere in the hotels seem to help with waking up.

Don’t overlook the official events. Nearly every night has something fun planned by the AWS crew. It even starts before the main conference with an event that began last year with a marching band and Shaq playing DJ. Monday has Monday Night Live, Tuesday has the happy hours, and Thursday is the massive re:play party, an event not to miss. Famous DJs headline every year, and there are vintage arcade games, broomball tournaments, ball pits, archery, drones, and I can’t even remember what other craziness. Don’t pass them up just because they are the official ones.

Stay fit throughout the week. With so much food and drink, it can be easy to come home heavier than leaving. Re:Invent has an official race on Tuesday morning, this year with both a 4k and 8k run. People take it seriously for sure, so it’s a great way to burn off some of the food. Walking around helps too, but I like to get a few runs on my own in too. Thought the Las Vegas Strip isn’t great for running because of crowds and the endless escalators to get over intersections, going early at least means I normally have the roads to myself. I also like to try to get a run in at the nearby Red Rock Canyon park where there is a 6-mile loop with phenomenal scenery and take a break from the crowds along the Strip.

Keep fueled up. Each day is a marathon at re:Invent. Sessions and the keynotes often start fairly early and the parties can go into the early hours of the next day. It’s important to take advantage of the food. For a conference, it can actually be pretty good. While the lunch in the Venetian’s massive underground complex is worth a visit just to see the enormity of the scale of operations, I have another favorite spot. I’m afraid to mention it because I don’t want everyone to go there, but it’s just so good. There’s a smaller, more intimate, but fantastic spot for lunch outside at the Mirage’s pool. Sitting out in the warm sun next to a waterfall and pool is pretty perfect.

Stay hydrated. The combination of dry air, drinking, eating out, and sitting around mean you’ll need a ton of water and probably some chapstick. They do a good job of providing water, soft drinks, and snacks around the sessions throughout the day, but I suggest toting around a water bottle during the day too.

Don’t miss the keynotes. Wednesday and Thursday’s keynote sessions are massive and a bit of a pain logistically, but worth it for the sheer amount of news dropped. In each two hour session, dozens of new services and features get announced. While it’s possible to view them from your room or overflow sessions, getting there in person is an experience not to be missed. Two years ago they even drove a truck out on stage to show off the new Snowmobile data storage and transfer solution.

Re:Invent is one of the largest and coolest conferences in the world. Amazon and the partner companies do a fantastic job of mixing information, product launches, and fun. You’ll learn a ton throughout the sessions, keynotes, and just by talking to others across the conference. Use the time to learn as much as possible and make connections. You can even find many of the sessions posted online after as well, so there’s no end to the learning.