AWS re:Invent Essentials

Reading time ~4 minutes

I had the good fortune of going to AWS re:Invent this year for the first time and have a few takeaways from the event I’d like to share for folks thinking of going in 2018.

First and foremost, I suggest that if you run into Jeff Barr while wearing a penguin suit be sure to say hello…

Fernando with Jeff Barr

Advice for First-time Attendees

This was my first year at re:Invent and I learned a few things the hard way so I’m hoping you can avoid my mistakes. Here’s a few tips.

Plan Out Your Sessions ASAP

Use whatever scheduling tool AWS offers for the event early on and have a plan for your preferred sessions, backup sessions and everything else you’d like to do for the week. Schedule time on your calendar to actually reserve your seat the minute that the registration goes live or you probably won’t get much of what you want. Sessions fill up fast!

If the worst happens you can try walking up to less popular sessions for open seats.

Be Realistic Picking Sessions

Some sessions at re:Invent 2017 were far away from one another and it is likely to remain that way this year. You’ll be lucky to get from one session to another in the same venue yet alone across the re:Invent campus. You absolutely cannot get from one session in one venue to a different venue in less than 30 minutes. I had a shuttle ride that lasted 45 minutes - that’s not uncommon so plan accordingly!

Here are two strategies I think might work when planning and reserving sessions for each day:

  1. Pick a building you’ll start at each day and reserve as many relevant sessions as you can in that building. This way you’ll probably be able to go to a few sessions that are close to each other and maybe fit into one you aren’t able to reserve in the same building.
  2. Pick a few of your absolute favorite sessions and plan some significant travel time in between them. This way you get to see the cool stuff you want, but remember that you’ll also have to be on the shuttle or walking around a lot.

Missing Sessions Is OK

Because so many of the sessions are recorded and available afterwards, don’t worry too much about missing sessions. You can always watch them later.

Meet People, Ask Questions, Learn Things

Now sessions and workshops are awesome. But another one of the best ways you can spend your time at re:Invent is awkwardly introducing yourself to a variety of people, asking about what they do, and finding a way to stay in touch with them. I was super fortunate to meet a bunch of amazing folks from the AWS Lambda team, engineers from the Cloud9 IDE and (somehow!) Andy Jassy:

Andy Jassy

Packing List

Now I’d be doing a horrible job if I didn’t let you know a few AWS re:Invent essentials to pack before you leave and make sure you have ready each morning.

  1. A smartphone with all your sessions planned out in the re:Invent app
  2. A portable phone charger like this
  3. Your regular phone charger
  4. Chapstick (I never use chapstick but it’s dry as heck there and hotel chapstick is like $12!)
  5. A fully charged laptop
  6. Paper and pen for notes - Seriously! Your laptop is probably going to die while taking notes and there are not enough outlets
  7. Comfortable walking shoes, and if you’re standing around in the expo hall at a booth for 12 hours a day probably also get gel inserts
  8. A water bottle
  9. A jacket - It gets cold in the Las Vegas desert
  10. Cash - The ATM fees in Vegas are absurd
  11. Ibuprofen - For… You know… Headaches.

See You Next Year?

Have other suggestions for new folks or other thoughts on your first re:Invent experience that you’d like to share? Leave a comment below!

Hopefully I’ll see some of you next year at re:Invent 2018. If you want to get in touch with me to meet up then say hello on Twitter or LinkedIn!

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