AWS re:Invent 2016 kicked off this morning, and attendees of the conference are in for a week overflowing with breakout sessions, workshops, entertainment, and cloud computing innovation, all at the heart of the Las Vegas Strip. We know from firsthand experience that conferences like AWS can be exhausting even as they're exhilarating, and attendees will absolutely benefit from some smart planning and preparation, to ensure that they get the most for their time, without feeling they missed anything major. So what does it take to make sure AWS delivers as much as possible? We present this brief—but useful!—survival guide to help you navigate this year's schedule and events.
Bank Some Sleep
Hopefully this is something you started even before getting to the Strip. On top of the demanding and busy convention schedule, Las Vegas is a 24 hour city, and the convention venue—split between the Venetian, Mirage, and Encore hotels—offers a community bustling at all times. The agenda for each day of the convention kicks off with bootcamps and labs as early as 8 am, and there's an array of after hours activities planned across the entire week, including everything from parties to pub crawls. There's even a Wednesday morning re:Invent 5K for the most ambitious of the bunch. All told, sleep and strategic expenditure of energy play key roles in guaranteeing that you get a chance to participate in everything you like, from exploring the Expo Hall to wandering the Strip itself.
This one is a no-brainer: make sure you have what you need. Well, what do you need? The absolute essentials, like business cards, water bottles, and snacks are well-known. But there are a few items that are so obvious they're easy to overlook.
- Pen and paper. Nothing beats old-fashioned longhand when you need to jot a quick note. The most classic technologies are sometimes the most powerful.
- Headphones. If the bluster of the convention starts to overwhelm and you need a minute to yourself, pop on some headphones and space out to a slow jam or two.
- Something warm. Yes, it's Vegas, and yes it's a desert. But deserts get cold when the sun goes down. If you're planning to take advantage of the entirety of re:Invent (see the after hours options, as mentioned above) a light jacket may be key.
- A range of clothing options, in terms of formality. In Vegas you can get as low-brow or high-brow as you like. In either case, it pays to dress appropriately. As outlined in the "Meet Las Vegas" section below, it's absolutely possible to start the day with a dusty, outdoor hike and end up in a French bistro with a tuxedo-tailed maitre d'. If you find you packed clothes of all one-note, however, never fear: Vegas shopping offers options for everything.
Technically, this qualifies as packing appropriately, but having power is so important it deserves its own section. Bring a spare power cord, an extra mobile phone battery, or even a small multi-outlet power strip. Don't get caught without juice, especially after a long day on the expo floor. Even if you're staying in one of the re:Invent hotels, a jog back to your room might take longer than you expect, crossing the expansive casino floors.
Meet Las Vegas
First of all, Google Maps' app recently introduced its offline navigation feature, which lets you download a geographical location beforehand to provide navigation options, instantly and regardless of service connection. We highly recommend it for all travel.
Vegas has its fair-shame of famous characteristics, each true in its way, and its rich potential for conferences of all kinds have earned it plenty of fans. But no matter your preferred pasttime, there's a good chance you'll find something worth exploring in or around LV, even if you prefer to steer clear of the craps tables or Cirque Du Soleil. The food and shopping have well-deserved sterling reputations, and there are a handful of lesser known attractions outside the city proper. Most of Vegas' options are, well, pretty in-your-face, opting for spectacle over subtlty, but there's plenty to find just below the surface too. Here are a few less Vegas-y Vegas attractions.
- Bouchon. A low-key culinary installment by one of the most famous chefs in history, Las Vegas' edition of Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery is located in the Venetian—the same hotel as re:Invent Central—and offers an accessible version of Keller's exquisite, French-rooted, bistro fare.
- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation. Just 17 miles outside the Strip and the true antithesis to the Luxor and the Mirage, Red Rock Canyon provides a natural oasis to any conference-goer who needs to get out in nature, among the ospreys and lizards for an afternoon. True Southwest beauty and worth the quick drive.
- The Hoover Dam. For anybody who needs a different kind of spectacle than faux-marble and 10-story tall neon. Also a quick trip outside the Las Vegas city limits, the Hoover Dam might appeal to some re:Invent attendees, for whom engineering achievement is truly meaningful.
- The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. Right across the street from the Venetian, the relatively refined Bellagio delivers some more cosmopolitan culture in the form of its fine art gallery, relatively small in square footage, but major in the masters it represents. With frequent rotating exhibits including Monet and Gerogia O'Keefe, the art gallery is yet another way to add another fold of variety to the Vegas experience.
Consult the agenda.
The almighty guide for the week. Remember, you simply can’t attend everything. It’s impossible. The key here is to cherrypick: find the top five things you think you need to attend each day, get them on your schedule, and be as faithful as possible. Repress the fears of missing out; have faith in your decisions; and, maybe most importantly, don't be afraid to take a break if you need one!
Finally, Visit Us At our Booth
Come say hi! We're at booth #109, and you can meet some of the team: Nate Matthews, John Potocny and Mills Horton. Most importantly, score an animal hat and be the envy of all fellow attendees and Las Vegas passers-by.