So it’s that time of year again! AWS’ biggest & best conference, held in the dry desert center of hedonism that is Las Vegas. Here’s our AWS Practice Lead’s tips on attending this year:
● Planning - Pre-conference justification, planning and flights.
● Tickets/discounts - Where/when to buy.
● Hotels/Accommodation - location and booking tips
● Session Planning
● Logistics/Other tips
The first tip is plan early!
As soon as you are able to, try to get your trip approved by your boss/spouse (depending on whether you are going on your own dime or not), this allows you to plan any project work or book time off around the conference dates.
Justify your trip
If you need to justify your trip to your boss, AWS’ Re:invent site gives you a sample email to do just this! It can be found here. Unfortunately there is not an example to send to your significant other!
If traveling from another time-zone, consider flying in a day or two early, this will allow you to cope with the time difference, acclimatize to the desert conditions and also alleviate any effects of jet-lag.
On arrival Las Vegas McCarran airport can be chaotic, but there are locations here to pick up your badge early so no need to rush to that taxi/uber, it takes around 15-20 mins to get to the central Las Vegas strip from here.
Buying tickets At the time of writing conference tickets are on sale here & are priced at $2,099 - you can book tickets individually or as a group, for non-conference attendees you can also buy tickets to the AWS Re:Play post-conference party for $300 (Note: the full conference pass ticket also includes Re:Play access).
Email tip: When registering - use the plus notation on your email address, for example: email@example.com that way any contact/sales emails from the conference can be readily identified, categorized and put in their own mailbox or in spam.
Discounts Discounts are difficult to come by, you may be able to speak to your friendly neighborhood AWS Account Manager but generally discounts will only be $100-200 at most.
It is recommended to buy a ticket prior to the opening of the session booking period (normally mid-October), this allows you to book sessions as soon as they become available.
The best place to book accommodation is via the Re:Invent attendee hub (only once you have bought a ticket of course), you can search availability and book “campus” hotels (i.e. hotels that are part of the conference) at a discounted rate. There are hotels which are conference venues, such as the Wynn, MGM Grand, Venetian etc and hotels which provide accommodation only, such as the Mirage, Treasure Island, Aria and Bellagio.
Obviously the conference venue hotels are more convenient for sessions (depending on their location) but can be more expensive and can sell-out more quickly.
Our recommendation is to stay at the conference venue hotel close where you are most likely to attend more sessions and if your budget allows. Otherwise consider one of the cheaper hotels, but still close to the main venues - such as Treasure Island which is across the road from the Venetian, making it easy to walk over to the keynote speech and expo hall locations.
There are various types of sessions at Re:Invent, each serves a different audience &/or purpose, they are on every day during the conference (Mon-Fri - Note: Friday sessions are limited to the morning).
Sessions are categorized by industry and technology. For example there are quite a few sessions geared towards Generative AI this year, they will be in heavy demand but if you are lucky you may grab a spot on a repeat session (annotated with (R) after it’s name) or as a walk-up.
The sessions are pitched at levels 100 (introductory) to 400 (deep technical dives), so make sure you pick the appropriate level. That is not to say that experienced engineers should only stick to more advanced levels, it can be good to reinforce or refresh knowledge and core principles on certain topics.
Bear in mind sessions become available in mid-October (so are live now at the time of writing). Note that sometimes additional sessions are added in the run-up to the conference start date so keep checking that site/app! (https://hub.reinvent.awsevents.com/attendee-portal/agenda/) Also - if the sessions are booked up, most of them have “walk-ups” available, to get in make sure you turn up at least 30 mins before and join the queue!
The session types include:
● Breakout Sessions - detailed 60 minute (ish) talks
● Chalk Talks - smaller group with a 15 minute talk, followed by a 45 minute discussion on the topic in focus.
● Workshops - ½ or full day interactive sessions where multiple hosts/instructors help you through a specific set of task or challenges
● Keynotes - These are the main sessions for business/product updates
● Bootcamps - Sometimes linked to an AWS certification path, these are 4-8 hour long interactive tutorials
● Builders Sessions - 1 hour long hands-on sessions where you run through a build with an expert (ratio 10 attendees to 1 expert roughly)
Our recommendation would be to skip sessions which are being recorded (keynotes for example), these can be viewed in your hotel room later. In our opinion it is better to focus on hands-on sessions or those where you can talk with peers and AWS experts.
This is a relatively new addition to Re:Invent and while we at iOLAP have attended previously, we have not taken part in the PeerTalks.
You can book a 1-1 with any number of recognised experts from the AWS ecosystem (community builders, other attendees - including us!) as well as AWS employees themselves. A really good option to book are the “meetups”, these are either general networking/fireside chats to meet other people, or based upon certain technical topics for example:
● Cost Optimization
● Monitoring and Observability
● Migrations and Transfer
We would thoroughly recommend booking a number of these or booking time with an expert (like us at iOLAP!) to allow you to make the most of your time at the conference.
While this is not exactly session related, we recommend making time to tour the expo hall, this is in the large (actually massive!) room between the Venetian and Caesars forum. There are a multitude of showcases, booths, talks and all kinds of swag opportunities here hosted by AWS and various partners. Note that if you get your badge scanned here, you WILL be contacted by sales people! (see the email tip to mitigate this).
Again not session related exactly but try to make time to attend the rec centre (Mandalay Bay, Bayside B.) there are all sorts of fun and games going on here, from an “NFL dash” and “golf swing” activities to a “Bundesliga free-kick challenge” and even the ability to drive in an F1 simulator! All of these are powered by AWS resources and perhaps we are showing our inner geek but we personally found the architectures behind this really interesting!
More details here.
You will end-up doing A LOT of walking! So with this in mind, wear comfortable shoes or trainers/sneakers. Do not underestimate distances, as Vegas hotels are almost like horizontal skyscrapers. It can take a long time to walk from the hotel foyers to any of the venue rooms so plan accordingly. An example of this is a meeting we had at a previous Re:Invent at the MGM, arriving 10 minutes before in an Uber, it then took 25 mins to walk to the location! Also remember that in Vegas all walking routes take you via the hotel casino, so don’t get distracted - unless of course you want to indulge.
Make sure you pack clothing for the desert climate, some days can be in the 70’s (fahrenheit) but can be considerably cooler, especially in the evenings so for day time a t-shirt/hoody or shirt/sweater will work whereas you may need a jacket in the evening.
Also make sure you pack moisturiser/lip-balm - as you would expect it is extremely dry in Vegas, and chapped/cracked skin is no fun.
Pack a water bottle! As above, Vegas is extremely dry and with all the walking/talking you’ll be doing, you will need hydration. In previous years AWS provided every attendee with a water bottle, which you can scan then fill-up for free. This has the added benefit of contributing to a charity at the same time.
One thing to definitely plan for is some down-time. Vegas has some world-class restaurants and bars, there are lots of official and unofficial parties going on - a good list can be found here: https://conferenceparties.com/reinvent2023/
We would also recommend spending some time off the madness of the Las Vegas Strip. For example, Red Rock Canyon is well worth a visit, especially if you have access to a car. It can be reached within 25-30 mins and is beautiful, in a “surface-of-Mars” kind of way.
If you are there longer, day trips can be arranged to the Grand Canyon. To get there by land takes a long time however, you can book a trip where you get picked up at your hotel, driven to a small airport and flown over the canyon then back - all in a half-day!
Sometimes though, you just need to chill in your room and get some rest.
In summary, anyone working (or wishing to work) in the AWS ecosystem would benefit from attending Re:Invent.
It can be chaotic, but is also an excellent opportunity to meet AWS experts from various industries as well as potential new clients or employers.
Should you want to meet up with us there, we are organizing a small get-together at TopGolf on Tuesday 28th at 7 PM! We would love to meet you so please feel free to shoot us a message.
If you would like to find out what iOLAP can do for you or indeed if you would like to come work for us, feel free to use the peertalk link below, we are always happy to chat. Or if you see us walking around in our iOLAP t-shirts/hoodies, stop us and say hello!
Contact us via PeerTalk here.