The Ultimate Guide to attending #VMworld 2013 – AND ON A BUDGET!

June 4th, 2013
by Christopher Kusek (PKGuild)

Alright, let me get it out of the way – This isn’t the first time I’ve written about VMworld and how to prepare for it, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last!  Feel free to check out the Appendix section at the bottom of this post and you’ll see all of the previous postings on the subject.  And I do encourage you to read those entries as this will take bits and pieces from them but they still stand on their own as an excellent source whether this is your first VMworld or your 10th.      And with that said…

Happy 10th VMworld Anniversary!

This is the 10th Anniversary for VMworld and with that, I want to make sure you’re getting the BEST and MOST out of this experience, so I’ll break things down into a few key areas.   Areas such as Packing, Transportation, Networking, Security and Safety are covered in DEPTH in last years Definitive Guide.

This year I’ll be covering a few other areas which are often overlooked and some may perceive as CONTROVERSIAL! Ooh… Imagine that! ;)


Have you ever been to San Francisco? It’s like New York, with out all the… oh hell, it’s fricking San Francisco, a city with like 4 hotels and 25,000 people attending a conference the same weekend as the America’s Cup, which is a kind way of saying “If it wasn’t already ridiculously expensive, it just got even MORE SO”   So, hopefully some of the following tips will help you save a little money and make this trip affordable or even, possible.

Getting there

Getting to VMworld will likely involve you taking an airplane unless you live in the Nor-Cal area, and even then you’ll want to stay locally; Believe me – The details covered under Transportation speak to it rather well the reasoning, justification and even a little ROI/TCO on why staying within 3 miles of Moscone is so important.    For those of you who still have yet to book your transportation and as the day quickly comes upon us I advise you to check out ITASoftware’s Matrix as a means to find the ‘cheapest’ air fare and go from there.  It’s a great tool which will help you search and see what the cheapest is; and it does update as tickets disappear and only more expensive fares are left.   Oh, and if you can carpool from the Airport, doooo it!

Staying there

If you read my blog post in January of this year encouraging you to BOOK YOUR HOTELS NOW, then you should be taken care of! But for those of you who didn’t book your hotel at that time (I didn’t… but I wanted you to get ahead of it! ;)) Here are some alternatives which can help take the sting out of the $400 a night hotels which are currently available (Alright, seriously, Yea, the cheap-ass hotels are coming in at >$400 due to the America’s Cup, VMworld and the fact that San Francisco is a hotel wasteland.)   If you’re new to the game, you should check out Airbnb which is basically a service where people rent out their apartments, houses, rooms in their homes, etc.   There are a lot of options, as an example I booked 7 days at a really nice studio all to myself for $1001; Which to say the least is not bad considering $400 a night hotels are ridiculous.   So if the opportunity presents itself, find a nice place to stay with a reasonable price – that’s a far better alternative to staying at the Marriott SFO at over an hours travel away!

Eating there

The events of VMworld should be feeding you at most every opportunity, whether breakfast, lunch, or some partner sponsored dinner-type event.   This isn’t like the days gone past where food was high quality and flowing at every opportunity.   So keep your wits about you and take the opportunities for food as they come along.   There are a lot of food opportunities all about which you can also take advantage of, which won’t require you to break the bank.

Attending there

Okay, maybe you haven’t gotten your ticket yet – If it’s still before June 10th, you can get the $1695 Early Bird Discount! Either way, be sure to take advantage of things like VMUG Advantage, VCP and Alumni discount, and if your Vendor has a special discount code (Like EMC, NetApp, Dell, etc) definitely find out and roll with it!   Whatever it takes to get you there, paid for, and enjoying the show!

Bringing your Spouse?!

I almost forgot to add this, since I’m sure you can tell this CLEARLY wasn’t written in a serial fashion with me jumping around and editing!

Crystal Lowe, supporter of the Virtualization Community, Past sponsor of #CXIParty and all around awesome person runs this thing called Spousetivities which provides activities for spouses attending the conference to get together, network, do non-conference things, things to do so you’re not holed up in a hotel the whole time!   This is her 5th year of offering these kinds of activities, and this year is bound to be as epic as every year!  Definitely check it out!

The Top 5 MUSTs for VMworld 2013

  1. Bring and WEAR Comfortable Shoes
    1. To quote a good friend who once was working a tech conference show floor when a marketing head came over to him and said, “I’m sorry, you need to change your shoes”, this to a highly technical mind who is going to be standing on the show floor talking to customers for >10hrs a day.  His cordial response was, “I’m here to help revolutionize our customers datacenters, I’m not here to fracking sell shoes”.  Alright, maybe I slightly censored things a bit… But you get the point; and if not, I’ll hit it home!   Hey, you’re a customer, a partner, someone who is spending their hard earned money to BE there and learn about awesome and excellent technologies and network and meet with other people.  This isn’t Milan or the Club (in the club, club, club…) Be comfortable, be yourself and well, be comfortable… You’re going to be doing a lot of walking and standing, and it’s going to hurt!
  2. Carry only what you need in your wallet and on your person
    1. Remember that time your wallet got stolen in San Francisco and it ruined your whole week? Yea, it didn’t happen and it won’t.  The same can be said for your Android, iPad, Laptop, Bag, or some other ridiculous thing.   Hey, I get it… You’re going to be taking notes while you’re there, so you need your laptop… Wait, sorry I can’t say that with a straight face…, I mean… ;)  Just be responsible and reasonable.  There are a lot of good people here at the conference (I’ve found the owners of a number of Blackberries, iPhones, missing Laptops, you name it) but on the same token I’ve also met a lot of sad people who turned their head for a second and were without their precious (my precious…)  Please don’t let that be you.
  3. Contact your vendor / Sales / SE and let them know you’ll BE at VMworld!
    1. Did you know that your SEs not only want to meet, greet and see you at VMworld… they also want and need justification to get sent there themselves?  Imagine how grateful they’d be to you for giving their management justification to send THEM!  I’m sure their expense wallets will open like a waterfall for just kind of awesomeness! Oh, and of course they’ll want to talk to you about their tech or whatever.   But seriously, Vendors throw parties and it’s nice for them to know when their customers will be there so they can invite you, or get you in front of their Execs and Leadership for your feedback and all that jazz.   It’s a great opportunity to forge those partnerships even stronger, so take advantage of it!
  4. Bring Business Cards
    1. I say this every year and I’ll continue to say it.  Smaller vendors will have contests which ask for business cards, oh and people like to exchange business cards! Every now and then someone will say BUT I HAS A QR CODE. Yea, no one wants your stupid QR code.   There, I said it. Your QR code is stupid. Get a damn business card and exchange your information, I mean what’s the alternative? #5?
  5. Get an account on Twitter (now) and start following the who, what, where of goings on leading up to and AT VMworld!
    1. Yea. Get yourself a twitter account, it’s not difficult, and there’s a client for every mobile device.   Interesting fact, the live-tweet coverage of the Keynotes quite frankly usually blows away the ACTUAL Keynote. :)   We also use Twitter as a means of keeping everyone abreast of what is going on at the Conference, Where the Parties are, who is attending various parties, and after parties as well!   If you’re not on Twitter, the only one missing out is you.   Some hashtags to follow before/during VMworld are
      1. #VMworld – Various event notes and VERY Spammy during the show, but good data
      2. #vExpert – The vExpert Community is a strong one and they tend to be in the know!
      3. #CXIDinner – I do nightly dinners, get togethers, networking, all that jazz at various locations AFTER all the parties are over
      4. #CXIParty – … I still haven’t decided if I’ll throw a party again, but if I do… you’ll be able to get details about it here!

Things NOT to do at VMworld 2013

Here comes some focus which I’ll catch a lot of flak for, but I think it’s important to be honest with you and unveil the secrets of decades of conferences.

  • Do not do any VMware Labs, or at best do a minimum amount of labs
    • Yea, I said it. Don’t do labs. Thanks to Project Nee the VMware Hands On Labs are virtualized and in “Teh Clouds”, so don’t waste your time standing in line, or trying out a lab.   I mean sure if you want to see something after having just attended a session which you want to see live and in person, go spend the time to get to know it, But the days of spending your whole week in the lab are so totally over.   There are so many better areas to focus your attention.   Disclaimer; If a VENDOR has a set of ‘labs’ in their booth, AND you can win prizes like iPads or some crap, by all means go check out THEIR Labs.   Now I know the Lab Proctors will get all hate on me for telling you not to lab, but I can’t lie to you and tell you to avoid the cloud and project nee and more!   Your time is FAR too valuable for that.
  • Do not eat lunch onsite at #VMworld and at the Moscone Center
    • Okay now, you’re really starting to seriously piss me off! IT’S FREE FOOD, AND IT’S RIGHT THERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE EVENT!
    • Alright, a little disclaimer on that. It’s okay if you EAT there so long as you’re eating with people you don’t know or at least engaging in conversations which are advancing your purpose for being at the show.   It’s cute and all to eat with your friends and talk about the latest Lolcats or the trite marketecture session you attended with no real technical merit… But taking a step away, meeting up with a group of people you don’t know and eating and exploring the wonder that is San Francisco.  Well, it’s worth it.   I’ll be honest, this won’t be my first nor last VMworld, and I’m currently in the warzone in Afghanistan with some of the quite possibly worst food in the world.  And even with all that, I still would rather not eat the VMworld ‘lunch’ food. ;)
  • Do not spend a lot of time with your co-workers / colleagues
    • Awesome, now this is something I can get behind! Wait… Why not?!
    • Your colleagues are great, I’m sure they’re the best folks in the world, now it’s time to pawn them off on someone else and get to know someone else and network.  Get outside of your comfort zone, otherwise this won’t be a conference, it’ll be a fricking bake sale.  Yea, I totally get that the analogy doesn’t work, which is even further reason to ditch your workmates!   Get out there, meet someone new, head to lunch with them! SEE WHAT i DID THERE?! ;)  But seriously, if you’re shy, or afraid or whatever, Find me, and I’ll introduce you to some new friends, it’s what I do.   Any other of my fellow friends will do the same.   So get out there, and network.
  • If at all possible, do NOT pay for anything
    • Sweet! That’s another one I can get behind! So what does it mean?!?!
    • There are a lot of vendors here. Know your vendors you do a lot of business with, they have expense accounts.  I’ve been the vendor a number of times, they’ll buy you drinks, they’ll buy you dinner, they’ll do even crazier than that.   But let me stress.  Don’t be a dick about it. You know that douche bag who is all WELL MY VENDOR MUST TAKE CARE OF ME. Yea, You, Guy, No. Get away. But the rest of you, know that pretty much all food/drinks during all reasonable hours should be taken care of by someone else.   When it comes to chilling with some new found friends to not expect one of them to pick up the tab, if they do that is just so much more awesome.
  • Seriously. Don’t be a misogynist or an otherwise stupid idiot, in public or private
    • I know it’s a conference, and you are outside of your element, but that doesn’t grant you the right to be a douche bag, a drunken idiot, or a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen.   @drjmetz summed it up pretty nicely in his Technical Conferences and (In)Appropriate Behavior  So, please don’t be that guy (or girl)
  • And last but not least… Don’t be afraid to do something you normally wouldn’t do.  Whether it’s talking to that famous celebrity (virtual celeb?!), check out that vendor you’ve always had your eye on, attend a session which isn’t EXACTLY in your role to see what it’s like outside of that, or even to put on a cat ears – This is pretty much no holds barred! Enjoy yourself, but do it responsibly, this is San Francisco after all…


I know what you’re thinking, “Wow, this is one of the shortest VMworld Guides I’ve read yet!” Damn skippy it is! I don’t see a whole lot of sense in copying/pasting what the previous posts in the appendix below cover.  I said it there and it still applies, so definitely check it out.   This conference is all about you and it is all FOR you, don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.   VMware, it’s Technology, the Community, this whole Industry wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for you, the Admins, the Practitioners, the Customer, all of you; the Partners and Vendors know this even if they sometimes may not let on that they do.   Get what you want and need out of this conference, and respectively… get value out of this which will benefit you and your organization.    If you disagree with any of the points made, let me know! I love your comments and you only make this content stronger and better.    Walk away from this experience better for it, and bettering the encounters you have with everyone else you meet.  No one will argue that merit as a matter of point!

Enjoy the show and I’ll see you there for my first time back in the US after over 200 days in Afghanistan! Follow my continued updates on Twitter @cxi leading up to, and during the show!  And don’t hesitate to come up and say hi! :)


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