Hope you are coming to VMworld 2016 Europe this year. If you haven’t booked yet, there’s still time. Go to the registration link here and book now. Done? Good!
Now you might be a first-timer or a seasoned VMworld Europe attendee. In either case, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded about what’s important to remember when attending the event, especially when the time gets closer so here’s my contribution to the cause. Where possible, I am going to keep this in chronological order so that you can use it as a checklist as well.
Sunday or Monday are good days to come as that gives a chance to check into the hotel and settle down. Also, registration and some pre-VMworld parties start as early as that. You can take a taxi from the airport to the venue and it would cost you about 20 – 30 Euros. However, depending on your arrival time, a better option could be the VMworld Airport Shuttle bus (from both terminals), which runs on both Sunday (between 16:00 – 20:00) and Monday (10:00 – 20:00). Not only it’s free for attendees but it’s also a good chance for early networking. Everyone’s going to the same place so it’s a nice ice-breaker!
If you haven’t booked accommodation yet, a lot of my colleagues have found it much cheaper and fun to stay at one of the AirBnB places. I am staying at one this year too and sharing it with another colleague. If you want to try it, this link should help with some discount. Book now as it’s pretty busy in Barcelona at this time of year.
I normally stay near the centre (slightly away as it’s noisy and more expensive dead in the centre) and travel to the venue in the morning. Reason is that all of the evening parties are in the centre and run until late night. The Metro system closes at about 11 PM so taxis become the only option to travel back late in the night. Personally, I think it’s safer to stay in the centre to be able to walk back to the hotel, whenever you finish. As for the luggage on the last day, VMware has a left-luggage facility (usually to the left of the registration area) where you can safely check-in your suitcase and leave directly for the airport when it all finishes. Again, VMware runs a shuttle service to both terminals on Thursday (between 12.00 – 18.00) Just make sure you board the right one for your terminal.
Even if you’ve been to the conference before, you might not know yet that the Metro station near the venue that was closed until last year, is now open. Line L9 gets you near the North entrance of the venue so if you prefer the Metro, it’s a nice option. You can also catch it from the airport, if you’re too early or late for the airport shuttles. Andreas Lesslhumer wrote this excellent post about the various options.
App and Schedule Builder
If you’re booked already, don’t forget to download the official app. It has everything you need to know about the conference i.e. Agenda, Highlights, Session or general Information. It also keeps track of your schedule and gamifies the experience so a must have. Download it now.
Once you have it, build your schedule directly on it. Do it as soon as possible because popular sessions get booked quite quickly and if you don’t book, you’ll have to join the long queue outside the room to get in (by the time you’re in, most of the session is gone!) Even if you have booked, you have to get there at least 5 minutes prior to the session, to guarantee entry.
That said, don’t overbook sessions and overburden yourself. Almost all sessions are recorded and made available after the conference for you to watch later. So, use the time there to have a good balance between the various options available. By all means attend sessions and Solutions Exchange etc. but also use this opportunity to attend vBrownBag TechTalks (register here if you want to do one yourself and be famous), Ask the Expert sessions and especially the “VMvillage” to meet like-minded people. In other word, meet people and have chats – something that you can’t do if not at the conference. Believe me or not, that’s what most attendees I know, do! If you follow virtualisation people on Twitter, I am sure you’ll find a lot of familiar faces there, including mine. Here is my Twitter handle and it’ll be great to see you there.
Also, try to have some gap between sessions if you’re having them back to back. Sessions can be a 10 – 15 minutes walk from each other in some cases, especially considering the traffic of people in between. Some sessions have a choice of time slots so that should help distributing them evenly. Remember: You have to get to the session at least 5 minutes before it starts, to guarantee entry.
Registration starts from Sunday (16:00 – 20:00) and it’s always nice to get that done early and pick up the complimentary bag. Also, don’t forget the free 10 trip card. In case you don’t know, it’s available from the information counter. Metros are pretty frequent and a nice fast way to travel through Barcelona so make use of it. Even if you have trips left on it when you leave, keep it safe as it’s valid until the end of the calendar year. Who knows, you may come back for a holiday (I did, last year!)
I always take an exam or two while at VMworld as they’re 50% off the regular price. Monday is a very good option for any of the exams. I find it to be a very useful option to test my knowledge on a particular subject but haven’t been able to prepare. Of course, other days are also available to take the exam but once the conference starts, it becomes too hectic to take an exam. If taking the exam on Monday, schedule it a bit later in the morning so that you’re fresher after the pre-VMworld parties you attended! Don’t forget to bring a jacket, especially if you’re taking a VCAP exam as they keep it pretty cool in the room.
After a busy day at the conference (or even before starting), there are parties arranged by the enthusiastic VMware community, vendors and VMware itself. You should not miss them as they’re a great way to meet all VMware enthusiasts and have some fun to wind down for the day. My friend, Manfred “Fred” Hofer always keeps a nice list of them and here is his post about the various gatherings this year.
I think a word about safety in Barcelona is warranted. It’s generally a safe place, especially if you take the common-sense safety precautions. But there are some pretty crowded places in the centre and you should take care of yourself and your belongings at all times. A good idea is not to keep valuables in your backpack, if it’s zipped and on your back. A traveller’s belt or messenger bag (but carrying across your body, not on one shoulder) are good options. Also, it’s best to travel in groups, if possible. Stay away from groups of people who are acting funny and gathering around you as they may try to distract you and run away with your possessions. Also, make a copy of your passport and keep it at your hotel, just-in-case.
There are some general tips that everyone should remember as they’re easy to forget so I am listing them here
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes – as there’s lots of walking!
- Bring your biggest suitcase – it might come empty but will return with a lot of swag
- Don’t forget European Power Plugs – if you’re coming from elsewhere
- Bring battery packs – you will not always be near a charging point
- Hydrate all the time – there are plenty of options available and fridges spread all over
I think this covers most of the things you should know and plan for before arriving but do let me know if you think I’ve missed something important and I’ll add to this post. If you are going to be there, look for me as it would be great to meet! I will likely be in the VMvillage somewhere. Here is my Twitter handle again.
Hope this helps!