Surviving VMworld Europe 2019
Going to VMworld in Barcelona this year? Here are some tips and tricks that will benefit you and help you survive the awsome experiance that is VMworld. Some tips I wrote down in 2015 are still valid and I will repeat a couple of them here. Some are outdated so you can safely forget about them. So here we go:
Tip 1: Plan Your Sessions
The VMworld Content Catalog is live. Make sure you plan your sessions. Be aware that some sessions fill up very quickly. You may go and try if you can get in, but if a session is full, it is full. Some sessions are repeated so make sure you check out the catalog so you don’t miss out. Duncan Epping wrote up quite a good selection of sessions you should see. Take a look at his list here. I highly recommend the NUMA Session by Frank Denneman (if you are into that) and the Machine Learning Session by Jad El Zein.
Extra tip for planning your sessions: Be kind to yourself. If you plan your days full to the rim, you be so tired by Wednesday you will not contain all the knowledge that is offered to you. So make a nice mix. Take a session, go for a lab, join a group discussion, visit the VM Village, etcetera. And take some traveltime into account. There is a nice walk between the solutions exchange, the lunch hall and the location where the sessions are held. It may take up to 15 minutes to get from one hall to the next, so leave in time.
Tip 2: Partner Day and TAM Day
If you are a VMware Partner or if you are a Technical Account Management customer, you have an extra day at VMworld!
On Monday there is a special program for partners. It is quite sales focussed, so if you are a techie working for a partner and you are present on Monday, you will be glad to hear that the HandsOn Labs are already open for you.
TAM customers are also the lucky ones with an extra day. The TAM Team has created a special program with unique insights and sessions, just for you. It is jempacked and will give you a lot of extra knowledge to take home.
Make sure you enter your partner ID or TAM contact in your VMworld registration form (you can do that until VMworld starts in the registration page of the VMworld site) to make sure you do not miss out.
Be aware that Partner day and TAM day are on Monday, meaning that you will need to be there one day earlier than the general public. Fly in on Sunday and reserve your hotelroom for one extra night so you are on time.
Tip 3: The City of Barcelona
These are actually multiple tips of getting to and moving in Barcelona.
When you fly in, you land at El Prat Airport or BCN. You can take a taxi to the city center. That is the quickest way to get there. A trip from the airport to the city center will set you back about 25 euros. Please be aware that most taxi drivers either do not accept credit cards or take ages to process your payment. If you pay cash, you will be in and out the quickest.
You may also try the subway. Metro line L9 will take you to the city. Make sure you know where to get out and take care of your belongings at all times as a lot of petty crime takes place in the subway. There are several buslines that take you to Barcelona as well. Inform yourself at the airport if you want take this option.
In general Barcelona is a pretty city, but as in every large city, you have to be aware of your surroundings. Don’t leave your luggage unattended, don’t wear your conference badge outside the conference venue, don’t keep your wallet and your phone in easy to reach pockets. You do not want to be that one guy or girl on Wednesday morning at the info desk who’s pockets were picked in town the night before.
A few tips that have served me well over the years: don’t take your passport into town if you don’t need it. Put it in the safe in your hotel room and leave it there. If you go into town, just bring your credit card or debit card and a pocket full of cash. What you don’t carry, cannot be picked. Put your smartphone in your front pocket or inside jacket pocket. Don’t take your laptop or bag into the city if you don’t need to.
Tip 4: Getting to the VMworld Venue
The Fira of Barcelona actually has multiple locations in Barcelona. If you tell your taxi driver to bring you to “The Fira”, chances are you will be dropped at the wrong location. Make sure you have the right address: Fira Nord, Carrer del Foc 10. That is the correct entrance and street. Write it down so you can show it to a taxi driver as not all of them speak english.
Barcelona has quite an extensive public transport system that works quite well and takes you around town for just a few Euros. Chances are that you may get a free public transport card at the info stand at VMworld. Make sure you pass by if you want to use public transport during VMworld 2019.
Actually, using public transport is the smart choice when you want to get back to your hotel in the afternoon, as the line of people waiting for a taxi after 5pm usually is quite impressive. Average wait time can run up to an hour and more, depending on the amount of taxis available and the amount of people. If you know how to get to your hotel using bus and metro, you’ll be smiling.
Update 18 Oct 2019: One of my contacts pointed out to me that there may also be a shuttle available for you directly to Fira. The VMworld site states: Conference shuttle service will be provided from Barcelona El-Prat airport to the Fira during limited times, which will be confirmed closer to the event. Additionally, there will be departure shuttles available from Fira to the airport on Thursday 7 November. Thanks to Robin Roskam for the tip!
Tip 5: Taxi!
Compared to a lot of other major cities in Europe, taxis in Barcelona are relatively cheap. That is, during the day and early evening. In general you’ll get across town for about 10-12 euros.
Taxis in Barcelona have 3 tarif slots. T1 is the cheapest one and runs from 8am to 8pm on workdays, T2 is the night time tarif that runs from 8pm to the next morning and in the weekend. T3 is the metropolitan weekend evening/nighttime tariff, the most expensive one and probably the one you will be paying when you go back to the hotel after midnight. Make sure you have enough cash money with you to get back to the hotel. The ride back probably will be more expensive than the ride into town.
As mentioned in tip 3, it is not standard that taxis accept credit cards. Some do, some don’t. Most of those who do have a mobile terminal where they may give it an effort to stall you until you still pay cash. If you insist on paying with card, you will have to exercise patience.
All official taxi drivers are obliged under Spanish law to provide you with a receipt upon request. Every taxi has a small printer that is linked to the taxi meter that will print out all the information you need. To request the taxi receipt in Spanish say: “Quiero un ricibo” or “Quiero un tiquet”.
Since the first of February 2019, there is no more Uber and Cabify in Barcelona. The regional government activated an law which states that people who want to book a cab, should do so at least 15 minutes in advance. Be aware of that when you book your taxi in the morning or use the public transport system.
No Uber and Cabify does not mean you have to revert to old-skool waving at a taxi in the street. There is the Taxi App “FreeNow”, formaly known as MyTaxi. FreeNow offers booking and payment of your taxi ride. Have a look at the website and download the app. And please be aware that here also you need to book your ride at least 15 minutes in advance.
Tip 6: Food and Drinks at VMworld
We Europeans are used to having breakfast in the hotel. For US people this sometimes feels a bit odd but we’re used to getting a nice breakfast in the morning with bread, sweet and savoury spreads and proper coffee or tea. In general, you will take your breakfast in the hotel. This is also the ideal time to hook up with friends and colleagues to get ready for the day.
At the VMworld venue, you will be taken care of in terms of food and drinks. In the morning, you will find rolls and coffee served, during breaks there will be coffee and snacks served. For lunch you can either go to the large lunch hall and get a nice warm lunch buffet with some local specialties and some all time favourites or you can pick a sandwich, snacks and drinks at the various lunch tables set up everywhere in the venue.
In the afternoon there will again be coffee and cakes or snacks. During VMworld you will find fridges with cold beverages througout the venue. These are for free and you are encouraged to hydrate often. Usually there will also be snacks and savoury crisps in the afternoon for that quick snack and energy boost.
Tip 7: Dinnertime
Barcelona is a wonderful gourmet city. Every year there are new restaurants to discover and in general quality is good. The pricing depends a lot on location. If you stay on or close to the Ramblas (the large city quare or street starting at the harbour at the statue of Columbus) you will pay much more and the meals will be more tourist compatible.
Be aware that the Catalans have a different daily routine to most western countries. Dinner is generally served starting from 8pm or 9pm, genuine Tapas may start even later. For countries that are used to eating at 6pm or 7pm, it might be a stretch so make sure you eat well at lunch.
A popular Tapas restaurant near the Ramblas is “Cerveceria Catalana” at the Carrer de Mallorca. Usually people wait outside until they can get a table. It is quite normal to stand there for 30 minutes before you are up for a seat at a table. A good tip: if you want to have a table quicker, order a drink at the bar while you wait. It will be noticed.
If you want to go more native, you may want to visit the old part of town. It has lots of little places. If you like snails, you may want to visit “Los Caracoles” at Carrer dels Escudellers. It is a nice restaurant that serves local and very tasty food. A fun fact: You’ll have to walk through the kitchen to get to the restaurant.
If you are not into Catalan or Spanish food and rather have a good burger, try La Central at the Via Laietana. They are famous for their hamburgers and they serve quite a good selection of gourmet combinations.
And if you’re not quite sure what you want to eat, try El Nacional at Paseo de Gracia. This grand hall houses several restaurants with meat, fish, pasta, whatever your taste at that time prefers.
Tip 8: What to Wear
VMworld is a conference for IT people. What that means differs per culture, but at VMworld, the American interpretation is mostly standard. That means that general venue outfit is jeans or chinos, comfortable shoes and a polo shirt or t-shirt.
Also, a good tip, learned after a few years of VMworld: bring more than one pair of shoes and change them during the day. Your feet will thank you and you will get through the day more easily. The Fira has a nice walk between the Solutions Exchange and the location where the sessions are, so it is no exception that you will walk up to 10 kilometers per day.
Even though it is Barcelona, do bring your coat or jacket as it tends to be cool in the evenings in November. Also, it can poor quite severly in autumn. A waterproof jacket may not be a luxury if it does.
Tip 9: TAM Again!
If you are a TAM customer, not only do you get an extra day. You will also get access to TAM Customer Central or TCC. The TCC is located in Hall 8.0 to the right (that is the current planning, please do check). At the TCC, you can relax, grab a coffee and have a comfortable seat on a sofa (believe me, after a morning of running around, that is a very nice feeling). But more importantly, at TCC you can attend TCC sessions.
If you have registered yourself as a TAM customer, the TCC sessions should appear in your VMworld Catalog. TCC sessions are not like ‘normal’ sessions. They are much smaller, usually up to 25 attendees. This means that you are much closer to the presenter, have much more interaction and therefore get much more out of it. So be sure to check those TCC sessions out!
Tip 10: Expert Led Workshops
We all know HandsOn Labs, right? No? That huge hall where all these people are behind computer monitors? It is a wonderful place to play with new products you just had a session on. But there is more.
At the HOL, you can also register for an Expert Led Workshop. These workshops are led by the people who created the labs. They can tell you why a lab is set up the way it is, how you get the most out of it, tell you more about the product the lab is on and much more. These labs are very interesting and generally fill up very quick which is why they usually are held several times. If you want to know more about a certain product, check if there is an expert-led workshop on it and make sure you attend one. Register at the HOL desk.
Tip 11: Community Community Community
VMworld isn’t just about sessions and labs. It’s also about networking with your community. So many of you attend VMUG Usercons, read and write blogs, maybe are vExpert. VMworld is a feast for you.
Traditionally, VMworld kicks off on Sunday evening with the vRockstar party, organised by Marco Broeken and Patrick Rednap. We’ve been told that this year the tradition will continue. There will be a vRockstar party. The exact details are still in the works, but stay tuned for more details as more will be revealed soon.
Update 22 October 2019: The vRockstar party was sold out quicker than ever before. If you are not among the fortunate ones to get a ticket, you may want to check in at around 22:00 (10pm). Usually there is a little space for you left. Check out this link for venue details.
If you are a vExpert, VMworld is the place to be. A lot of vendors will have vExpert specific swag you want to get. Like in the US, in Europe we will also see a vExpert gathering. Corey Romero, the vExpert community manager, wants to keep the location a secret but if you are a vExpert, you will be getting an invite. Make sure your info in the vExpert directory is up to date!
The VMUG traditionally always has a party. I could not find one on the international VMUG agenda, but I can’t imagine a VMworld without a VMUG gathering. If you are registered to your local VMUG chapter, you may expect an invite at some point.
At VMworld, the VM Village is the place where the community meets. Beside the bloggers table you will find the vBrownbag Theater where several community members do sessions on what they think is important. A nice place to be.
Tip 12: Relax
Speaking of VM Village, when it is time to relax, it is the place to unwind and recharge, litterally and figuratively. In the VM Village you will find recharge bars, sofas, bean bags and games
If you want to put your feet up for a moment to give them a rest, catch up on your email, recharge your phone, play a game with a coworker or just sit and rest, this is the place to do it. And you may run into a few community people while you are there and have a chat.
Tip 13: Map Your Way
It may not always be clear where you can find what. When you pick up your VMworld backpack and badge, you will find a lot of stuff inside. A lot of it is marketing material from VMworld’s partners, some have a contest where you can win something. But usually there is no plan of the conference layout.
Here’s a tip; turn your badge around. You will find a small version of the conference plan on the back. It is good to know where the registration is, where the info stand is (for your free metro tickets), the TAM Customer Central (for the TAM customers out there), the Solutions Exchange, the big conference room where the general sessions take place, etcetera. Make yourself familiar with the layout as it will benefit you all week.
Tip 14: There’s an App
Is there an app? Yes there is. The VMworld app! Download it for iPhone and Android, log on with your VMworld.com credentials and you see your schedule and be notified prior to your sessions start, get heads up on events on the venue and from sponsors. It will help get where you want to go.
Tip 15: Parties!
VMworld is hard work. But there also is time for some fun and relaxation. On Monday and Tuesday there in general will be a lot of off-site events going on. Most vendors will organise an appreciation party on Tuesday. Well known are the Dell-EMC party, the regional VMware customer appreciation events and the Veeam party.
Most of them include some form of snacks or food but in general it may not replace your dinner. It may be a good idea to have a nice meal with friends or coworkers first and then visit one or two events. Some of those parties go on until way past midnight. Obviously it’s up to you if you stay that long, but be aware the next morning the first session sometimes start at 8am.
On Wednesday there is the VMworld appreciation event. The party for all VMworld attendees. This event includes food and drinks for all. And a band. Which band is still a secret but expect it to be announced shortly. The event usually is planned up to 11pm.
Update 23 October 2019: The VMfest band was announced and this year you will be entertained by the <drumroll> The Stereophonics! If you have not heard from them before, check out this video on YouTube
So there it is, my list of tips and tricks for an excellent VMworld 2019. VMworld is hard work but also an wonderful experience.
There probably are some more tips you may think of. If you do, please add them in a comment.