We are only two weeks away from AWS re:Invent—and Thanksgiving falls at the end of that second week, so it’s more like a week and a half. Hopefully you’ve already acquired your event pass and made the necessary travel and hotel arrangements. Before you embark for Las Vegas, though, there are a few important things you should know.

Last year was my first time attending AWS re:Invent. I come from a cybersecurity background, so I have been a regular at the RSA Security Conference and Black Hat for the last decade. RSA and Black Hat are not “small” conferences by any definition I’m aware of—but they both pale in comparison to the sheer monumental expanse of AWS re:Invent.

Amazon expects somewhere in the neighborhood of 55,000 people to descend on the Las Vegas strip to interact with hundreds of sponsors and over a thousand workshops and breakout sessions spanning seven different venues and five days. It is a spectacle worthy of Las Vegas, and it can be overwhelming if it’s your first time (or if it’s not your first time, but you didn’t learn your lesson the first time and still failed to thoroughly plan).

Having attended once, I am now an unofficial expert on AWS re:Invent, so I would like to share the 5 crucial things I think you need to know about and plan for at AWS re:Invent:

1. Everything Is 2.4 miles away

Distance is deceiving in Las Vegas. You might look at the map of the strip and see that two hotels are “next to each other,” and think, “Cool. I’ll just zip over there.” Nope. The hotels in Las Vegas are massive. It’s generally a 15-minute walk just to get out of the hotel you’re staying in—no matter what direction you need to go—and that adjacent hotel that looks like it’s just across the street on the map will actually be a 2.4-mile walk (That may be an exaggeration, and your mileage may vary). The bottom line is, you’d better bring very comfortable shoes, and make sure you consider the time it will take you to walk from Point A to Point B.

2. It will be crowded…everywhere

Las Vegas is one of the premier tourist destinations in the United States. People from across the country and around the world visit Vegas for the casinos and entertainment all year. Now, add 55,000 people attending AWS re:Invent and you can understand that pretty much everywhere you go and everything you do will be filled to capacity. This is especially true of the restaurants. Thankfully, there are a lot of restaurants to choose from, but—again—factor that in when planning your day and organizing your schedule.

3. Know which vendors you want to visit ahead of time

Like everything else in Las Vegas and at AWS re:Invent, the Expo Floor is massive. With hundreds of vendor booths lined up in rows, it is challenging to get to them all—and I’m not sure you necessarily want to. I certainly recommend walking the floor to see what catches your interest and learn about new companies and technologies you might not be aware of, but if you just start wandering the floor without a goal in mind there’s a good chance you won’t get to the booths you actually want to visit. Take a look at the list of vendors ahead of time and choose the booths you want to make sure you get to (hint: Alert Logic is at Booth #1610). Figure out where they are on the Expo Floor and go in with a strategy that gets you to the booths you want to visit most efficiently. Stop by other booths that interest you along the way, but save the random wandering for after you get the information and answers you’re looking for from the vendors that matter most to you.

4. Plan your day around the shuttle schedule

The hotels along the strip are very far apart (see Point #1 above) and re:Invent is spread out across many of them. Even if you are focused primarily on cybersecurity, Alert Logic Chief Strategist Matt Selheimer’s speaking session— “Opportunistic Hacks and Persistent Attacks—Preparing for 2019 —is at the Venetian, Data Protection: Encryption, Availability, Resiliency and Durability is at the MGM, Using AWS Lambda as a Security Team is at the Mirage, and The Tension Between Absolutes and Ambiguity in Securityv is at the Aria—and that is just a very small sampling.

If you are trying to get from the Expo Floor to a session at the MGM Grand or Aria, you are most likely not going to want to walk there. Amazon provides shuttles to get you back and forth between the venues. To use them effectively, though, you need to plan your day around the shuttle schedule and try to group your sessions and activities to make the most of a given venue once you get there rather than going back and forth all day.

Bonus tip: instead of scrambling to get to the other end of the strip—or if you just can’t get from Point A to Point B in time—you can also take advantage of the livestreaming. Not everything is livestreamed, but keynote presentations, Monday Night Live, and AWS Launchpad sessions are available. If you need to, you can watch the livestream in your pajamas from the comfort of your hotel room.

5. Don’t forget to participate in extra-curricular activities

I know you’re going to AWS re:Invent so you can learn about all of the latest and greatest cloud technologies and hear about the new products and services being announced by AWS and the hundreds of vendors. You’re there to attend workshops and breakout sessions and expand your professional knowledge and skills. However, don’t forget to have fun. AWS re:Invent offers a diverse array of activities you can participate in: the Harley Ride, 4K and 8K run, Pub Crawl, Tatonka Challenge, Broomball, and more. There are also vendor-sponsored events and parties all week, and the insanity of the re:Play event Thursday night.

Oh. That reminds me. I have one more bonus tip. You can see the massive tents for re:Play behind Linq and Harrah’s. It might look like you can just walk there from any direction. You can’t. For security and crowd control reasons, everyone is funneled through the Venetian. If you try to come from the back side of re:Play, you are in for a very long walk all the way around everything so you can come in the door on the other side of the Venetian. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

OK. There you have it. The 5 crucial tips I have as a “veteran” of AWS re:Invent. Study them and plan accordingly. Also, make sure you register for one of our Breakfast Briefings, or just stop by Booth 1610 to chat with Alert Logic or see a Live Cyber Hack Demo.

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