10 tips for VMworld 2011 newbies

Attending VMworld for the first time can be a bit daunting, so try these expert tips out

For many virtualization users, VMworld has become a sort of pilgrimage -- a must-attend event for a lot of admins who are trying to find their virtual path. These individuals will do whatever it takes to make it to the event so that they can find out what's new, what's next, and what's hot and currently available to them, thus making them a virtualization rock star at work.

VMworld 2011 returns to Las Vegas for the first time since 2008 and once again chooses the Venetian Hotel as the event's host of operations. VMworld and Las Vegas seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly, popcorn and movies, and Elvis and fried bananas. But this could be VMworld's last hurrah in the entertainment capital of the world, as the show is expected to return to San Francisco for the foreseeable future. So to everyone who enjoys yelling, "let it ride," "jackpot," "hit me," and "bet it all on black," you might want to finalize those last-minute details and make your way to VMworld 2011 next week -- this could be your last time to enjoy these two venues together.

[ Also on InfoWorld.com: Five vSphere 5.0 enhancements that you may have missed because of the vSphere licensing changes | And is VMware losing its hold over its third-party software ecosystem? | Keep up on virtualization by signing up for InfoWorld's Virtualization newsletter. ]

I've been fortunate to have been able to attend all of the VMworld U.S. shows thus far, as well as the first VMworld Europe event. If this is your first time attending, here are 10 quick tips that I've picked up along the way or have learned from talking with other VMware vExperts who've attended for many years. Hopefully, you'll find these useful in making your VMworld 2011 experience the best that it can be.

VMworld tip No. 1: Make time on your schedule for the Solutions Exchange. More than 250 companies have paid a lot of money to be there as a sponsor, and they want to meet you. This is your chance to find out about a number of different software products that you may not have even heard of yet. These sponsors will usually have some of their top techies at the booth ready to explain the ins and outs of their technologies. Don't just let them scan your badge -- ask them for a demo and see the product in action.

Make sure you grab a datasheet to remind yourself who it was you spoke with and which products you found interesting. That way, you can remember after a long show which companies were worth the follow-up.

Don't forget: This is also the place to get swag. Some of these companies are offering T-shirts (or as I like to call it, admin wear), USB thumb drives, finger rockets, stress balls, bobble heads, action figures, and more. Some are offering a chance to win a PC, a laptop, an iPad, a tablet, cash, a motorcycle, or even a car! Who knows what craziness will come out of someone's marketing group this year.

VMworld tip No. 2: Network, network, network. These are like-minded individuals attending this show; they've seen many of the same problems and experienced many of the same pains as you. Trade war stories with each other. Find out best practices from others in the field. This is also a good time to meet VMware employees, VMware vExperts, book authors, VMTN community members, bloggers, and members of the press face to face and ask them the tough questions.

It's hard to read name tags while on the go, so one piece of advice is to watch for some color schema on the badge or lanyard. Each group should have some distinctive color code that will identify them and their role. Spot the right color code, then check for a name.

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