Navigating AWS re:Invent: A First-timer’s Guide

You finally decided to see what all the fuss over the cloud is about by attending the 2017 AWS re: Invent conference, Las Vegas, NV, Nov. 27-Dec. 1. Let me be one of the first to welcome you to the cloud industry’s largest and most dynamic shows, breaking records with over 30,000 attendees at last year’s event. The swag is impressive, the keynote speakers are dynamic, and the AWS announcements are always exciting.

As intriguing as it may sound, this is one of the most crowded and high-energy conference you’ll attend so, be prepared when picking up your badge.  After all, AWS just announced $4.1B in revenue last quarter, a full $920M higher than analysts expected.  That’s a 41% growth rate on a $16B annual business and I’m sure they’re ready to celebrate.

To help you get the most out of your visit, here are a few things I’ve learned over the years when it comes to AWS re:Invent.

The Perks

  • Content, Content, Content – AWS is packing five days of sessions across six major Las Vegas hotels. No matter what business you are in, there are keynotes, breakouts, workshops, hackathons, boot camps, and happy hours that will fill up all five days. Unlike other conferences, AWS does a great job of educating attendees so they can be as hands-on as possible. Take a note pad and get ready to learn more than just a thing or two.
  • Networking – This conference consists of the largest collection of cloud business leaders, architects, developers, security professionals, product managers, and partners in the world. Utilize this week to learn from each other, develop new business relationships, find your next developer or even your next job in the cloud.
  • Breakout Sessions – With so many industry experts submitting proposed speaking topics for a chance to present during a coveted breakout session, it’s no wonder that there are some of the best topics and speakers to choose from. Given there are 30,000 attendees and a limited number of seats during this show, be strategic about which presentations you chose to attend and be sure to get there early in order to claim a seat.

The Challenges

  • Crowds – Weaving through exhibit halls can prove to be frustrating, especially when you’re on a schedule. Growing up in NYC, I’m comfortable and adept at navigating big crowds but, at times, it can still be a little overwhelming. Factor in a possible time delay when scheduling between meetings. You’re probably going to need it!
  • Sprawl – While Vegas might be the only conference city big enough to handle a crowd of this magnitude, it requires AWS to spread events across six hotels. Traveling from one hotel to the other can be a 45-minute ordeal, and taxis are usually not your best option. Make sure you spend time familiarizing yourself with Google maps to plan your transitions before you go. If not, then plan on being late all week.
  • Lack of Networking Tools – Unfortunately, there is no platform that enables you to search for other attendees to arrange a meeting. One of the most valuable experiences is in-person meetings with AWS, customers, prospects and partners but, at this conference, that isn’t always made easy. I highly recommend cleaning up your other professional profiles for you to leverage instead.


  • Schedule NOW – Log into the AWS re: Invent portal as quickly as you can and get to work scheduling. Seating is reserved so, if you haven’t already filled up your week you’ll be going to Las Vegas to wait and hope to get into sessions.
  • Utilize Social Media – Fire up your Twitter or LinkedIn account and be sure to connect immediately after an introduction or meeting. Add a personalized note when making the request that will jog your memory when revisiting the conversation after the conference has ended. Can’t find someone but know they’re attending? Send out a Tweet and engage them.
  • Know When to Walk Away – This really has a dual meaning. Your time is valuable so, be wise where you spend it. Blackjack tables and irrelevant sessions that will not add value to your overall AWS re: Invent experience can be a time-suck. Feel empowered to walk away so you can get the most out of this AWS experience.

Conferences of this size can feel overwhelming. Do your homework and due diligence of preparation before you go to eliminate anxiety while you’re there and ensure you’re leveraging this event to the very best of your ability. In my experience, I’ve always preferred quality over quantity. At AWS re:Invent, you’ll have both.

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