AWS Bites Podcast

85. Tips for Attending AWS Events

Published 2023-06-16 - Listen on your favourite podcast player

In the latest episode of AWS Bites Podcast, Luciano and Eoin share their insider tips on how to get the most out of in-person AWS events like summits, re:Inforce, or re:Invent.

From networking to swag hoarding, they cover everything you need to know to make the most of these conferences. Learn how to convince your employer to let you attend and how to plan ahead to get the most out of the event. Plus, hear about the fun activities and after-parties you won't want to miss.

Don't miss out on this must-listen episode if you're attending an AWS event soon!

AWS Bites is sponsored by fourTheorem, an AWS Consulting Partner offering training, cloud migration, and modern application architecture.

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

Let's talk!

Do you agree with our opinions? Do you have interesting AWS questions you'd like us to chat about? Leave a comment on YouTube or connect with us on Twitter: @eoins, @loige.

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Luciano: Last week, we attended the AWS Summit Conference in London. It was a great event and we came back with tons of learnings and to be fair, even some good amount of swag. But it was an event with close to 100 talks and thousands of participants. So in this kind of events, it might be very easy to get lost and miss the opportunity to take the most value out of that particular day you spent at the conference.

In this episode, we want to share some tips to make sure that you can enjoy this kind of events and feel like they were really worth your time and energies. My name is Luciano and today I'm joined by Eoin and this is AWS Bites podcast. AWS Bites is sponsored by fourTheorem, an advanced AWS consulting partner that works together with you on architecture, migration and cost optimization. You can find out more at

You'll find this link in the show notes. So I want to start by giving a very quick description of the kind of events we're talking about because there is definitely no shortage of AWS related events. There are lots of community activities, there are meetups and these events can be at very different scales. The ones we want to focus about today are the ones that tend to be a little bit more on the large side of this scale.

So where we have thousands of participants and they might have multiple tracks happening at the same time. You might have lots of space for companies showcasing their products. And generally you are in this very large space filled with thousands of people and it might be very complicated to figure out exactly how should I spend my time. And those kind of events are the summits like the one we just mentioned in London.

And there are other events that are quite similar. For instance, the reinforce and reinvent which to be fair, I personally haven't been in those ones. So I'm just extrapolated that they would be similar if not even more chaotic. So I expect that some of the advices we are going to share today are also very valuable if you attend some of these other events. But I guess we can be proven wrong. So if you think you have been at those events and you have a different experience, hopefully you'll let us know and that will be a topic to discuss more for the next episodes. So one question that we often get from people we talk to that are interested in AWS is I really like to attend, but it's sometimes a bit difficult to convince my employer to let me go for the day and travel and maybe refund the cost of all of that. So how can people actually justify the value? What do you think, Eoin?

Eoin: Well, it's kind of an event because they're quite a big event, but they're also just typically one day events and not too far away because they're in various different locations around the world. While we were in London on the same day, there was another one in Washington DC. So they're quite regular at this point. And we've also had like recent events here as well, like the AWS Community Day in Dublin and before that was AWS Cloud Day in Dublin and we got an opportunity to go to all of them and they're all a little bit different, but they're all just one day commitments.

So it's not too bad, because you're not traveling very far, it's not too expensive. So it shouldn't take that much to convince yourself and your employer. I guess the main thing is just taking a day out of whatever else you're doing, getting your head out of the weeds. It really helps a lot to do that. So the two things you're really getting out of it is learnings and then just meeting people, people you know and new people as well.

But if you're working with AWS, attending this kind of event is going to have a positive impact in general in your career and your day-to-day job. So it should be a benefit for your employer. It should help you to come back with ideas and ways of working better and improve solving challenges you have. So you can share with your employer what kind of topics will be covered and show how they're relevant to your day-to-day job and the challenges you might have with them.

It's also an opportunity to meet vendors and vendors are there to sell something. So sometimes you might be a bit allergic to that and be a bit afraid of being targeted for sales. But at the end of the day, most of these vendors are trying to solve problems that are commonly relevant for AWS practitioners. So you should keep an open mind and be open to learning something and maybe replacing something you've built in-house with a third-party solution or just meeting vendors you already have and figuring out how to do things better. I'd say it's an opportunity to meet industry experts like as well and people you only know from Twitter and YouTube, including your favorite podcast hosts. But the other advantage is that these events, especially the vendor events organized by AWS are free. Apart from all the data you have to give away when you go around the stands, but in monetary terms, they're free. So even though they take time and energy from you, they don't have a sign-up cost like a lot of conferences, which can be more expensive. So let's say you've convinced your employer, what do you need to do next, Luciano?

Luciano: So this is just before the event. Probably you want to start to think about that a bit in advance, maybe a month or so, because generally these events are planned way ahead so you can actually plan as well yourself. And there are a few reasons why it is important to just don't do it the very last minute. Sometimes there is limited availability. So of course, the sooner you register your spot, the more peace of mind you have that you secure your presence at the event and you can just go.

If you do the very last day, maybe there is no more availability and you lost that opportunity. Very similarly, if you have to book flights and hotels because you have to travel a little bit, that could be another problem. Of course, the sooner you do it, the cheaper and the easier is to find places for staying. It's also really important to check the agenda. Now, the agenda doesn't always come too early.

It is actually updated very close to the event in my experience, but at least a couple of days before the event, it should be there and it should be quite complete. I would recommend people to check the agenda and bookmark the things that are more interesting to you. As we said in London, there were, I think, something around 70 or more talks. So there is a lot of talks and they happen all in parallel.

It's important to just don't randomly go and attend talks. Talks you need to have a plan. The good news is that there is a mobile application called AWS Events that can simplify organizing the talks you want to attend, creating some kind of virtual agenda that then you can easily visualize to understand which talks are happening next in which room, and you can go there in time. This app is available for both Android and iOS.

We will put the links in the show notes. I have a very small feedback. If somebody from AWS is listening, please make it work offline because sometimes the connectivity at these events is not great. And yeah, if it doesn't work offline, you might not be able to rely on this application sometimes. Now, one advice that I have is that it's very tempting to put, to squeeze a lot of talks in your agenda because they are effectively one after the other, but they don't necessarily happen in the same room.

So you might have to walk sometimes even quite a bit to just go from one talk to the other. And therefore, my suggestion is try to put gaps in between sessions just because you have to probably spend sometimes going to one session to the other, but also sometimes you find long queues to just get in and you might just be left out of the talk because the room fills in and there is no more space. So my advice would be don't try to be too eager and try to attend all the talks, but just pick the ones that you really care about and try to allow yourself a little bit of time between one talk and the next one.

Another last thing that I have on this topic is there are levels of how much in-depth is that particular talk. AWS uses this kind of scheme where you have 100, 200, 300, and 400, and they are increasingly more advanced levels. So really, depending on your level of expertise, you can also filter out the talks that are more relevant to you. And for instance, the 100 ones are very informative. It's more with this service, you can do this kind of things and address this kind of problem.

So they are really good if you are just starting with AWS to just understand what's the landscape, what kind of services you can focus about, and get some use cases out of it. But if you already have experience with AWS, sometimes they are really not adding much value to what you already know. So you might want to look for the 200, 300, or 400 type of talks. And again, that might change depending on what is your area expertise. Sometimes you are very experienced in one particular subject, but you might want to explore other subjects. So of course, try to just understand which levels apply the most based on your specific expertise. Now, once you get at the event, what are some of the suggestions that we can share?

Eoin: Yeah, I like to try and travel the night before actually, so you can get there early and you're not exhausted. Because if you're traveling the morning of the event and traveling back the evening of the event, the events are tiring enough as they are because you're standing a lot, talking a lot, walking a lot. And so for that reason, it's nice to be close by the night before and then get there earlier because the registration can be really long queues.

At the London event, it got really busy in mid-morning. Once, like, I think registration was open at eight, it was quiet at the start, but then it just gets a bit crazy. So if you can get there, get registered, sit down and have a cup of coffee and start meeting people who've done the same, it's a nice way to start the day and then it sets you up. Because sometimes, like, the networking part is hard going sometimes, depending on what kind of mood you're in and how open you are to that kind of thing. But if you do it, if you start when it's quiet, it's often easier to keep going that way. So once you have everything ready, you have to bring like photo ID. You can bring your QR code, get there, get registered, and then you're pretty good to go. And then you have a more relaxed approach to the day. Yeah, and then I think the main thing is to focus on meeting as many people as possible. So is there any trips you can offer Luciano? You're a super networker. How can people do more to meet more people?

Luciano: Yeah, that's definitely for me the most important thing. I generally feel that even if I learn a lot with the talks, meeting people has a special value, because I can still find a lot of content from the comfort of my home or my office, watching YouTube videos, reading articles, listening to podcasts. There is definitely no shortage of material where you can learn from or even just trying things on your own.

It's a good way, but you don't get as many opportunities to meet people and talk with them. And I think you can still learn a lot by just talking to people, listening to their stories and understand what kind of problems they are trying to solve, how did they solve them, and then comparing different approaches. And you can also retain those connections long-term so you can reach out to people later.

So I think it definitely adds value to you as a professional to try to meet as many people as possible and share expertise and build a connection with them. Now again, it's important to understand that these events can be massive in the order of thousands of participants. So if you know that there are specific people you want to talk to at that event, make sure to talk with them in advance before the event and book a meeting.

And sometimes we already said that there can be connectivity issues. You don't always get connection. The Wi-Fi might be pretty saturated. Also, I found that mobile operators sometimes can be pretty saturated if you are in an area with hundreds of people at that moment in time. So sometimes you literally don't have any connection at all. So if you really want to meet people, make sure to plan in advance also a time and a place where it might be the best place to have a chat.

Therefore, even if you have no connection, you can just go there and most likely you are going to meet that particular person. And another thing, and this also happens to me, I know I might look like an extrovert, but sometimes I'm also an introvert. So it might be a little bit scary to just start a conversation with random people. There are some obvious things that you can do there. First of all, I think the best moments are when you have either lunch breaks or coffee breaks or even when you're simply standing in a queue, maybe to go into a room for a talk or maybe to get your lunch or maybe to do the registration.

I think those are great moments to just exchange a few words. And I think if you just ask people next to you or in front of you, hey, what's your name and what do you do, that's already a great way to start a conversation. So it doesn't have to be anything extremely smart or complicated. That's the easiest question. And I think everyone will be happy to reply to that and have a conversation. Some other times there are people that are clearly there trying to promote something, either their own companies or maybe the company they work for or maybe they are trying to build a product or maybe they have a podcast.

So they might wear something that tells you, I am the person behind this in a way or another. So they might have logos or I don't know names of companies in their t-shirt or in their backpack. And so another excuse to just start a conversation. If you think what they do might be interesting, you can just ask, hey, what's about this name? What do you do? Tell me a bit more, I'm curious. And that's another thing that people will be extremely happy to tell you more about and that can start a conversation and that you can compare maybe different experiences.

I think if you engage with somebody that you feel like it would be great to keep as a long-term contact, it's important to make sure you exchange some kind of contact. Now, I'm not suggesting you still print business cards. I think that's not a practice that most people will do anymore. Even though it might be nice to kind of give away a business card. I think these days you can just get on with just using LinkedIn or Twitter or an email.

So just do that and on that I would really recommend, this is actually a tip that I think it really goes a long way. If you reach out to the people you engage with after one day or maybe two days, just saying, hey, it was great meeting you and I don't know, just make an effort to send a custom message. Maybe just say it was great to talk about X and I'd really like to learn about your experience. I think that will really help you to consolidate that connection and make sure that if you want to reach out to them in the future, that connection is still there and it's going to be available for you. So don't discount how important it could be to just send a simple message like this. Now, I know that in these events, of course, you can meet a lot of people from AWS itself. So do you have any suggestion around that?

Eoin: Because we're AWS partners, we know a lot of people at AWS at this stage. So we talk to a lot of people we know, but we also get to meet people that we haven't in person and just try to increase our network. I always find like when you're working with AWS, it's a major vendor for everybody if you're adopting AWS, you really benefit from knowing as many people as possible across like technology and account management and everything.

So it is always good to meet as many as you can. I think the first time I went to these conferences, I always had questions about AWS, I was always struggling with something and all of these events tend to have an ask an architect booth where you can go up and a solutions architect will be available with a whiteboard and a marker and a laptop and there to answer your questions. And I've always found that really beneficial.

You also find like this AWS stands with demos and community area as well. So there's plenty of people from AWS and their job is to meet people like you, no matter where you're coming from and they're not just there to meet major vendors with multi-million spend on AWS. They're there to meet everybody. So you tend to get a lot from trying to trying to meet them. And then when you have needs for support in the future, having contacts will really help you. And as well, if you decide that you want to create content around AWS, if you're connected to people within the AWS community and working for AWS itself, this already helps you in the future like that. So it's always good idea to make as many contacts as possible. Would you think it's worthwhile spending a lot of time meeting some of the companies who are really invested in selling to you like sponsors, partners at these events, Luciano?

Luciano: Yeah, for instance, in the case of the London event, there were so many of them, probably the order of like hundreds of booths that where you can just walk in and talk. So I would recommend to try to talk with all of them because that probably wouldn't even have the time in an entire day to talk to all of them. So of course, be selective will be the first suggestion. So if there are companies that you are particularly interested in the products or maybe companies that you already have worked with, either you use their products or you're thinking to use their products, I think it might be really well worth it to go there and talk to them.

And I'll give you an example that happened to me in this particular London conference. I'm not going to mention the vendor just because this, I don't want to that the episode looks like it's sponsored by them. But there is a particular vendor that I've been working with for in the context of a project that we are doing with our customer of ours. And I have been engaging with some of the people that were actually in person there at the booth.

So I just went by to say, hey, hello, it's finally nice to meeting you in person because before we just engaged in video calls and emails. And what actually happened and it was a bit unexpected is that there was there an architect for that particular product and I was able to have a conversation with them and talk about some of the things that we were going to do next with that product. And it turned out that they already had a bunch of examples and a bunch of code material ready to be shared with us to actually implement all the things that we need to implement next week.

So unexpectedly this is making my job easier for the next week because I will have a lot of supporting material that I can just use rather than reinventing the wheel. So again, this is maybe a very specific example. It's not necessarily guaranteed that something like this is going to happen to you, but it just goes to show that the more you engage with companies and people the more it can affect your work positively.

Then another reason might be you just like to collect swag and every company has tons of swag and actually I'm impressed how more competitive it becomes from a conference to the next. Yeah, I really like your sunglasses. And we are not just we are not going to mention the company again just because it's going to look sponsored, but that's one of the swag we got from that particular conference. So yeah, definitely that could be another reason to just go and talk with the companies that you like the most because they might give you a t-shirt, they might give you other stuff that is of course branded, but that you might just enjoy adding for yourself.

Now, it's funny that because they're becoming more and more competitive, I'm seeing very expensive prices. Like I've seen very expensive Lego sets or Nintendo Switch or PlayStations or keyboards. And of course, you don't just walk in and get those kind of things because of course, they're very expensive. They will try to lure you into join this competition or maybe some raffle or something like that.

So you can also play the kind of game if you like to do this kind of things because they will try to to get some of your data or keep you engaged in a conversation so that you can participate and try to get the more juicy price. So that's something that you might want to consider or not, of course. And of course, if you go for this kind of things, just make sure you have enough room in your luggage because sometimes I find myself that I really pack my bag and that I don't have any space left for extra stuff and it becomes a bit of a problem.

Like do I need to throw away something or maybe buy another bag and then check it in? So just make sure you account for that. So last thing that I have in this space is that there are also tons of startups. So companies that are either just starting or they have their first MVP or maybe they've been in the market but not for long and now they're trying to figure out what's next for them. And I find them to be the most interesting companies to talk to just because sometimes it's really the founders there and you can talk with them and they will really value talking to you, getting your experience, getting your feedback. After all, they're trying to build a product that is probably going to try to satisfy some of your needs. So you are the best person to talk with them and they will really enjoy that and very easily they can give you access to the product to do a trial or even discounts or maybe give you free access to some of the new features that they are building. So I really enjoy to do this kind of things and if there are startups that are doing something in the space that you are interested in, definitely don't miss the opportunity to go and talk with them. Now, what about social media stuff for content creation? What can people do to take advantage of that as well?

Eoin: Well, I guess you're definitely better at this stuff than me, but I think there's a couple of things that we can suggest before the event. Of course, mention on social media that you're going to be there and you're happy to meet people because then you might get those meetings beforehand and say what you're interested in and that you'd be happy to talk to people who are interested in the same kind of thing.

And when people do reach out, book that meeting in advance and name a time and a place because like you said, at London, network was a disaster, mobile and Wi-Fi. So it was like being cut off from the rest of the world during the event. If you can get on the Wi-Fi, post about the things you're doing and like. And don't just report what you see, but try to add a value with your posts as well. Like your opinion, additional material, etc.

If you're on Twitter or LinkedIn, you can change your name to name at event and people will follow you and see that you're there. And if they're there as well, they might reach out to you. But you can also show up then in searches when people are searching for info about the event. So that will increase the number of people who will engage with you. And then after the event, you can do like a summary or a blog post. You can also do videos during the event depending on how much content you want to get into. But most people won't be at the event. So you're one of the ones who are there at the event. There's an audience out there of people who are curious to hear what's new and what they've missed out on. So take that opportunity during and after the event as soon as possible to summarize and share. What other fun stuff can you do while you're there in the channel? It's not all work and networking. How can people, you know, get entertained?

Luciano: Yeah, I actually found that this kind of events, AWS puts a lot of effort to create spaces where there is more of kind of recreational activities. But even those activities, they always have a learning angle to it. So this time in London, there were like Formula One simulators. There was the AWS DeepRacer competition. There were spaces where you could play like a deck building card game that was AWS themed.

There is the usual serverless espresso booth where you can just go and all digitally, you can order your own coffee. And while that happens, you can learn about the step functions that are actually used in that time to manage your order and everyone else order and send you a message when your order is ready. So I think those things might feel like a little bit silly or distracting. I think that they might be, first of all, just a nice way to just take a break and do something different.

But don't discount again that there is a lot of learning value there as well because they are all built around the theme of AWS and some of the services and they're trying a little bit more indirectly to showcase actual use cases of AWS. So if you look at those things with that lens, I think you can still learn a lot about, I don't know, how would they build maybe an ordering system. It doesn't necessarily have to be for coffee, but you could apply those learnings to a similar use case in another industry. And maybe you already have that use case. So you could be able to compare what you did with what AWS is doing for that particular implementation. Sometimes there might be a long queue, but again, if you are bored, you can just walk out, step into the queue and use that opportunity also to engage with people and do a little bit of networking. So definitely just check out these areas and don't think that if you go there, you are just wasting your time. Actually, there might be a lot of useful learnings that come out from those in a fun and engaging way.

Eoin: Have a look out on LinkedIn or Twitter beforehand for some of the vendors who might be arranging for drinks afterwards or food or other events because they don't tend to, they don't have to go on for very long, but it is a nice way to kind of get some more networking and just meet people in a more relaxed environment afterwards. It's not always about alcohol as well because sometimes some of these events can be a little bit off-putting if you're not like a serious drinker, you know, so a lot of the events like you could just go and just have a chat with people and have a coffee or drink a soft drink or whatever.

Just be careful of people who will try and lead you astray. That is one warning I'll have to give. But yeah, especially like it at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, it's getting nice and sunny. So the afterwards after work after conference events are a nice way to kick back and just chat to more people and talk about what you learned. But you do need to register in advance for a lot of those things.

So watch out for the invitations. A lot of them are completely open to anyone attending the event. You just have to get a ticket in advance because they need to plan numbers and everything. And that's it after that you're free to head home and recover because sometimes as well, you even if you're just trying to take it easy and not go too intense at these events, just the fact that you're standing and walking for a full day and talking to a lot of people and doing a day of work. That's different to your normal day sitting behind your desktop. It just takes a lot of ideas. Just account for that and you're planning for the day afterwards and don't be too ambitious because you do have to do those follow-ups as well and reach out to everybody who you met at the event. So a lot of time for that and it'll definitely be worthwhile into the future because you know, you probably won't get to one of these events every month. It's more like one or two a year in general. So make the most of it. Indeed.

Luciano: Yeah, by the way, I think I waltzed something like 20 kilometers at the LWS Summit London, which is not necessarily a lot, but it's definitely way more than my average when I just work sitting at my desk for most of the day.

Eoin: You're in training for Vegas this year, right? So that's the start of it. Let's see if you can do 50 in Vegas.

Luciano: It probably, yeah, from what I'm told, Vegas, it's really intense and you end up walking a lot between one place to the next one. So we will see. I'll probably mention something about that online or maybe in another podcast episode. But that brings us to the end of this episode. So we would be really curious to know if you have other tips, if you enjoyed the ones we just gave away, and I am actually curious to know what are the events that you want to attend next because I'm curious to compare which ones interest you and maybe there are ones that we are going to attend as well. So maybe it could be a great opportunity to meet in person. So let us know in the comment section if you are on YouTube or reach out to us on Twitter or on LinkedIn and we'll be more than happy to have a chat with you. Until then, we'll see you on the next one and thank you very much for following along. Bye.