What is AWS re:Invent?
Launched in 2012, re:Invent is the annual developer conference hosted by Amazon Web Services. With 2,500 technical sessions and more than 60,000 attendees, it’s an EPIC week of learning. In 2020 the conference was 100% virtual, but this year it is back in Las Vegas.
re:Invent is a great place to sharpen your technical skills, rub shoulders with like-minded developers, and get a first look at the newest products and services from Amazon. Oh, and there are tons of fun after-hours events too!
Why Is It Valuable?
We love re:Invent because there is something for everyone. There are workshops targeted at every skill level from beginner to advanced. There is content catered to different learning styles—lecture-style sessions, hands-on labs, hackathons, and interactive small group sessions. re:Invent helps us keep on top of the latest trends in cloud computing and data discovery, so we can continue building great software for our customers.
Preparing for the Conference
Take care of your conference logistics as early as you can. Reserve your hotel room when you register and book a flight as soon as possible. Remember, you are competing with 60,000 other attendees, so the sooner you can lock down your reservations the better.
If you are hoping to sneak off for shows or sightseeing, you may want to secure those tickets before you arrive in Vegas.
Sketch Out a Game Plan
Because of the size of re:Invent, you should have a strategy for which workshops you will attend. Start by thinking about what you want to focus on. For us, that is usually a mix of advanced training in tools we already use (depth) and exploring new tech that looks interesting or is outside of our comfort zone (breadth). re:Invent’s AWS Hero Guides can be a helpful resource to find sessions on specific topics.
Also, think about how you want to absorb the content. AWS has several session formats:
- Keynotes — These are the big news-making talks. They usually feature case studies and big product unveilings. If a keynote is happening, there won’t be any other sessions happening during that time slot. Seating is reserved, but there are overflow areas everywhere.
- Standard Breakout Sessions — These are 60-minute lecture-style talks, usually with hundreds of participants.
- 2.5 hour workshops — These are hands-on-keyboard sessions, usually with 100-150 participants. Sometimes participants are formed into groups to solve problems using AWS services.
- Chalk talks — These are more interactive sessions, usually with 50-100 participants. Generally, several AWS experts will give a brief talk, with most of the time reserved for questions and discussion.
- Builders Sessions — These are the most intimate sessions, with a max of 6 participants and a facilitator. An AWS expert will lead the group through the process of building something in AWS.
You can also schedule a one-on-one session with a support engineer, if you want to deep dive into your own questions.
Registering for Workshops
The session catalog is released in July and new content is added right up until the week of the conference. Registration opens up October 19, but don’t wait until the last minute to start looking through the catalog! It takes time to sort through all of the options, and you want to be ready to act when registration opens.
- As you start reviewing the sessions, star any session you might be interested in. If the same content is offered multiple times, star all of them. This will be helpful if a session fills up or conflicts with other sessions.
- As the conference draws closer (usually in early October), AWS will provide info on when and where the sessions will be held. With this info you can start to deconflict your schedule.
- Think about how you want to absorb the content. Do you learn better from lectures or from hands-on workshops? Big groups or small?
- As you plan your schedule, reserve room for downtime! Also, allow time to eat, travel between venues, and visit the vendor halls.
- If you are going with a group, consider buddying up for sessions. We’ve found that we often get more value out of sessions we attend with other teammates.
- Once registration opens, move quickly! Popular sessions will fill up within 3 minutes of being available! If you don’t make it into a session, add yourself to the waitlist. Unfortunately, if you don’t get promoted off of the waitlist, the session will disappear from your schedule completely. (This is another reason to star sessions you are interested in, so you can monitor your status.) For more on workshop scheduling, see Ryan Gross’ excellent guide (from 2019, but still relevant).
If you are going to participate in any of the hands-on workshops, you should bring a laptop. Before you leave home, update your dev tools. WiFi at re:Invent is usually decent, but it’s nice to take care of these housekeeping details in advance.
It’s also worth taking a little time to think about what you hope to get from the conference. Identify any specific gaps in your knowledge or questions you would like to answer.
Breakfast and lunch are included with your conference registration. The Venetian dining area is the largest—and it is HUGE—but meals are served at all conference properties. Often it makes sense to skip the crowds at the Venetian and eat near the next session you are attending. If you don’t want to bother with a hot lunch, you can also grab a box lunch.
For dinner, you can eat at the moderately priced food courts in the hotels or venture out to take advantage of Vegas’ other dining options. Consider making reservations in advance.
Bring comfortable shoes and plan on walking a lot. We all hit 15-20k steps a day, easily clocking 50 miles of walking during the conference. AWS provides free shuttles that run direct routes between virtually every hotel and conference venue. For getting around outside the conference, check out the tram (free) and monorail systems that facilitate travel up and down the strip. For everything else, Uber and Lyft are your best bet. Note that the hotels have designated pickup areas for ride sharing. For more transportation tips, see re:Invent’s guide to getting around.
There are more fun after hours events than we have time to mention. Everything from concerts, to ping pong tournaments, dodgeball, and a 4K/8K race. Check out all the options here.
In addition to the official events, many vendors host their own events. Have some fun!
Other Useful Tips
- If you are AWS Certified, you get extra perks. There is a certification lounge in the Venetian, special swag, snacks, and a reception on Wednesday night.
- As you explore the expo, you can swipe your badge with vendors to get more information. The vendor gets your email address, so we use the Gmail + trick to manage the influx of email.
- re:Invent is a big swag opportunity. You might want to bring an oversized suitcase to have room for all the loot you collect. In previous years Amazon has given away Echo Dots, DeepRacer cars, and DeepComposer keyboards to attendees—and vendors have anything from pins to drones!
- Follow the relevant hashtags (#reInvent and #reInvent2021) on Twitter to keep tabs on what you may be missing and participate in the conversation around news from the keynotes.
If you can’t make it to re:Invent, you can still catch the content online. The keynotes and leadership sessions will be livestreamed and every breakout session will be available online after the conference.