Turning a ‘No you cannot attend’ to a ‘Yes’ for VMworld

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I’ve been lucky enough to make it to very VMworld since 2008 and 2014 will be my 7 time in a row. In this blog post I wanted to share with you a breakdown of some of the tips and tricks I’ve used to get to these events. Being the former Phoenix VMUG leader I’ve shared these tips with fellow VMUG users and now I’m sharing them with all of you. Users would tell me cost is the number one reason why they don’t go – “My Company sees value in this event but will not pay for it”. This breaks down to Food, Hotel, Travel, and the infamous golden ticket aka the VMworld pass. So how do users overcome the cost to attend? This is what this blog post is all about…

Working with your employer –

Having your employer pick of the tab not only benefits them as a company but yourself too. As you know VMworld is full of great content and the socialization aspects are second to none. Chances are you’ll be asked to put together a total cost to attend and this cost can be quite high for some companies on a tight budget. My suggestion is if you are getting the big ‘No’ then work with your boss around the total costs. First find out why it’s a ‘No’ and look for opportunities to overcome this. Maybe your company will pay for some of the items. Example – They might be able to cover airfare, but the rest is on you. Don’t forget if your company has a VMware TAM (Technical Account Manager) reach out them. Even if you are not directly working with the TAM they are your best resource not only for VMware Technology but for getting you to VMworld. They don’t have passes but the usually know the community very well and can assist.

Sometimes I hear “My employer will not allow me to accept gifts”. True your company may have a policy around the type of gifts you can receive and by all means follow this policy. However, keep in mind you may be able to take vacation time and represent yourself at this event not your employer. Then there is a possibility gifts could be accepted but on the premises you don’t represent your company. Some companies are okay with this but just make sure they are. If you are able to do this I would suggest you represent it as ‘personal development’.

How do I get a free VMworld Pass aka the Golden Ticket?

This can be your biggest challenge. However here are some ways to get your hands on one.

  • Give-a-ways
    • I can’t tell you how many vendors have giveaways contests right now — hit them early and enter as many as you can find
    • Tips-
      • When you enter, find out who your local vendor contact is and let them know you entered then stay in contact with them
      • Keep in mind not all contests are the same, some are based on random drawing and others are not. This is why I say keep in contact with the vendor.
      • How do I find give-a-ways >> Google ‘VMworld getting there for free’
  • Get the word out
    • Tell your boss, workmates, vendors, partners, use twitter, linked in etc. and Repeat again and again. By doing this you let others know about your strong interest in getting there, in turn they might get a lead for you.
    • Most importantly, reach out to your local VMUG leader and ask them for tips in your area. They are usually well connected and might have a lead for you as well.
    • Follow Twitter and Linked In – You never know who is going to post up “I have a pass and need to give it to someone” Yes that is right, before the event you can transfer a pass to someone.
      • New to Twitter, need contacts? It’s simple find the #VMworld hastag, see who is posting to it and start following them. Then look at all their contacts and follow them too, soon you’ll have a gaggle of folks
    • This sound like work why do all this? Simple, distributed coverage model. The more people know the more likely they are to help and in turn the more likely you’ll succeed
  • Don’t forgo an Expo-Only or Solutions Exchange Pass
    • If you get offered this pass take it. I can’t tell you how many vendors have these passes and cannot give them away, seriously this is gold but folks don’t know how to leverage them.
    • First off this pass has great value, there is a TON of value here
    • Second this pass can get you on to the Solutions Exchange floor where all the vendors and partners are.
      • Once there start talking to all the vendors, fellow attendee, all those folks you meet on twitter, etc. as you never know who has a full pass they couldn’t get rid of, take it and upgrade yours
    • Third while you are there with an Expo Pass use Twitter and the VMworld hash tags to let folks know you’re here and you are looking for a full pass.
    • Stop by the VMUG booth on the Expo floor, you never know who will be there and you never know users there might be able to help you
  • Vendors and Partners
    • Find out who is sponsoring VMworld this year, and then…
      • Start calling the ones you know well, ask them for support getting there
      • Don’t forget to call the ones you don’t know so well too
      • If you have deal on the table with a vendor coming up, inquire if they will put or through in passes, travel, etc.
  • Finally biting the bullet and buying a ticket
    • If you are going this route at least try to get a discount your ticket. Discounts change from year to year, so you’ll need to read the T&C’s around this. Simply google ‘vmworld discounts’
      • Early Bird Pricing
      • VMUG Advantage Discount
      • Alumni
      • VCP
      • Group Discounts
    • Use PSO Credits to Pay
      • Another way to pay is PSO Credits. Rules around this can change from year to year but if you plan ahead these can be a way to get to VMware.
      • TIPS – Use those unused credits to pay, Are you renewing your ELA? See how you can bake in PSO credits just for VMworld

What about Food, Hotel, and Travel Costs?

  • Food
    • There will be free food everywhere, in-fact feel free to give some to the homeless I usually do.
    • If you get a pass then lunch and usually breakfast are included
    • For dinner, find out where the nightly events are as they usually have food
    • Talk with Vendors they might take you out, you never know
  • Hotel
    • Ask a Vendor to pay for just the room or ask them to gift hotel points to you
    • Room Share with someone at the event << Think about it, you won’t be in the room that often and chances are from 7AM till 10PM you’ll be out of your room
    • Use Travel sites to cut down the cost
      • Secret Hotels: Carriage Inn and The Mosser. Good if you’re on a budget these fill up quickly so book ahead
    • Use your Hotel or other travel points to book the hotel for free
    • Get a low cost hotel away from the event, but watch your travel costs
  • Travel
    • Airfare
      • Ask a vendor to pay for just the airfare, or maybe they have points they can gift you
      • Use your own travel points to pay for this
    • Rideshare to the event
      • See if one of your connections are driving to the event, offer to split fuel costs
      • You drive someone to the event, and they pick up the hotel or vise versa
    • Local Travel
      • Use the following –
        • VMworld Shuttle
        • Bus
        • Uber
        • BART
      • Once again hit up those vendors, they might have a way to get you around for free

Finally here is a breakdown of how I got to so many events and how/who paid for it….

Year

Pass

Travel

Food

Hotel

2008 VMworld

Vendor Sponsor – Full Pass

Employer Paid

Vendor / Event

Employer Paid

2009 VMworld

VMUG Sponsored – Full Pass

Vendor paid for Airfare with Miles

Vendor / Event

Employer Paid

2010 VMworld

VMUG Sponsored – Full Pass

Vendor paid for Airfare with Miles

Vendor / Event

Vendor Sponsored

2011 VMworld

Vendor Sponsor – Expo Pass but I got an upgrade to Full by asking others

I drove two others and I paid for the fuel

Vendor / Event

Travel Companion paid for room

2012 VMworld

Employee Labs

Employer Paid

Employer Paid

Employer Paid

2013 VMworld

Employee TAM

Employer Paid

Employer Paid

Employer Paid

2014 VMworld

Employee TAM

Employer Paid

Employer Paid

Employer Paid

 

Summing it up…

My take is, if you REALLY want to go you’ll get there but sometimes it takes effort to do so and if you do it right it might not cost you a thing. Don’t let anything stop you and find your way there.

Finally, after you’ve been to the event don’t forget about the folks who got you there and say ‘Thank you’. Then over the next year continue to build this relationship as you never know if you’ll need help again, or you want to help someone else get there.

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