I’ve been lucky enough to make it to very VMworld since 2008 but it wasn’t always easy getting there. Being the former Phoenix VMUG leader and currently a 8-year VMware employee I’ve come across all types of VMworld tips. In this blog post I list out my tips to help enable you to be more successful in positioning your “ask” or “request” to attend.
TIP #1: Make VMworld your personal goal!
Okay, so you got the big No from your employer. Normal reasons for a denial are “costs too much”, “value to our company”, or “we can’t afford to have you away”. Fair enough, but the real question should be – how prepared were you to support your request? Imagine you are the manager and an employee somewhat casually asked you to spend $1000’s to go to an event you may never even heard of. What would your reaction be? Chances are you’d say no too.
Set a goal to attend VMworld – Say it again “Set a GOAL to attend VMworld” Think about it this way — you know VMworld is going to happen, so why not add it to your yearly goals? Even if your company doesn’t have goal planning then start a personal list and think about how to achieve this goal.
TIP #2: We achieve what we focus on the most
If getting to VMworld was always easy then I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. If you are being turned down year after year, you might consider a change of focus. Your focus should be known but not annoying. In other words, let others know that VMware and getting to VMworld is what you are passionate about. Let them know how VMware technologies help innovate your company, how it reduces downtime, how it makes you all more secure, etc. etc. By letting others know and understand your passion you’ll go from the person asking to go, to your VMware thought leader and soon management will be coming to you telling you to go to VMworld vs. you asking to go.
TIP #3: Get Help
Next, don’t do this alone. Do you have someone who can help support your goal? Maybe it is a fellow employee, VMware account team, VMware TAM, VMUG leader / Users, and most importantly don’t forget about your partners that support the VMware community. Talk with them, tell them about your goals and the reasons why you want to achieve them, see how they can help support you. Finally, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Are other employees successful in going to training, conferences, or events? Clearly, they are successful with their requests, so why not work with them on your goals and find new ways to be successful.
TIP #4 Getting past the “Total Cost”
Having your employer pick of the tab can be a challenge. Your plan should include the total cost to attend, how you plan to fund it, and keep in mind this cost can be quite high for some companies on a tight budget. My suggestion is if you are getting the big ‘No’ due to costs then work with your company around the total costs. First find out why it’s a ‘No’ and look for opportunities to overcome this, then use my tips below to enhance your plan. In general, your first challenge in subsidizing cost maybe your company’s policy around accepting gifts. Understand this policy well, don’t just take someone’s word as there maybe ways to accept gifts under specific circumstances. Read your companies current policy and ask the policy writers questions to better understand it. I think you’ll find there are ways to do this you just need to do some research. Explore your company – Talk with your travel department or even HR/Benefits around funding sources as there maybe programs to help employees with Education and events. Point is, ask and explore you never know what you will find and be able to achieve.
TIP #5 How do I get a free VMworld Pass aka the Golden Ticket?
Getting a free pass to VMworld can be your biggest challenge. However here are some ways to get your hands on one.
- I can’t tell you how many vendors do an annual giveaways contests — hit them early, often, and enter as many as you can find
- When you enter, find out who your local vendor contact is, let them know you entered, and then stay in contact with them all year long and then some
- Keep in mind not all contests are the same, some are based on random drawings and others are not. This is why I say keep in contact with the vendor and let them know your intent.
- How do I find give-a-ways >> Google ‘VMworld getting there for free’ or ‘VMworld contest’, Look on Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms
- 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, I cannot go, and need to give it to someone” This is pretty common just before the event and yes 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 sounds like work. Why do all this? Simple, distributed coverage model. The more people who 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. See the current VMworld Pass features for more information but normally you can get into the larger Sessions and the Solutions Exchange
- 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 attendees, 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 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 if 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 can put passes in the deal.
- Find out who is sponsoring VMworld this year, and then…
TIP #6: What about Food, Hotel, and Travel Costs?
When you attend the event other costs include food, hotel, and travel, but how can you minimize this on a tight budget?
- If you get a pass then lunch and usually breakfast are included but check the schedule
- For dinner, find out where the nightly vendor events are as they usually have food
- Talk with Vendors they might take you out, you never know
- Lastly, there is usually free food everywhere, in-fact feel free to give some to the homeless I usually do.
- Ask a Vendor to help 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 (Booking.com, Google Travel, AirBnB)
- My Secret Hotels:
- 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 to get to the event
- 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 (try the following)
- VMworld Shuttle
- Hotel Shuttle
- City Transit Options
- Ride Share – Uber / Lyft
- San Fran BART / Las Vegas Monorail
- Share a Rental Car or Taxi
- Once again hit up those vendors, they might have a way to get you around for free
TIP #7: Finally here is a breakdown of how I got to so many events and how it was paid for
|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|
|2012-2019||Employee Pass||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 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 these relationship as you never know if you’ll need help again, or you want to help someone else get there.
Best of luck and do reach out with suggestions, comments, or great stories around how you got there!
If you like my ‘no-nonsense’ blog articles that get straight to the point… then post a comment or let me know… Else, I’ll start writing boring blog content.