This week I had the privilege of attending VMworld 2017 in Las Vegas. At the time of writing this, I am sitting in the airport waiting to fly home, a usual scenario for me as a consultant for T2 Tech Group, and I’m thinking of what has transpired and what I learned over the past week. My phone alerts me to a text of my friend asking where I am. I tell him I am in Las Vegas having just attended VMworld 2017. The usual responses of “don’t party too much” and “sure, a ‘Tech Conference’” innuendos come in furious fashion across my screen. I know these conferences happen all over the globe. But Vegas has a specific reputation, and it may make justifying attendance even harder.

Sometimes people misunderstand the purpose of attending a conference, especially here. This makes selling the idea to management difficult. While I agree this week has been exciting, capped off by a private concert by Bleachers and Blink 182, it has still been valuable to me, my company, and my customers. I think of the announcements of App Defense, Pivotal Container Service, and the new VMware partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS). I also recall the CEO of VMware talking about how technology has altered the everyday expectations of users. With kids as young as two or three pinching, swiping and launching apps, it has made the next generation smarter but, at the same time, more impatient for technology changes. IT departments must keep up and adopt an agile process since it will be more about the apps and not really the desktops. As there were Cloud, Cloud and more Cloud announcements.

Regardless, I then think these conferences go beyond the announcements of new products, partnerships and roadmaps. And they have to because you can read all of this information within hours of the releases on countless blogs and press releases. These conferences provide a step-up by providing demos, deep dive sessions, and non-disclosure agreement protected information that is not able to be published online. One good example of this is App Defense. VMware announced App Defense on day one, and within hours information was presented online. I learned how this product takes a new look at malware defense as the other 20,000+ attendees in real time. Yet, the summary does not do this product justice.

My first session after the keynote was “Increase Application Security with AppDefense and NSX,” which provided a more in-depth look at how AppDefense works as well as how it can improve security partnered with NSX. During this session, Red Team members showed how to deploy AppDefense and also demoed an actual hack on a website to show how AppDefense works at the hypervisor level to stop such intrusions. This is just not information you can see in a blog post, and I now have a much better understanding of how this will benefit existing T2 Tech Group customer security strategies.

Another example is from the session “Monster VMs (Database Virtualization) with vSphere 6.5: Doing IT Right.” Two leading database migration and virtualization experts provided real work experiences to help attendees migrate large database servers from physical hardware to virtual machines. There were several points made about BIOS, storage, and networking settings that they personally ran into that were not documented in any tech articles or release notes. This insight is going to be impactful to one of my existing T2 Tech Group customers almost immediately. Thus, I adjusted my schedule and attended a project call to share this information with our client and the program manager. Acting on the new information would add time and tasks to the existing project, but it was agreed the outcome of the new direction would improve the end result. Within 24 hours of the session, the information became actionable, and we agreed to be agile and pivot the project to provide longer term application and database performance.

Beyond expanding my knowledge of presented technologies, I also met quite a few new people and had conversations with peers and leaders that I would normally not have the opportunity to meet. After a session titled “Goodbye Legacy VDI. Hello Dynamic VDI for the Digital Workspace- A Modern Approach to Planning, Building, Running and Securing Virtual Desktops and Apps as Part of Your Customized Digital Workspace, ”I had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with the CTO of MD Anderson Cancer Center and the SVP and GM for Desktop Products at VMware. We discussed strategies to partner with governance and security teams that would provide a comfort level to move data, specifically healthcare data, to the cloud.

The healthcare sector has been known to be reluctant to adopt data in cloud initiatives, and hearing how it was done from an industry leader was extremely helpful. Now, I am able to take his feedback and turn it into actionable tasks for T2 Tech Group’s clients to help move forward their cloud strategies. In addition to the technical peers and leaders I had the opportunity to meet, I connected with potential partners and exchanged contact information. Since we are there in person, it makes building relationships and trust much easier versus a cold phone call. There is also a unique ability for potential clients to meet existing clients to verify how well T2 Tech Group meets project objectives and business strategies.

At this type of conference, you must always be diligent about how you are being perceived. Attendees are a representative of their company and need to ensure the right example is always displayed. Two of the most common questions are what is your name and what is your company. Not to mention, this information is also printed on your badge for all to see. As a consultant, I am generally more aware of my appearance and the fact that someone is always paying attention. Most outside of this role may not consider this notion because on an average day one is able to be comfortable after leaving the workplace. At these conferences, you are on display 24 hours a day for the whole 3-5 day conference, especially at Las Vegas hosted events.

My advice is to attend conferences and really make the most of the educational sessions and networking opportunity. But also, be sure to not let the bright lights and allure of Sin City sway you from your duties and potentially tarnish your, or your company’s reputation. You are likely to meet potential vendors, partners or clients during the day, and they are likely to see you at night if you act like a drunk idiot. These conferences can be long and very technical during the day, and it makes the food and drinks that are plentiful at night even more enticing. Focus on the objectives and remember to maintain professionalism at all times. If you do this, you’ll likely walk away from a show with quick added value.