Cisco Live 2015 has come to an end, and San Diego is in ruins with Plixar swords and fedora hats everywhere. Some say you can still hear the echo’s of a combination of Aerosmith and Cisco Live helpers saying “Welcome to Cisco Live, lunch is this way!” through the city.
Following my first Cisco Live event, I wanted to put together a recap (another article coming soon) and a cheat sheet for first timers. Tips and tricks are available throughout the internet for this event, but here is a summarized view from my personal experience!
Tips and Tricks for Cisco Live!
1. Register Early! – The trick to Cisco Live is to immerse yourself in the breakout sessions where you learn content from the industry experts. You will literally learn about various protocols and devices straight from the Cisco professionals who developed them and work on them daily. This kind of knowledge is not easy to come by, and any questions you have always wondered can finally be answered. Registering early ensures you are able to find a slot in the classes you want. If you wait too long, the best classes will be booked up, and though Cisco will do their best to accommodate high demand with wait lists, it’s best to have a guaranteed spot! Also notable, download the “Cisco Events” app for the conference as it will track your schedule, and give you everything you need to know. Complimentary to the app, there’s a desk you can have your schedule printed with room numbers in a nice format as well, just look for the “Print your schedule” sign!
2. Pack Light! – Honestly, pack however you want, it’s your checked bag fees. The reason I mention this, is if you spend any time in the World of Solutions at all, you will be the owner of more free t-shirts and other miscellaneous items of swag than you know what to do with. If you pack to the rim, you might not have an easy way to get these items home. Let’s be honest, you won’t survive if you don’t take your blinking keychains and Plixar swords home. Fedex is another option if you definitely do not have room, as you can just ship a small box back.
3. Put an NFC blocker around your badge! – While I’m mostly kidding about this one, just be aware that if you registered with a legit email address and phone number, you will be swamped in spam (see: Vendor opportunities that you cannot live without!) after the event. Every vendor just wants to scan your badge to pull your information as a potential customer for their product. Many long term veterans of the events suggest only checking out booths you actually intend to work with in the future. This will cut down a bit on your swag, but it will also save you room in your inbox and that one closet full of stuff you haven’t touched in a year.
4. Leave Time Gaps – When you’re registering, it can be easy to book every possible class you find a time slot for. While it’s good to learn and soak up as much information as possible, leave yourself time for the other things happening around Cisco Live. If it’s your first time, you may overlook a lunch break, time to check out World of Solutions, The Hub, a certification exam, meet the engineers, DevNet, and countless other time commitments. Scheduling with some blocks of time to walk around and check everything out is a nice break, and you can also view all video sessions and powerpoints that you didn’t make it to online afterwards, to include prior events. Oh, and don’t bother scheduling an 8am session the day after the customer appreciation event if you drink beer… free beer. There’s plenty of it and you will not wake up in time. “Sure I will!” No. You won’t, I said the same thing.
5. Meals – Cisco does a good job taking care of breakfast and lunch. Usually breakfast is offered in a buffet style layout of bagels, cinnamon rolls, fruit, cereal, and a few other odds and ends. It’s a good starter to the day with a cup of free coffee. Along the same lines, Cisco had a smooth lunch setup that involved multiple options of meals, typically involving a sandwich, wrap, or salad alongside some side items, chips, and a drink. I never was very hungry after the Cisco meals, so there’s something to be said for that. Dinner is on you, so look up some good local spots if you’re not a local, or ask around. It won’t be hard to spot the other nerds and their badges in the after hours to find the hot spots.
6. Dress Code – Yeah, there isn’t one. This tip ties back into the packing light suggestion above, as you don’t need to bring your best suit for the conference and tie up bag space. In fact, shorts, t-shirts, and hats were totally accepted throughout the venue. Now yes, likely the best choice is a polo (employer branded?), some jeans or chino/cargo’s, and tennis shoes. Take note of that last item, tennis shoes; If you wear your best dress shoes, you will have destroyed feet by the end of the conference from all of the walking. Dress comfortable, but don’t worry about getting called out if you are not strictly business casual.
7. Seat Choice – When you get into a session, instinct will drive you to sit in certain areas for a range of reasons. Perhaps you find spots available with desks, or a power strip, or even an edge seat. Here’s my suggestions: Do not sit by the door, as people come and go throughout the whole session and it can be quite a distraction. Sit at the edge of a row if you intend to get up throughout, or if you want the extra leg room in case every row gets full. Also, if you’re in a full session and do not want to get smashed into seating that would make the airlines jealous, you also have the option of standing or sitting along a back wall. This gives you mobility and space at the expense of a dedicated seat and potentially a power supply.
8. Cell Phone Ringer – PEOPLE! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS GOOD, TURN OFF YOUR CELL RINGERS. I can’t tell you how many times throughout a session a notification or ringer would go off and catch my ADHD attention span away from the content. Once a presenter even waited until an attendee could silence his ringer. Sure, you might think it will only happen to you once, but when it happens to even half of the audience once, that’s a lot of “once” taking place. Silence it, or be shunned by your fellow industry professionals, because we should be just that… professionals.
9. Talk to everyone – Find a lunch table with a few others, or say hello to someone standing by you waiting in line. The amount of knowledge and hands-on industry professionals floating around is intense. By starting small conversation you could end up talking about that particular issue at work that they may know how to handle in a better way from experience. If you stick to yourself, you’ll only gain what’s given to you (albeit still a lot). Get out and seek out knowledge.
10. Schedule an exam – It’s included in your fee, so if you don’t schedule a couple-hundred dollar certification exam, you’re about as useful as a broadcast storm. Even if you don’t successfully complete the exam, you’ll get a feel for what to expect and can head back in with more confidence, and you can go drink a free beer afterwards. Cisco offers their CiscoPress books from the store (in San Diego it was located in the DevNet area of the convention center). There are also a lot of sessions covering topics relevant to exams throughout the week, so use those to your advantage if you’d like. This year, 14 new CCIE’s were born from Cisco Live 2015 San Diego. Next event could be your opportunity!
Well that about covers my main tips and tricks for the conference. Make sure you download the “Cisco Events” app when you go, it has all of the times/information and details you’ll need! I’ll leave you with two things for this “cheat sheet” post: Photos I took throughout the week, associated to a list of Cisco Live events in summary to expect for your experience.
Events in Summary:
Break Out Sessions: Jam packed throughout the week, various break out and technical seminars will make up the bulk of your schedule. Typically in 1.5 to 2 hour blocks, sessions range on any topic in the networking disciplines that your little heart could desire.
Customer Appreciation Night: To use the 2015 San Diego Cisco Live as an example, Cisco rented out Petco Park for an Aerosmith concert. Free hats, beer, multi-vendor food, and loud music made for a great time! Ensure you watch the free beer intake, or your next days sessions could end up with an empty seat!
World of Solutions: The heart and soul of vendor madness. On it’s opening day, free beer and food overtook the session as most of the 25,000 event attendees flooded the rows looking at blinking lights and new products. Vendors will scan your badges to collect your contact info, so be weary of that. With that said, it’s a great opportunity to see what’s new and happening in the networking industry. You might even find a solution to a business need in WoS if you wade through the endless free t-shirts to get to it.
The Hub: Cisco’s Hub is the focal point for a few sections within Cisco Live. First, meet the engineer provides an opportunity for one-on-one sessions with leading industry experts to ask about an upcoming project or solve an issue. Second, the walk-in-labs provide a way to get your hands dirty on various software and hardware solutions that you are considering buying, or to work anticipated upcoming projects under a nice lab environment where an outage will not burn the place to the ground and land you without a job. This year Cisco also had an interactive game where you matched topics to items that appeared on the screen to make your way up a high score chart. Even if you didn’t top the boards, you still received a USB battery if you made it to level 5.
Keynote Sessions: Don’t miss the main Keynote sessions. They will have a range of them throughout the week, and any that you think may have a benefit are worth attending. The vast knowledge from some of Cisco’s upper management level personnel is something worth appreciation. Plus, you might see someone like Mike Rowe!
DevNet: The Cisco DevNet area is another spot that a few things take place. First, you have some breakout sessions that take place, though registration does not garauntee seat availability. With that said, you can always walk up and watch from the wall as it was an open classroom atmosphere. A bit noisy, so any topics you really want to learn you may wish to find another location to participate in a class away from the wandering attendees and noisy atmosphere. Alongside more sessions, DevNet earns it’s name from the ideal of development and networking combined. There are various booths located throughout with emphasis on coding and new ‘SDNesque’ type learning. This year, Cisco’s VIRL team was on site in DevNet providing good information about their emulation platform!
Cisco Store: Cisco’s store was located near DevNet, and provided a range of goodies to pick up for an extra cost. Sections included the Cisco Press books, Cisco shirts and swag, and various other items like Cisco logo’d water bottles.
Contests: Thoughout the whole week, various contests emerge on things such as scanning bar codes around various locations, finding hidden items, providing review feedback on presenters, and a slew of other interests. Contests always were followed with prizes and swag, and are an easy way to spend some time if you have some free blocks in your schedule.
Thanks for reading, like, comment, subscribe, or do none of the preceding… I don’t care. I just write these blogs so there’s something to remember of my knowledge after skynet is activated and robots take us all over. Enjoy your Cisco Live experience, it can be a once in a lifetime opportunity!