This year I was lucky enough to be sent on a trip to Cisco Live in Las Vegas for my work. I had never been to anything like this before, and I thought a small write-up about some tips and tricks I learned along the way would be prudent.
This one’s easy and well known. There is tons of swag to be had. You get a backpack from Cisco for the event, so use it to fill with swag. Bags, USB drives, whatever. Carry it on the plane back home.
Cisco will feed you breakfast (7 – 8:30 AM), so don’t waste any money on your own breakfast. They will also provide lunch. The only thing you need to worry about is dinner. They even have beer from 5-7 PM.
Coffee-wise, they have you covered, too, but that first cup in the morning when you wake up is on you, unless you roll out of bed and into the event at 7am.
I think most of the hotels around have a free shuttle service to the hotels hosting the events. Use these to avoid the cabs. Also, theres a tram that runs from the Excalibur to Mandalay Bay. Exalibur is right across the street from MGM Grand. Figure out how to access the pedestrian bridges that cross Las Vegas blvd and it will make life easier.
Actually Learning Something
There is literally world-class talent here paid to answer your stupid questions, and they are also paid to not make you feel stupid for asking them. In the weeks leading up to the event, start making a list of things you always wanted to know, and do your best to find the right person to ask. Even if you don’t ask the right person, they’ll just point you in the right direction.
Free Certification Exam
Take a free certification exam. It doesn’t matter if you are not prepared, just pick one you are most interested in and give it a go. I had been studying for the CCIE routing and switching for 3 years by this point and still wasn’t ready to take it, but I did anyways. I failed, but at least I wasn’t on the hook for the $400, and I got great benchmark on what I needed to work on (by the way, this exam is crap).
Vegas is freaking hot and most everyone is in their own zone. Drink a little and have fun with the other attendees to make the most of it. It’s probably not a good idea to go out at night during the week, as you will likely just spend too much money and lose out on the whole reason you are here: to learn. Drink a little, learn a lot.
From talking to past-attendees, a lot of the stuff is repetitive from year to year, so maybe its not a good idea to come consecutive years. Also, all of the talks get posted online.
I had a ton of fun, and the Vegas experience was fun. I recommend giving it a go if you can get work to fork over the Cisco learning credits and money for travel/food.