Twitter is filled with people posting Magento Imagine 'survival guides' that read more like 'How to Survive Spring Break in Cozumel' than a guide to attending a professional conference. So, since those guides cover the basics of how to avoid passing out (get lots of rest before Imagine), embarrassing yourself (don't Tweet, especially from company accounts, while drinking) and dehydration (drink lots of water), I thought I'd share something that I haven't seen yet - a packing & prep checklist that I wish someone had given to me before my first visit to Magento Imagine. If you're going to Magento Imagine next week, here's a few tips of what to pack and how to prepare from someone who has attended before:
- The Magento community is a diverse and generally laid back bunch, so attire varies quite a bit from person to person. In a recent email, Magento said that most attendees dress 'business casual', and mentioned that the 'recommended' attire for the two evening events is 'cocktail attire', with 2 caveats: 1) they specifically mentioned 'Gentleman, you can leave those ties at home' and for the 2nd evening event (the 'legendary' event, which will be truly legendary in my experience) they requested black or white cocktail attire - sounds like they have a cool theme planned. Breaking this down into simpler terms - I flipped through all of the photos that were posted to Twitter last year with the hashtag #MagentoImagine (check those photos out here) and I noticed a few trends. For guys - 99% of the crowd was wearing jeans or khakis. The jeans varied from your basic comfortable jeans to what I would call 'dress jeans'. Khakis - it may have just been me, but it seemed like you could actually tell with reasonable accuracy someone's role in the Magento world by their pants - most of the people wearing khakis were in sales, most of the people wearing comfortable jeans were developers and most of the people wearing dress jeans were presenters at Imagine. Lots of polos and lots of short-sleeve dress shirts, with some long-sleeve dress shirts and sport coats mixed in. Ladies - well, I can barely figure out what I should wear, so I'm not even going to attempt to give fashion advice to the ladies. From looking through the photos, there were a lot of dresses mixed in with other attire. Basically anything you'd wear to work is the best way to summarize it, I think.
- It will be hot - very hot - during the day. 99% of the conference is indoors (the only real exception being lunch, when there's a mix of seating indoors and outdoors), but you may decide to venture out of the air conditioned comfort. If you do, the sun can be brutal in Vegas. Sunglasses, hats and sunscreen if you burn easily, and, as everyone mentions, make sure to drink lots of water.
- It will be cooler at night - it shouldn't be as cold as last year, since Imagine is a month later than usual, and the evening events are usually outdoors. Looking at the forecast, even at midnight on Monday night it'll still be 70 degrees (F - about 21 C), and Tuesday night they're forecasting for it to be 76 degrees (F - so about 24.4 C). It may get a bit breezy, so if you're cool natured, you may want to bring a jacket or sweater.
- Whether it's email, Tweeting, taking photos or exchanging contact info, you will be using your smart phone - a lot. These venues don't always have a lot of power outlets, so I would recommend some sort of battery pack. I use the Limefuel batteries when I travel, which I can't recommend enough. I've used the smallest size (so small it's now discontinued and replaced with a slightly larger model, the 6000mAh model) for years now, and it's more than enough to fully recharge my iPhone 5 at least twice. Recently, I upgraded to the 18000mAh model to keep both my iPad and my iPhone charged up while using the personal hotspot feature on my iPhone and from what I can see, this battery could last for days!
- Imagine goes by FAST - so if there's a vendor you want to visit with or someone you want to make sure you meet, get in touch with them now and set aside a specific time to connect. Not everyone has a booth, and in addition to the main sessions and breakouts there's various events going on each day (the developer and designer BarCamps, Certified Developer testing, various receptions, etc) so don't assume you'll just be able to catch someone one day at the event.
- If you plan to gamble, bring your gambling money in cash - this serves two purposes. First, the ATMs at the casinos charge an incredibly high convenience fee, and second, it makes sure that you stick to your budget for gambling and don't go too crazy.
- Each hotel/casino in Vegas has some sort of theme and target audience. The restaurants, entertainment and even casino games will vary based on that theme and audience, so keep that in mind if you decide you want to visit some of the other casinos. For instance, last year we discovered that MGM has the exact same video craps game in both the Luxor and the Bellagio, but at the Luxor the minimum bet is $1 and at the Bellagio it's $5. If you're gambling on a small budget, that can make a huge difference in how long you're able to play.
- If you've never been to Vegas before, there are cocktail waitresses that will bring you free drinks while you're gambling. Yes, the drinks are free, but please tip at least $1/drink to your waitress. Combine this with the previous tip, and you'll see that finding a game with a lower minimum bet can give you much more entertainment and free drinks than a game with a higher minimum bet.
- My last gambling tip - there's a lot of advice out there about which games give you the best odds, how to 'beat the system', etc. Forget about all of that. Play what you want, what you find fun. In the end, unless you're counting cards (which, as Ben Affleck learned last week, the Hard Rock frowns on), the odds are always against you - there's a saying in Vegas - Vegas wasn't built on winners. See all those free drinks, amazing sights and sounds and gigantic hotels? They don't make their money and build their hotels and casinos by paying out huge gambling wins. So, consider your gambling budget as money you're spending for entertainment, and not an investment you're trying to double, and just have fun.
- The Hard Rock hotel is literally the closest hotel to the Vegas airport - it's on the same street, and a mere mile away from the airport. Some (insane, if you ask me, given the heat) people actually just walk the ~20 minute walk from the airport to the hotel, but you can also very easily grab a taxi when you arrive at the airport and you should be at the hotel in just a few minutes. That's the good news. The bad news is, it's not on the main Vegas Strip. It's about 1 mile east of the Strip, so again, about a ~20 minute walk in the heat to get from the hotel to the main sights of Vegas. The good news is the Hard Rock runs a shuttle to the Strip - it picks up at the HRH front drive and departments on the hour from 10AM to 5PM, with the return shuttle departing 15 minutes after the hour from 10AM to 5PM from the Fashion Show Mall. So if you're planning on exploring the Vegas strip after 5PM, bring cab fare or plan on a ~20 minute walk to get to the Strip. Once you get to the Strip, if you want to walk the busiest, brightest part of the Strip (roughly from the Luxor to Treasure Island), you're looking at about 2.3 miles in total, so if you don't stop (and trust me, you'll stop - there's lots of crazy things to see along that walk) it should take about an hour each way. The good news is, a majority of the way you can either use covered walkways or duck inside of hotels, shops and casinos.
I hope this list helps - if any of these items help you out, or if you just want to say hi, please don't hesitate to post a comment here or find me on Twitter as @JoshuaSWarren. Make sure to find me at Imagine and say hi!