Håkon Eriksen Drange at AWS re:Invent

AWS re:Invent guide – My approach for a successful experience

The AWS re:Invent learning conference is the highlight of the year for many cloud professionals. But how can you make sure to avoid disappointments and get the most out of the experience? Based on my previous trips in 2017, 2018 and 2022 I will share my approach with you.

Travel and accommodation

Since I’m based in the Oslo area the journey from Oslo Airport easily can take between 16 – 20 hours, depending on the flight path. To avoid immigration queues, delays, customs and security at Newark etc. I prefer connecting in Europe.

This time of year British Airways has the most frequent flight options from Europe directly to Las Vegas. My second preferred option is to Los Angeles and then share a rental car with travel companions for a four hour road trip to Vegas.

The time zone difference between Norway (UTC+1) to Las Vegas (Pacific Time, UTC-8) is 9 hours. Expect to be jet-lagged. For this reason I prefer to travel out on the Friday leading up to the event, to try to adjust my circadian rhythm before the hectic action begins early Monday morning. Then I also have time to do some sightseeing, taking into consideration I’m traveling half-way across the globe.

Idea: Do a car/bus/helicopter trip to Grand Canyon or the Hoover Dam! Santa Monica Beach is a nice change for winter in Norway. Griffith Park in LA has some amazing views.

If possible, secure your conference pass already in August. In Las Vegas, location can be a decisive factor. Purchasing the pass is a requirement to be able to reserve discounted hotel rooms at optimal distance from where most of the action takes place. I prefer The Venetian or The Mirage, as the walking distance is closest to The Venetian convention area, Caesars Forum and Wynn. Staying close by will save you some time in the morning to ensure you’ll not be late for breakfast before the first technical session of the morning. It will also be quicker to drop your gear/swag in the afternoon before networking and dinner.

The campus area is huge, pretty much most of the central area of The Strip. Read more about the venues and sleeping room hotels at https://reinvent.awsevents.com/campus/.

Preparing your learning agenda

AWS re:Invent offers more than 2000 different options for learning.

Breakout Sessions, Workshops, Builders Labs, Bootcamps, Chalk Talks and Peer Talks, Expo showcases, GameDays and the list goes on. Read more about the differences at https://reinvent.awsevents.com/learn/. The key to ensure you’ll be able to attend to the sessions you are interested in, is preparation.

Note: Only Breakout Sessions and Key Notes are recorded and made available on Youtube post event, and this is only about half the content. If I need to prioritize I take a note of the session ID and go for the interactive Chalk Talks, Workshops, Labs etc. that are in person only. Watching a recording on Youtube can not fully replace the feeling of being there in the moment, having focus and not multi-tasking, but it’s better than missing an interesting topic. When I have a collection of session IDs it’s easy to search them up afterwards. Example: SEC329-R1: AWS re:Invent 2022 – AWS security services for container threat detection.

The session catalog normally opens in early September. Then you can browse and search by topic, vertical, venue, advanced level (100 is introduction, 400 is expert) and so on. If you’re new to AWS, 100 and 200 can be great introductions. For more advanced or expert deep dives, go for 300 and 400. Start early and star/heart your favorite sessions. When the reservation option launches, the most popular ones become fully booked within just a few minutes. In 2023 session reservation launched October 10th at 10:00 PDT, 19:00 UTC+1. Log in fifteen minutes early, be ready, refresh and start reserving.

Advice: Take into account travel time across venues. It can quickly take 30 minutes just to get to the venue across the street because the convention ares are usually located after the casinos. Going from The Venetian to Caesars Forum there is a short-cut behind the Expo, but it still takes time. I try to stay at the same venue throughout one day, or have enough time to go from The Venetian to Wynn etc. If you miss event check-in in time (20 minutes before start) your spot will go to one of the lucky people in the walk-up line.

This is how an efficient Session calendar may look like. I’m very happy with how this turned out for me this year as I was able to get almost all of my preferences related to focus areas in current client projects, also taking into account venue proximity and traveling time.

You will not be able to do everything you think you want. Time, collisions, venue factors, shuttle being delayed from The Venetian to MGM etc. all play a part. It may be good to have some slack in between for getting to know other people, catch some alternative sessions, browsing in the Expo, hanging in the Certification Lounge or just taking in the impressive scale of everything. It’s also worth to mention that certain sessions are broadcasted in overflow rooms, where you can find an available seat, pick up a headset and tune in. Great to have as a Plan B.

Use the AWS Events mobile app to stay up to date, check in, leave session ratings and get notified about changes or important information.

Getting ready on Sunday evening

To save time on Monday morning and go straight to my first session I normally go to The Venetian to register and get my badge on Sunday evening. You also get a refillable water bottle/canteen and a nice zipper hoodie which most people wear for the remainder of the week. Don’t forget to also have your AWS certifications verified so that you can access the Certification Lounge and get some exclusive swag.


Breakfast and lunch is served Monday to Thursday at most conference content venues. This is free of charge and included in the conference pass.

If you are short in time for your next session, grab a lunch box+drink, go check in and have it in your seat while you wait for your session to start.

The breakfast and lunch meal area at the level below The Venetian Expo is an impressive example of the American scale.

Main keynotes

All main keynotes takes place in a dedicated area in The Venetian Convention center, close to the Expo. Get in line at least 45 minutes ahead of show start to ensure you will have a seat. If not, you can watch overflow sessions in alternative rooms, but being there in person is really inspiring.

Monday Night Live 07:30 PM – 09:00 PM with Peter DeSantis can be very interesting. He goes deep into technical engineering details about the AWS scale and new innovations.

Adam Selipsky’s keynote is Tuesday at 08:30 AM – 10:30 AM. Hear about recent innovations, customer success stories, and a few new launches.

If AI/ML and data is your thing catch Swami Wednesday morning at 08:30 AM – 10:30 AM.

Thursday is The Big Keynote for me with Werner Vogels, VP and CTO of Amazon.com. Same time, 08:30 – 10:30 AM. Werner takes an engineering approach to connect the dots with the business. He usually spends most of his time on technical matters and throws in a mix of new launches and releases. The line for this one is definitely the longest, so being an hour early can be an advantage to get a good seat (or to get in at all).

Session types

I prefer a mix of Breakout Sessions, more interactive Chalk Talks and hands-on workshops.

Breakout Sessions are an hour long presentations in venues which can accommodate a crowd of everything from 80 up to a few thousand participants. Chalk Talks are normally with a crowd of max 50 people and is more an interactive whiteboard session based on discussions with the audience. If you have a question about a technical topic, or wonder how other people how used the technology, find a Chalk Talk, be engaged, ask questions and join in on the discussion! This is a unique way to learn. Workshops are normally two hour long events where you get step-by-step instructions to get hands on learning by doing for a certain type of use-case or set of AWS services.

If the presenters are not in a rush after their sessions, most of them tend to stick around outside the room and will happily discuss any questions you may have.

Intimate Chalk Talks above, larger Workshops and Breakout Sessions below.

This is The Venetian Theatre (capacity: 1815 persons), as people are getting seated for a session from Netflix. Pretty impressive venue.

The Expo

Opens at 04:00 PM on Monday afternoon. Go check out the various partner stands where you can get demos or ask questions. Here you can get anything from stickers to socks, t-shirts and a lot of other marketing gadgets.

The AWS Village is located in the middle, with booths for most of the core technologies. Take advantage of the opportunity and ask questions to the specialists who are supporting each booth, they are there to help. I learned something very useful last time which I brought back home and demonstrated to my team.

Winding down and networking

Days are long. I normally get up at 06:15 to have time for breakfast, then run to get in line for first session at 08:00 and try to catch everything I’ve planned until five or six in the afternoon. re:Invent also offers a lot of options for winding down. Every restaurant and bar at the campus is normally sponsored by AWS Partners and vendors, which offers food and drinks in settings for networking.

It’s really great to get to know many new people. Add them on LinkedIn, try to stay in touch! Last year I bumped into one guy from Canada, which turned out to have been on the Canadian Ski Jumping team. He had been in Norway many times for practice and competitions!

A pro tip is to check in to https://conferenceparties.com/reinvent2023/ and follow https://twitter.com/reInventParties on X. Coordinate with your travel companions and sign up for what you like. I can highly recommend to sign up for one event at Top Golf, close to The MGM, where you get the chance to play a round of golf at their driving range, have some food and drinks and share what you learned today. The AWS Certification Appreciation Reception usually takes place on Wednesday at Brooklyn Bowl by The LINQ promenade.


The official way to finish re:Invent is the re:Play party Thursday at 07:30 PM. This is an impressive festival organized by people who normally do the Super Bowl event. There’s something for everyone here; if you like to just hang out, have some nice food and good drinks, play dodge ball, listen to a top band or catch some of the worlds most popular DJ’s. Also free of charge, included in the conference pass. Be sure not to forget your exclusive t-shirt and try to be there at least 30 minutes before, the lines can be massive. The Monorail is the quickest method of transportation to the Las Vegas Festival Grounds.

Conclusion and practical advice

Wear comfortable (running) shoes. Walking up to 20.000 steps in a day is not uncommon.

Hydrate. The dry desert air in addition to heavy air-conditioning can take a toll on you. You can refill canteens at water stations throughout the campus. Get some lip balm/chapstick (lypsyl) as well.

Bring a light jacket. In the desert this time of year the temperature drops quite significantly in the afternoon.

Also don’t forget chargers for your laptop and phone and a US power adapter.

More than 65.000 attendees are expected in 2023. Be prepared for waiting and standing in line. The logistics tends to run like a well oiled machine, but sudden bumps can have big impact on the overall flow of people.

The AWS re:Invent week can be a jam-packed experience which will give you memories for life, but your individual outcome will depend on what you put into it. It is really a unique way to accelerate learning about how you can leverage AWS technology to speed up your project. I find it highly useful and inspiring and I appreciate the opportunity provided by my employer, so I intend to make the most out of it. When I get back home I share highlights and areas of special relevance with my organization.

Hope to see you there!