Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Vegas Baby! Tips and Tricks for Las Vegas and Lync Conference 14

Registration
Last year Lync Conference sold out much to the dismay of many. Don't delay registration especially since Jamie Stark at Microsoft stated on The UC Architects podcast 32, that after the holiday break last year, registration had a significant uptick because new budgets were approved.

Update: The conference is now sold out. There is a waiting list.

To my knowledge, there are no more conference discounted hotel rooms available at the Aria, but others have found rooms at the Aria through Hotels.com for not much more. When budgeting or asking the boss for money, don't forget to factor in the $20-$25 a night "resort fee" that every hotel on the strip adds above and beyond your hotel rate.

Taking Notes and Recording during Sessions
Last year we didn't know what to expect. I myself tried a number of things and wasn't happy with any of them. In the end, it really didn't matter. We all got access to the slide decks and most of the sessions came in video format which displayed slide deck with audio.

If you are really bent on recording sessions, I'd suggest using a Jabra Speak 410/510 with OneNote. You can take notes and they will be tied to the audio so you can go back and listen to the audio at that moment you made the entry in OneNote. I cover this technique in my Lync Masters report.

Networking
Not the wired kind of networking... but the people kind of networking. You know... like LinkedIn... but in person. For me, networking with others was by far the most important part of the Lync Conference last year.

What other time do you get this many people together that actually understand what you are saying about snooper debug tracing or understand you when you go off on a STUN/TURN/ICE issue you recently encountered?

Use the time wisely to meet people and make connections. Many of the connections I made last year have come in handy when I have questions I can't answer on my own. Practically everyone at the conference will be federated so it will be good time to add people to your Lync contact list.

If you are looking for me... I'll probably be buying John Cook (twitter: @johnacook) a drink :-) .

Pat Richard (twitter: @patrichard) commented below to bring your business cards to hand out... and for at least one drawing. I'm guessing he is referring to the infamous UC Architects drawing that last year that gave away a ton of prizes... I'm sure he'll make more announcements closer to the event.

Update: The UC Architects drawing is indeed on... and up to 35 items so far announced on their latest Podcast 33

Parties
There are a number of parties being thrown during the Lync Conference. Some by Microsoft you can find easily in the agenda on the Lync Conference site. There are other extra-curricular parties that are put on by different vendors and groups. I will only list the ones I know are public so far.

LyncUP @ Las Vegas "Vintage Vegas Night" is being sponsored by a number of vendors. Space is limited.

The UC Architects Party(ies) sponsored by Event Zero. ONE parties on Monday. You should have listened to Podcast 32 for details. This party is now closed

Perficient party at Hakkasan... only mention of this is in the "Convince your boss letter" sent out by Jaime Stark on twitter (@nomorephones). Even though it isn't spelled out... my guess is this is the venue for the Lync Conference Attendee party on Wednesday night. So everyone who is attending the conference will be invited if that is the case.

eNow is sponsoring a party called "//scheduledMaintenance"... it is at The Palms Rooftop Ghostbar on Tuesday night from 9pm to Close. Tired of your servers receiving all the attention? Need your own Scheduled Maintenance? This might be the place for you... space is limited and like the other parties... spots might go quickly.

Transportation
Most people will be flying in, and I'm sure a great number will be new to Las Vegas. Having a car in Vegas is nice, but if you self park, be prepared to walk through a maze to get in a Hotel/Casino and never find your car when you want to leave. I'm serious about this.

There is plenty to see and do within walking distance of the Aria and lots of transportation options around the strip that range from free to a taxi ride.

There is no lack of taxi's in Vegas. In fact I want to make special mention to watch out for taxi's and other vehicles when you are crossing to the other side of the strip. Las Vegas is known for being very high for pedestrian deaths because people are looking at everything around them and not paying attention to the car about to hit them. If there is an overhead walkway nearby... please use it.

Getting from the Airport to the Hotel without a rental car is as simple as getting a taxi or you can schedule a Super Shuttle reservation that will cost about $8 each way and if you want to add in tip you are still under $10. I've used Super Shuttle in many cities and they are very efficient and professional. You can usually find them close to the rental car counters... but I highly recommend having a reservation ahead of time with so many people traveling to Vegas the same time you are.

I have heard from quite a few people that they plan to extend their trip to Las Vegas beyond the dates for the Lync Conference. I found some PDFs of Las Vegas Hotel's, Casino's, and overall maps of the Strip that I thought I would share for those that don't know their way around.

Clothing
I'm no style expert... so don't expect any style tips from me. The expected temp in Las Vegas for February is mid 60's Fahrenheit (18C). To me... being from Colorado that is perfect weather and I will be perfectly happy in t-shirt and shorts. Some people from further down south will think I am crazy and will want to be wearing a heavy jacket outside. My point is you know yourself better than I do. Bring appropriate clothes... I won't judge you if you are wearing a parka. Lets all be glad that Lync Conference isn't in the summer with ~120F (48C) possible.

Shoes are really, really, really important. Did I mention REALLY important? Even if you have a car, you will do an enormous amount of walking in Las Vegas. The Hotels/Casinos are absolutely huge. If you haven't been there before... you can't fathom how big they can get until you are there in person. Caesar's Palace takes up about a half a mile (0.80 km for my friends in outside the US) square on the strip just for their property. Please bring your best walking shoes... you'll thank me later.

Dress code... Ari commented below if I could find any details if I could dig up any details on if any of the venues would require proper shoes versus sneakers/trainers etc.

In all the searches I did, the only places you'll encounter a dress code are Night Clubs and upscale restaurants mostly found at Bellagio and MGM Grand.

Having that been said... one of the parties is at Hakkasan's Night Club and they do have a dress code. Being this will be a big event at the night club there (maybe we will have the whole place to ourselves), I'm not sure they will enforce a dress code... but the place looks damn nice and I would hate to have to run back to the Aria to change and miss out on the party.

The SHe Las Vegas, where "Vintage Vegas Night" is at, is pretty nice and probably warrants more than just sneakers... but I doubt you'll be turned away being their website doesn't have an official dress code posted.

The GhostBar where the //scheduledMaintenance party is at has a dress code on their site that seems pretty open to interpretation... I'll let you determine what "Stylish nightlife attire required" means.

Gambling
We all know our employers are stressed out about the show being in Las Vegas this year and no one will be in sessions. I'm here to tell you that probably won't be the case.

Here is why... many, many years ago back in College I made yearly trips out to Las Vegas for Comdex. Now if you had ever gone to Comdex you know basically the whole town was filled with computer geeks and room rates sky rocketed because hotels never made any money in the casinos that week.

One of the nights had a big party put on by Microsoft. (side note... parties at Comdex were the best... anyone remember 3Com's Monday night Football party? or the exclusive Spencer Katt party where all the top CEOs rubbed elbows?)

Anyway... back to the story... after I was done at the party, about midnight,  I was walking back through the casino and I kept hearing the sound of people gambling. Not just gambling... but winning at gambling (lights and the whole bit). So I thought to myself... who in the world is gambling at this time of night when the whole town is full of geeks that generally shy away from gambling.

I walked through the entire casino chasing the sounds of gambling and not a single person was there. The casino was piping in sound and activating lights all around to give the appearance people were winning.

What other time and place could you have seen that in action? Normal patrons to a casino are there all hours of the day and it would be impossible to figure that out. So if you plan to gamble, which I do plan to gamble, just know the cards are not stacked in your favor. The casino is trying every trick in the book... and some that are not in the book to get your to part with your money. When I gamble... I gamble to have fun, not win. I am always a winner when I do that. A good strategy is to set aside some money to gamble with and not go beyond that... for any reason. If you do... you'll keep thinking you'll win it back and you rarely do.

Shows
Not that we will have much extra time with all Microsoft has planned for us with the Lync Conference, but for those staying extra nights you really should go see at least one show. I HIGHLY recommend "O" Cirque du Soleil at the Bellagio. It isn't cheap, but it will blow your mind away. Also if you do go... don't book the balcony... the view is too restricted.

I've only seen Penn and Teller once, but I really really enjoyed their off beat show of magic and comedy. To give you a taste, during the show I saw, they actually did a card trick with fork lifts and large aluminum plates on stage.

For the women, my wife really liked Celine Dion at Caesar's Palace. She said it was the best singing performance she has ever seen.

Food
Vegas has more good food than you can imagine. The suggestions on Yelp have proven to be very good when I want to try a new place. I will make special mention of a few of my general favorites. More to come as I think of them.

Blueberry Hill, which unfortunately is not on the strip. The buttermilk pancakes there are AMAZING and you won't leave there hungry... I promise.

In-N-Out Burger, don't question it... just go. Their menu is simple and everything is great. Oh and in case you want more adventure... they do have a secret menu.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries... unless you are really hungry order a SINGLE large fry for 4 people, and a "Little" burger is usually more than enough for most people. Oh and the food is all fresh and is outstanding.

Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant... not a bar... very nice micro brewery with excellent food.

So I've been racking my brain for other favorite places and every one I think of has been replaced by something else. That's the thing about Las Vegas... nothing stays the same. Ari wanted to know more suggestions... so I'll switch to places that I want to try and look really good based on Yelp reviews.

Here are the places I want to check out...

Ellis Island Casino and Brewery... reviews seem to indicate this is where the locals hang out and it has 4 stars after 900+ reviews... can't be bad.

Mr. Mama's... My wife has been here for breakfast several times on a trip with her sister and raved about it... Been dying to go ever since

Tacos El Gordo... this place has 4.5 stars after 700+ reviews... need I say more

Phat Phrank's... judging by the name you wouldn't guess it is a Mexican place... but it is and people love it with 4.5 stars after 132 reviews.

Lotus of Siam... 4 stars after 1500+ reviews! Located in the Downtown area of Vegas... not the strip area... but you can go see the Freemont Street Experience while you are up there and check out some of the original Las Vegas casinos.

Wicked Spoon... another place my wife went to and raved about. Everything is setup in bite size portions and not your normal Buffet crap food... amazing creations. It isn't cheap... but you won't forget it anytime soon. 4 stars after 2900+ reviews.

Rollin Smoke Barbeque... The reviews consistently say this is the best Barbeque in Las Vegas. 4.5 stars after 300+ reviews

There ya go... if I think of more I'll update. Make sure you read the comments and feel free to comment if you want to add your own tips and tricks...

13 comments:

  1. Don't forget to bring business cards. Not just for the networking aspect, but you'll need them to enter at least one of the prize drawings.

    If you're seriously thinking about getting a car, keep in mind that some hotels charge a FORTUNE for overnight parking. There is a monorail type system that covers part of the strip.

    Of course, there is also the Grand Canyon, with helicopter tours (which are really cool, but expensive), Hoover Dam, and the strip itself. Plenty of people watching around this conference.

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    1. All strip hotels in Las Vegas have entirely free parking, and usually free valet as well. Downtown is usually free, sometimes requires validation.

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  2. Could you cover if there are any policies at places around whether proper shoes versus trainers/running shoes/sneakers are required.

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    1. I'll see what I can dig up... I really doubt there is any specific dress code you'll encounter unless you go to a really fancy restaurant for a dinner.

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    2. In all the searches I did, the only places you'll encounter a dress code are Night Clubs and upscale restaurants mostly found at Bellagio and MGM Grand.

      The SHe Las Vegas where one of the parties is at is pretty nice and probably warrants more than just sneakers... but I doubt you'll be turned away being their website doesn't have an official dress code posted.

      Hope this helps...

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    3. Proper shoes? It's Vegas. I'll be doing good to be fully dressed (thinking "Hangover"). :-)

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  3. I strongly recommend the National Atomic Testing Museum (http://www.nationalatomictestingmuseum.org/). Inexpensive and fascinating.

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  4. Don't forget Fatburger! Really good burger.

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  5. Apparently it's sold out again, so about how many attendees does that mean are coming?

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    1. I don't know the official number, but my gut is the attendees is around 2000 mark. That would not be counting ancillary support staff according to Jaime Stark on the UC Architects podcast number 32.

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  6. The Europeans (including me) are arriving at the weekend, other than Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant (which looks good) any more tips on bars and restaurants? I'm looking for a good Mexican restuarant

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    1. I'll see what I can dig up along those lines...

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    2. Updated... hope the suggestions help.

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