It’s July, and that means it’s officially time to start your VMworld planning. This is a show for which you really need a game plan. I’m not just saying this because I work for VMware now, I’m saying this from years of experience. VMworld has everything:  You (or your company) has already committed the money for the pass and hotel room, and you’re committing a week at the end of the summer to attend, you may as well get the biggest bang for your buck while you’re there.

What do you need to learn?

Do you need to plan an upgrade? Were you sent on a mission by your boss to learn about all things micro segmentation?  Are you planning your cloud strategy? You probably have things you need to get information about, and then things you want to know about so you can keep abreast of where the industry is headed.

The first place to look is at the official Content Catalog. There are all sorts of filters, and you can search by any text including someone’s name, or a company name (search for your favorite vendor!). You may want to do this before you book your travel – there are some great sessions scheduled on Sunday (including the short talk I’m giving with Scott Calvet).

The sessions you want to attend can serve as the framework for your week, but don’t stop there!

Visit the vendor booths!

As part of your VMworld planning, be sure to check the vendor list.  Put visiting the booths of the vendors you use in your environment, or that you are curious about, into your plan.  The booths are usually staffed with Product Managers, Product Marketing Managers, and technical people from the field. These are people who want to hear about your hard problems.  Especially if you’ve been sent on a mission to resolve an issue, you need to talk to people in the booths.

You may want to follow the vendors you need to talk to on your favorite social media site, they’ll most likely tweet about the sessions they are planning to deliver in their booth. These booth sessions are informative, and usually given by experts from the vendor.

Another great time to visit the booths are during the “hall crawls”. Booths are usually staffed with extra people, and sometimes even execs. Don’t be shy….and don’t just grab the swag! Ask questions, have a conversation.

VMworld planning must include community!

There are many ways to learn with the vCommunity at VMworld. One often overl#vBrownBagooked way to hear some great content is to attend vBrownBag sessions. They haven’t posted the schedule yet, so keep an eye on their blog.

It’s also a good idea to keep up with your favorite bloggers. There are already several great posts up about which sessions you should attend. These posts may inspire you to attend a session you may have overlooked.

Also, don’t forget to let your salesperson know you’re coming to VMworld! They may be able to get meetings set up with product people or executives to help answer those questions you have. Often times, they are the key to getting into parties.

Save time for downtime

Some of the best conversations you will have will be at lunch, or talking to strangers at a party. Make sure to build in time to just hang out, meet new people, and have great conversations.

These are some suggestions on how to plan for VMworld by creating a schedule that helps you get the information you need and want. Do you have any tips to add to the list? I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in August!