In 2022, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016 I attended the largest cloud conference in the world, AWS re:Invent. And while some people love the networking, the tech sessions, the keynotes and the parties.. I come for the swag. I love to see what's on offer, what's new, what's exciting and what everyone is lining up hours for. So each year, I write my swag review posts (linked above for each year) to showcase what's available.
But how does one go about obtaining all this swag? Well, I thought it would be a good idea to give a little tutorial on how it works and how to actually obtain it all.
The re:Invent Expo, or Trade Hall, is ground zero of swag. It's where all of the companies are setup, in a single massive room, ready to talk to you about their product, ready to give out swag and ready to scan your badge.
*Pro tip: Change your re:Invent badge email address from firstname.lastname@example.org to email@example.com (assuming your email server supports + tagging). It makes filtering out the hundreds of emails you're about to get super easy. *
It's located in the Sands Expo and Convention Center, which is the second to bottom level of the Venetian. Follow the signs to the Sands Expo and you'll find it in no time. Especially when you have these banners all over the place.
Make sure you can get the items home! Some things are big! Light sabers, massive Lego kits. You don't want to be that guy blocking everyone at airport security with your light saber that will end up in a bin. Think first before grabbing and you won't have issues later.
So, where do you start in the Trade Hall? well, it's really up to you. Some might visit it methodically, row by row, company by company, and some might just go wherever something catches their eye. It can be really easy to get lost amongst the shiny display stands that these companies are throwing thousands of dollars at, to attract your attention and to get you to use their product.
If you don't want to miss anything, go row by row. If a large booth has put you out of the row you should be on, make sure you go back to it or you'll start wandering aimlessly.
If you want to plan your visits around raffles and such, here's a huge list of sponsors who will be exhibiting in the hall.
If you want swag, it's polite to at least talk to the people at the booths. They're at this event just like you, excited to be around a lot of people and promote what they've spent their years working on. I've seen people grab (or steal) swag right off the booth shelves and just walk away immediately. It leaves a horrible impression and no one likes that. So, have a chat, be nice, and it's likely you'll be offered or begged to take whatever swag you have your eye on! And if they don't offer, it never hurts to ask!
If you haven't clicked on my previous years links I recommend you do, but some of the whackiest and coolest things I've seen are:
- Coffee beans
- A hammock
- VR Goggles
- Custom screen-printed shirts
- Cutlery! I have a Serverless Spoon and Fork from the AWS Stand
- Xbox/PS4/PS5/Nintendo Switch/other gaming consoles
There are LOADS of booths with competitions that run throughout the week. Some give away Nintendo Switches on the hour, every hour. Some, Apple watches, Drones, Lego sets, VR headsets and even guitars! The list goes on and on. If you enter these by scanning your badge or by taking a number from the booth, set a reminder or alarm on your phone so you remember to go back to the booth, because if you aren't there to respond in 10 seconds, they'll go to the next person until a winner is present.
This is one of the places you can get your badge and your hoodie, and some years a refillable drink bottle.
Usually if you attend a talk/session and give feedback in the AWS Events app, you'll get some swag bar credits where they'll give you t-shirts and other cool things. One year they gave out lots of pins (seriously I got about 200). So visit the nice ladies and gents at the swag bar and you'll be sure to get some cool stuff!
In the trade hall there as a gigantic section dedicated to AWS itself, full of helpful AWS staff members ready to answer questions about anything. They sometimes give out tokens that you can bring to the swag bar to receive even more swag!
On the last day of the trade hall session, the vendors kind of hate having to ship any leftovers back to their office. So they start being a lot more lenient in giving away stuff. Be sure to be around on Thursday afternoon to snap up everything you had your eyes on during the week but couldn't get!
There are donation points to drop off swag that you may have collected, but changed your mind on. I believe these items may be donated instead of dumped into landfill, so be sure not to just throw things out if you no longer want them.
There are other events running throughout the week which will have swag too. Each bar hosting an event during the pub crawl will be sponsored by a company, and those companies will give away swag. Be sure to attend as many as possible to get cool stuff!
The re:Invent 5K charity run always comes with an awesome shirt! You can register for it here. This year the race benefits the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, which unites innovative research and compassionate care to prevent and eliminate cancer and infectious disease.
Are you AWS Certified? The AWS Certification appreciation reception is held just before re:Play this year at Brooklyn Bowl. Last re:Invent we got some awesome AWS Certified Socks!
re:Play is the end of conference party, held on Thursday night. There's always giveaways in the form of one to three different shirt designs. Get in early, as sizes go quick!
I'm unsure about this year but in the past the Alexa stands have had some awesome giveaways, be sure to look around and see if they're there this year with goodies to collect!
In certain workshops, sometimes get the devices used in the workshop are given away for free. In the past I have received a DeepLens and a DeepRacer. It is very difficult to get into these workshops, but see what you can do!
Technically not swag if you have to pay for it, but AWS have some cool stuff in their new merch store, which will have a stand set up at re:Invent!
Are you also crazy about swag? Did I miss a swagful event I should have mentioned? Please let me know and I'll add it to my list!
Please reach out and let me know if you want me to visit your booth and add you to my swag review! Chances are I will anyway, but it's nice to be invited instead of looked upon strangely as I take photos of your wares. ;-)
In conclusion, if it's your first visit or you've been there before, there is likely a whole load of swag waiting for you to collect. Try to contain yourself, as of 2019 I only take the really awesome stuff, as I still have roughly 50 pairs of socks and 30 t-shirts I haven't yet got to from my past few re:Invent visits.
If you're bored around the trade hall, be sure to find me and say hi! I'll be the guy at all the booths.