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12/17/2013
00:00 AM
Jennifer Jessup
Jennifer Jessup
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Interop Site Visit Scopes Out Attendee Experience

Several members of the Interop team visited Las Vegas to view the site from an attendee perspective for the 2014 conference.

Members of the Interop team conducted a site visit in Las Vegas last week. A site visit is our chance to see the Mandalay Bay Convention Center when it is empty. We have the opportunity to take a step back and visualize the experience every attendee and exhibitor will have once they step off the plane in Las Vegas. And what will that experience entail?

It starts at the Las Vegas airport. The airport is modern and clean. Most likely you’ll be able to spot advertisements from Interop exhibitors on the big screens as you walk to baggage claim. If you have downloaded the Interop mobile app, you'll receive a welcome text when you turn on your phone after landing and see the cool geo-fencing feature.

After a quick taxi ride, you enter the hotel lobby. Ahhhh, that Las Vegas scent of fragrant air piped into every building. Each hotel has its signature scent. THEhotel smells a bit like lilies. It's nice there's no smoking (at least in their lobby) so you get a bit of a breather before walking  through the casino. The hotel rooms themselves are the polar opposite of rooms at Interop New York: Big. High from the ground. Fancy yet not too expensive. Gotta love Las Vegas.

Wander on over to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Interop welcome signs are (we hope) not hidden by the blinding desert sunlight in the corridor after the Starbucks. You feel like you are on the right track as more signs pop up and there are other Interop-esque (sometimes IT pros are easy to spot!) folks headed down the hall. You finally make it to the long escalator up to the second floor. More exhibitor signage follows you as you slowly go up and are ready to find your bearings in a sea of attendees. Hopefully you got a good night sleep and are ready to rock it in class!

This year we are completely changing up the lobby space. Think of it as your living room — with comfortable furniture, all the Wi-fi you could possibly need, and thousands of other technology professionals ready to share their challenges and successes. Coffee and snacks will be available outside the keynote room. I believe the mood we create at Interop is just as important as the education we offer. If you don’t feel comfortable and welcomed, we are doing something wrong. This year our Interop team will wear staff shirts, so stop us and let us know if you need anything!

On our site visit we were very fortunate to be treated to a tasting lunch. This year we are hosting the InformationWeek Elite 100 Awards Gala on Tuesday, April 1. The gala dinner is our celebration of the most innovative IT teams we can find. So it’s important that the food be outstanding. Our tasting included three appetizers, three entrees and nine different desserts. Wine with each course. The only downside was that we actually had to get up afterwards and waddle back through the convention center to do more work! What did we choose for April’s dinner? Light potato soup with black pepper bacon to die for, baby greens and heirloom purple potatoes. Chardonnay the perfect balance. Surf and turf, which I have to admit I thought was out of style. But once that plate of beef tenderloin and lobster tail was plopped down in front of me, there was no turning back.

Dessert was the most excruciating choice. The Mandalay Bay pastry chef has been voted one of the top ten in the country. He explained each of the desserts in his beautiful French accent. How could we disappoint by choosing only three to be served at the gala? I’m not going to spoil the surprise and tell you what they are, but please leave room for a exquisite selection of chocolate, hazelnut, and fruit options.

After rolling back down the long escalator after lunch we headed over to Light, where we will be hosting our Interop Party. Open to all conference attendees, speakers, press, and exhibitors, the party will feature food and drinks, as well as incredible Cirque du Soleil entertainment. Last year we held the first party ever at Light before it officially opened to the public. We were the dress rehearsal for the staff and entertainment. My mouth didn’t shut all night. I can just gawk at the Cirque performers for hours. I can’t wait for more in April!

And then sadly we headed back to the airport. Back to home and reality. We have tons of work still to do before the show starts. But it will all be worth it once we can see the smiles on your faces in Las Vegas!

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