This is one of my regular disclosure posts. You can read more of them here.
I was invited by Veeam to attend their annual VeeamON conference in Miami, Florida, from 20-23 May 2019.
Monday 20 May 2019
I travelled to Melbourne airport using a car service PivotNine uses, paid for by PivotNine. I was flying Qantas to LAX, economy class, paid for by Microsoft.
I had my usual breakfast in the Qantas First lounge—poached eggs on toast with a side of smoked salmon and mushrooms—and a coffee. And then another coffee.
They fed me again on the plane, and I had a couple of glasses (well, plastic cups) of wine to help me off to sleep and attempt to get into the correct timezone that I’d need to be in. The going to sleep part was fine, and for once the large timezone change was going to work in my favour as waking up at 4am was actually 7am on the East coast of the USA.
I had a short layover in LAX, but enough time to visit the Qantas lounge for a shower and a decent breakfast. Poached eggs and a latte as usual. I should probably experiment with other breakfasts, but the routine is comforting when everything else around you is changing fairly dramatically, as is the case when travelling to a new location.
After another 5 hours of flying I was met at Miami airport by a car service arranged by Veeam to take me to the Eden Roc hotel at Miami Beach, FL. It’s a boutique hotel, next door to the conference venue of the Foutainebleu hotel, and my room was enormous with a beautiful view of the ocean.
It was already 7pm by the time I arrived, so I quickly grabbed my conference badge from Veeam PR downstairs and headed next door to the welcome reception for a quick bite to eat. I had chicken and waffles from a buffet station, and some kind of taco thing from a different one. I also had a Carona Extra beer, with lime, as I wandered around chatting to people I knew. I had a second Carona out on the terrace overlooking the ocean and chatted to some more people, and then called it a night at about 8:30pm or so.
Tuesday 21 May 2019
We had an early press conference breakfast at the Eden Roc where Veeam executives gave us the upcoming news early. It was a typical American breakfast of scrambled egg, sausage, and some sort of savoury potato, and drip-filter coffee, delivered to us while sitting down rather than as a buffet. The coffee was welcome, but after changing timezones I ate mostly because I figured my body would need something to keep it going.
In a clever move by Veeam, they specifically released news to the assembled press and analysts before sending it out over the wires, and on a decent delay so people who made the effort to come all the way to the conference could write things up before anyone else.
Often companies will give everyone news under embargo, but it’s the same embargo whether you stay at home in your PJs or if you trek halfway across the world for 20 hours, so it was a nice touch to see Veeam acknowledge the effort involved in attending a conference in person. While I don’t really go in for breaking news that much (I prefer to chew on things a little and analyse things from multiple angles) I appreciated what Veeam were doing for the assembled press for whom time is very much against them.
More of this from other vendors, please.
We had access to functionally unlimited snacks in the press room (bottled water, both still and San Pellegrino sparkling, various protein and chocolate bars, crisps, coffee, and a variety of softdrinks/sodas) and buffet meals for lunch. I’m quite partial to San Pellegrino when it’s on offer, and I made sure to always have a couple of bottles with me to keep my fluid levels up.
For Tuesday’s lunch I had some grilled zucchini, a shredded coleslaw type salad thing and some marinated strips of grilled beef.
Dinner was a media/analyst dinner at the Eden Roc with drinks (I had a gin and tonic) and appetisers on a terrace before going downstairs to tables outside in what they called the garden. Dinner itself was a buffet selection of leafy salads, grilled chicken, and a kind of potato gratin thing if I recall correctly, on tables arranged outside. I tried a glass of a Spanish wine variety called a Rioja that I’d never had before but that was recommended by the barman as similar in style to a Syrah only lighter and that’s exactly what it was. It wasn’t as sweet as I find Californian Cabernet, which was welcome as I prefer the more savoury style of Australian wines. The lighter wine also meant it was better suited to the hot weather, and I ended up having three glasses of it by the end of the night, with appropriate amounts of water to keep hydrated.
After dinner I hung out at the hotel bar with folk from the Veeam communications team until around midnight, which was probably ill-advised sleep-wise, but the conversation was worth it. I had a glass of Merlot and a gin-and-tonic as a nightcap.
Wednesday 22 May 2019
Wednesday was a slightly later start than Tuesday, thankfully, though my brain had decided to wake me up at around 4:30am to think about All The Things for a while, so I ended up having breakfast at the media lounge (coffee, a couple of egg enchilada things, and a pastry) from about 7:30am before heading to meetings with executives at 8:20am.
Lunch was again a buffet selection in the press room, which I hurriedly scoffed and don’t really remember, as I had to get back to the conference for a couple of interviews on The Cube.
In the evening we had the VeeamON closing party. This was a return to form for Veeam in terms of scope and scale, taking over the pool and surrounding grassed areas of the Fountainebleu. The main grassed area between the hotel and the beach was given over to the stage where FloRida played to the assembled partygoers, and I saw photos later on of various executives joining him on stage.
I had a beer (Carona again, poured into a plastic cup because pool safety) and some dim sum nibbles, plus some boneless chicken wings (They’re chicken nuggets. Admit it.) while wandering around checking out the venue.
Veeam co-founder and head honcho Ratmir Timashev was also wandering around the venue saying hello to people and being one of the crowd. No bodyguards or entourage, just one man enjoying being at his party amongst his friends and acquaintances. You could probably write a bunch of PR advice manuals on how executives should or should not do this, but a bunch of people commented to me about how they liked the simple human connection of Ratmir remembering their name and saying hi to them personally.
I’m not really into live music at conference events, as I prefer having conversations with people and that can be hard when there’s loud music to compete with, but this event it worked out reasonably well as you could be away from the stage having a chat without having to shout too much.
I had a couple of Pina Coladas after some vendor friends of mine ordered one, and they were surprisingly tasty given I’m not huge fan of pineapple. There was also plenty of water available, in big pour-yourself dispensers which cut down on the plastic of bottled water, and meant you could easily stay hydrated in the warmth of Florida summer. No queueing at a bar just to get some water.
There were a few rain squalls that didn’t dampen (see what I did there?) people’s enthusiasm too much, and people just genuinely had a pleasantly good time without the major craziness of other vendors’ pool parties of years past. I’m not familiar with FloRida’s oeuvre but he played what seemed like a good set, and people were into it.
It was just a nice, relaxed event.
After the party finished up, I hung out with various Veeam and related vendor people at the Fountainbleu bar along with a few hundred of our closest friends until well after midnight, nursing a couple of tin-and-tonics. The party people had made their way into the nightclub at the front of the hotel but I was off to bed back at the Eden Roc.
Thursday 23 May 2019
Thursday was check out and travel home day.
Breakfast was a chocolate muffin snaffled from the press room the day before while I caught up on email and tried to make some headway with a few work items that had been put in a holding pattern over the past couple of days.
I had intended to go to the gym, but opted to visit the beach instead, after the later-than-originally-planned evening. I walked through the largely deserted hotel at about 9am to get to the boardwalk access gate, which was a little eerie. It was sunny and nice at the beach, which was again essentially deserted aside from a few hardy souls walking or jogging along the boardwalk. I walked along the beach a little, took some photos, and touched the ocean before heading back to my room for a shower and packing my bags and more work.
I checked out at midday and then worked from the hotel lobby before my car to the airport at 1:30pm, shared with some other people leaving at the same time. I had just enough time to grab a quick bite of lunch at the American Airlines lounge before getting my flight to LAX. Weirdly, they actually gave me a snack thing on the plane (they didn’t offer one on the way over) and I opted for a hummus and vegetables thing that was actually pretty good.
I had a shower and then dinner at the Qantas lounge at LAX—salt and pepper squid entree, and a tomato roasted chicken with risoni and a glass of Chardonnay—and then did some more work until boarding the flight home. I managed a solid sleep most of the way home, given that I turned in at the equivalent of about 4am in my original timezone for the day.
Breakfast was fruit and a cup of tea on the plane, and then it was my usual PivotNine car service home.