I’ve published this Ultimate Synergy Survival guide now for five years running and it’s always popular with both regulars and newbies. Now updated with 2017 links, content and Orlando-specific information. It’s a living document, so will be subject to updates as we get nearer the conference.
Hope you find it useful (and if you do, see the bottom for a way of saying thanks)
2017.1 – First Orlando Edition
2017.05.14 Added link to discounted Disneyland tickets
2017.05.12 Added details on the 5% Supershuttle discount and the link to my Match.Geek sessions
2017.05.15 Added a couple more roaming data options and fixed minor typos
2017.05.16 Added more party details
2017 conference changes
- The change that was made last year to the on-site Certification Center which meant you only got a 25% discount for walk-up exams taken on site has been scrapped. You will now get a free exam regardless of whether booked in advance or via walk-up booking. A very positive u-turn.
- Geekspeak tonight has been scrapped
- Lunch table tech chats have been renamed Hot Topics Round tables. Still run by CTAs and CUGC leaders but are now not at lunchtime and appear in the main session catalogue
- New keynote speakers – fewer Citrix execs, no “closing keynote” and more “TED-like talks” from Malcolm Gladwell and General Colin Powell
- The welcome breakfast for first-timers has been moved to the Monday evening and is now the Navigators Reception
- Citrix offer discounts to public sector, Government, CUGC, Alumni and organisations of three or more people. This can save you a few hundred dollars on your registration. Remember that partners also get special pricing.
- If none of the above apply to you, you can get 15% discount using my discount code “REFERRAL15”. See the bottom of this post for how to add me as your referrer.
- Keep a note of your registration confirmation code. You’ll need this repeatedly to log into the website to book your labs and build your custom agenda. Rather annoyingly, the site doesn’t allow you to choose your own main password (only for the mobile app)
- If you are the type to enter vendor competitions but don’t want to be deluged with marketing email post-conference, register using a throw-away email address that you can dispose off post-conference. Be careful though, this will mean that you won’t automatically qualify for alumni status for future years as they use your email address as proof of previous attendance. If you are a GMail user, a handy tip is to add a “+synergy” to the part of your email address before the @ – this will still reach you, but will be treated as a different email address by everyone else and one which you can then create a “discard” rule against after the conference.
- If you can’t expense your accommodation (or you are the one paying the expense bill!) then check out the money saving tips later in this post for a special group booking hotel discount. Great for independent consultants or those with strict expense limits.
- If you want to take an instructor-led learning labs, you’ll need to pay an extra $99 as part of your conference registration. This gives you access to up to three labs which are all taking place on Sunday and Monday only. If you don’t want to shell out an additional $99, the self-paced labs are still be included in your conference fee and offer similar content, but without the access to the experts during the lab.
- Whether you are a Synergy newbie, or hardened veteran, there is new Path to Success that suggests sessions based on your role or industry vertical to help you get the most from the conference. Do check it out.
Money-saving travel tips
I used to publish a separate blog about booking travel as an independent, but this year I’ve combined it with my main Synergy blog post as there was much content relevant to all.
To get the cheapest deal on International flights always include a Saturday night stay in your trip. Use tools like Matrix, SkyScanner, Google Flights etc to find the cheapest options. If you can be flexible in your routing, and don’t mind multi-leg trips you can often save over the more expensive direct flights.
If you have accumulated airline miles, consider using these, especially if they have an expiry date.
Book a shared ride shuttle from the airport to your hotel. These are around $18 as opposed to $50+ for a taxi although of course take longer as they pick up and drop off at multiple locations. A neat trick to lower the cost of your SuperShuttle booking even further is to abandon your online reservation at the final stage. They will then email you a 5% discount code which you can then use to re-submit your booking. Sweet!
Perhaps use social media to see if anyone is arriving at the airport at around the same time as you (or even on the same flight) to arrange to cab-share.
The conference hotels are as usual ridiculously expensive, even after taking into account the special conference rate, especially considering the amount of time you actually spend in them! The Hyatt for example is $249+$9 resort fee+tax – a wallet-emptying $291 a night! Add another $16 per day if you want to park a car.
But this is Orlando – accommodation is plentiful and available to suite all budgets. The “TripAdvisor” phenomenon has resulted in many (but not all, sadly) budget hotels raising their game, and quality, to avoid strings of bad reviews on their TripAdvisor page.
As in previous years, I’ve negotiated a group booking discount at a decent budget hotel that’s only a ten minute walk from the conference venue (the other official conference hotels are also all between five and ten minute walk). It’s also next door to the E2E conference venue Rosen Plaza (there are four Rosen Hotels in the vicinity (Rosen Plaza, Rosen Center, Rosen Inn & Rosen Inn @ Pointe Orlando – don’t get confused!)
Remember that you are unlikely to earn hotel status or reward points if your reservation is booked by Synergy HQ using their conference rate. Evaluate how much their rack rates are and whether the savings is worth losing any status or reward points that you’d get by booking direct.
Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando
This is the same hotel I arranged a group discount at in 2015 for those that remember.
The Rosen hotel with my group booking discount is at the top left of the map. I’ve added the other conference hotels and the Synergy venue (it’s in the West building again this year) so you can see relative distances.
Here’s the group booking deal I’ve negotiated:
- $72 a night, plus approx $9 tax
- Free cancellation up to 48 notice
- Free WiFi throughout
- Free car parking (self-park)
- Optional $7.50 breakfast and $12 dinner (I recommend you don’t pay for the breakfast though – see below)
Comparing the costs between the conference hotels and Rosen Inn at Pointe Orlando for the Synergy dates:
||Total (Synergy only, 4 nights)
||Total (Synergy+E2E, 6 nights)
|My group booking (Rosen Inn@Pointe Orlando)
That’s a saving of $972 over the Hyatt just for the four Synergy nights!
Obviously this isn’t a five star hotel you’re getting for $72 a night, but do check out their TripAdvisor reviews which are very positive.
There is an online group booking facility, however it might show some days during the week as unavailable as the CTPs & CTAs gobbled up most of the online allocation but I do still have rooms available in my block at this rate but you have to book them by phone on +1 800-999-8585 and quote my GRPUKCUG group booking code. Note that my block of rooms doesn’t start until Sunday, so it you are arriving on Saturday you can still book on their public website for one night only and choose the weekend-only “Music lovers” rate to get the room for only $5 more than my discounted rate for one night. Bargain!
Other hotel tips
Here are some other hotel money saving tips
- Don’t pay for expensive hotel breakfasts. Breakfast is provided at the convention centre on conference days. On non-conference days, you can get a decent breakfast in many of the food outlets that line International Drive.
- Beware of hidden resort fees – these are becoming a popular “stealth tax” allowing hoteliers to charge more pre-night but keep their advertised rates low by splitting out the charge for internet, sport facilities etc into a daily “resort fee”. The standard resort fee at the Orlando Hyatt is $9 a day for stuff you should get anyway! Rip-off!
- For hotels that charge for in-room WiFi, check if they have a free WiFi service in communal areas and the lobby. If your room is nearby you can perhaps avoid paying. Many hotel chain loyalty schemes now offer free WiFi when you are a member, and membership to the basic tier is usually free of charge to sign up before you leave. Remember there is fast free WiFi throughout the conference venue.
What to wear?
- Check the weather forecast and pack appropriately
- Whilst it’s tempting to just bring t-shirts and shorts (this being Orlando n’all), conference venues and break-out rooms always crank up the air-con so are really chilly when you are sitting for several hours doing a lab. Also, previous keynote’s have been known for being rather draughty!
- Conference attire is business casual (khakis, jeans, polo shirts, etc.)
- If your hotel has a pool or gym, bring your trunks, speedos, gym gear etc so you can work out (but no mankini’s please)
What to pack?
- If you’re booked on a learning lab you’ll need a laptop and VGA adaptor if it’s DisplayLink/HDMI only
- Phone/laptop/iPad chargers
- US travel adapters for said chargers/laptops
- If you’re taking one of the free exams, any study material you might need
- If you are from the EU remember you’ll need an ESTA completed in advance of your departure
- Business cards for networking opportunities
- Print off this local map before you leave
- If you’re a fan of freebies, remember to leave space in your luggage for both your conference bag and the variety of bugs, pens, stressballs and t-shirts you’ll no doubt return with! (or designer goods for your other half)
- The conference halls are large, and you’ll spend a fair amount of time on your feet. Pack comfortable shoes.
- No need for backpacks as you’ll get one from the registration desk
Before you leave home
- Set your work out-of-office email and voice-mail messages
- Arrange your airport/hotel transfer. I avoid expensive taxi’s and pre-book shared shuttle services (see section above).
- Book your instructor-led learning lab if you’ve paid for it. You can pre-book three of these for $99. You can attend more, but need to wait in a standby line at least 15 minutes before the scheduled start time.
- Book your free exam
- Book yourself on the Simply Serve session. This is a great way to give something back to those less fortunate – this year is Battle Bots (or Robot Wars if you’re from the UK like me!)
- Download the Summit/Synergy mobile apps and download the Orlando area in Google maps whilst on WiFi to avoid expensive roaming data charges if you need to search for your hotel
- Speak to your mobile operator to ensure international roaming is enabled for your number. This is very hard to do once abroad when your phone doesn’t work after getting off the plane!
- Order an international SIM if you want to keep connected 24/7 and don’t want to incur expensive roaming charges. See “keep connected” below.
- Speak to your bank and/or credit card company and let them know you’re travelling so your card doesn’t get blocked for suspected fraud
- Check in online the day before to get a better seat and allow later arrival at the airport
- Go through the online agenda and add the sessions you are interested in to your agenda.
- Watch out for my consolidated iCAL file downloads of the sessions to sync to your own calendar (Outlook, Google etc). I release these once the full session agenda is published.
During the conference
If you’re coming from outside of the US and want to avoid expensive data roaming charges you have a number of options:
- If you’re in the UK consider the Three PAYG SIM – £20 will get you 12Gb USA 3G roaming data (note: no 4G), 300 mins and 3000 SMS and lasts for 30 days
- Purchase a Net10 or Verizon SIM card or one of the many other PAYG SIMs available in WalMart or other local stores.
- RoamMobility sell international SIM cards online. For around $5 a day you can get their SIM card and 15Gb of 4G data (pro-rata per month, then unlimited 3G data/voice/SMS after you’ve used your quota).
- Hook yourself up to the free venue WiFi when around the conference centre
- Use any free WiFi provided in your hotel (many charge for in-room WiFi, but provide free WiFi in the lobby)
- Spend large amount of time in McDonalds and Starbucks “Free hotspot hopping”
However you stay connected, do take out some time to Skype the family. Even a 5 minute call will bring a smile to a loved one.
Food and drink
If your hotel charges for breakfast – don’t pay! Breakfast and lunch is provided on every day of the conference, and there is food available at the Welcome Reception on Tuesday and party on Thursday. Wednesday is vendor dinners night when you might need to fend for yourself if you’re not lucky enough to be invited to a vendor dinner.
Learn like crazy
There’s loads of opportunity to expand your knowledge during conference.
- Take one (or several) self-paced learning labs on a few products that you might not be so familiar with.
- Attend TechEdge on the Monday – it’s full of Citrix support gurus passing on their secret troubleshooting tips. A must for anyone involved with supporting Citrix technology
- Ask your burning technology questions to Citrix support gurus, product managers and CTPs in the Meet the Experts theater
- Take your pre-booked exam and instructor learning lab
- Learn and share your experiences with fellow delegates, CUGC leaders and CTPs at the Hot Topics round tables
- Hunt out the CTP sessions in the catalog to hear from industry experts, CTPs and fellow Geeks.
- Consider attending E2E conference that’s immediately after Synergy – it’s a community-led conference packed full of great technical content. It’s just down the road from my Group Booking hotel!
Don’t be shy
- There are load of networking opportunities to get to know some new peers. Follow the #CitrixSynergy hashtag if you’re a twitter user to keep abreast of discussions (although tweet volumes to this will explode once conference starts)
- Sign-up to twitter if you’re not a user, even if you don’t plan to use it after the conference. Perhaps follow me during the conference or follow my list of CTPs – most of which will be attending the conference.
- First timer? Attend the Navigators Reception on the Monday evening. I’ll be there – what more incentive could you possible need? 😉
- I’ll be hosting two more formal Match.Geek sessions on the Thursday afternoon. You can book these via the main session catalog.
- If you see me around the conference venue, do say hi. I welcome any feedback you might have on this guide.
Whilst Synergy is a great opportunity for learning, there’s also plenty of ways to let your hair down. There’s the official Welcome reception on Tuesday and the Synergy Party on Thursday.
There are vendor events interspersed during the week – usually on the Wednesday evening – details below of the ones I know about. Remember to keep yourself hydrated before collapsing into bed after partying to avoid the massive hangover the next day.
You can also try and score some points on the Synergy Game inside the mobile app. I came third the first year, and it really does try and ensure you make the most of your time at Synergy (although is very time consuming too!)
If you have some free time either side of the conference, you can visit some of the popular local theme parks. The conference HQ have arranged for discounted Disney tickets available here.
Parties & events
||Day & Time
4.30pm – 6.30pm
|Hyatt Regency Orlando
Regency Ballroom O – Convention Level
| CUGC Members can register here
6.30pm – 8.30pm
||None required for first time attendees
||Tuesday 6pm – 6pm
||Weds 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm
|IGEL with Doug Brown
|M7 Client Party
||BB King’s Blues Club Orlando
|Synergy Final night party
- Getting around Orlando doesn’t have to be expensive. International drive is served by the iRide trolley bus:
iRide trolley bus
You can purchase a five-day unlimited use iRide pass for just $9!
Hung over in your hotel?
Other Synergy guides
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If you’ve yet to register for Synergy, do show your thanks by entering my email address in the Synergy referral field when registering as per the below. I get no financial benefit from this, but I do get entered into a prize draw! Remember you can save 15% on the conference fee by using my discount code “REFERRAL15”