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Feb 9 / The Architect

The ultimate Citrix Synergy survival guide – 2019 Atlanta edition

I’ve published this Ultimate Synergy Survival guide now for seven years running and it’s always popular with both regulars and newbies. Now updated with 2019 links,  content and Atlanta-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 end up registering, please use my email address in the “referred by” field on your registration form)  – see the end of this post for details

Revision History

2019.02.01 – First Atlanta Edition
2019.02.24 – Some Atlanta attractions links added, plus the hotel group booking discount link.
2019.03.26 – Added NitroCrew drinks
2019.05.04 – Added more events, and removed community hotel registration (fully booked)
2019.05.05 – Added Presidio & Xentegra events
2019.05.07 – Added Parellels & Sayers events
2019.05.16 – Added M7 event
2019.05.20 – Added Experts Exchange event

2019 conference changes and highlights

Registration tips

  • 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 10% discount using my discount code “REFERRAL10%”. 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 still doesn’t allow you to choose your own password only the password 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. 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 Citrix experts during the lab.
  • Whether you are a Synergy newbie, or hardened veteran, there is new Path to Success feature 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.

Travel money

For the frequent overseas traveler, there are an increasing number of zero-fee foreign exchange credit cards available that won’t charge you a fee for paying in a foreign currency (Amex charge 3% per transaction for example)

One of the most popular (in the UK at least) is Revolut which allows you to open a virtual account in a number of different currencies on their app and only charges the interbank exchange rate at the time of the transaction to move money between them (from £ to $ for example). You can sign-up on their app and get an instant virtual card number, and then upgrade on the app if you want a physical credit card too.

Another contender is Curve. This works slightly different to Revolut in that it’s a physical debit card, which you link to an existing Visa or Mastercard credit card. They don’t charge FX fees during the week (there is a fee at the weekend) and it has the advantage that your spending can accumulate reward points as its redirected onto a credit card in real time. If you want to try Curve, use my referal code GCESS when signing up to get £5 free credit

Flights

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.

Ground transportation

The cheapest (and greenest) way of getting from the airport to the venue hotels is by MARTA transit. Take the Red or Gold line from the airport and alight at Peachtree Center for most of the conference hotels. If you are going straight to the conference venue, or Omni Hotel, change at Five Points onto the Blue/Green line and alight at Omni station.

Book a shared ride shuttle from the airport to your hotel. These are all $16.50 from ATL (regulated fare) although of course may take longer as they pick up and drop off at multiple locations, and you might have to wait for the shuttle to pick you up at the airport.

Perhaps use social media or the CUGC community 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.

See the ATL airport website for other options

Hotels

The conference hotels are not as expensive as previous conference locations, although the downside is that the World Congress Center and it’s surrounding conference hotels aren’t in the best of areas.

Conference hotels

These are the hotels with agreed rate plans which Synergy can book you into alongside your conference registration:

Synergy hotels
Synergy Atlanta venue hotels (Blue) and our group discount hotel (Orange)
HotelConference
rate
Total
(4 nights+tax)
WebsiteRank & Reviews
Omni Atlanta$225$1085Website#73
Atlanta Marriott Marquis$209$1010Website#78
Hyatt Regency Atlanta$199$962Website#64
The Westin Peachtree Plaza$209$1010Website#49

Community hotel discount

As with previous years I’ve arranged a group booking discount with a good quality hotel that’s situated right in the center of the above conference hotels, so convenient for meeting colleagues who might be staying nearby. It’s actually ranked higher on TripAdvisor than all of the conference hotels!

My hotel block is now sold out! Well done to everyone who managed to grab a cheap room as they are now selling at $300 per night!

The American Hotel by DoubleTree

The American Hotel

From the hotel brochure:

Drawing on design features of the era from which the hotel was born, guests will experience Mid-Century Modern style that celebrates striking architectural details, Pop Art, and furnishings that harken back to a period characterized by clean simple lines

– 315 completely redesigned guest rooms, including 26 suites inspired to a mid-century modern style that celebrates striking architectural details, Pop Art and furnishings that date back to a period characterized by clean simple lines
– Originally built in 1962 as the premiere hotel in downtown Atlanta
– Notable guest over the years have included Richard Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, Elvis Pressley, James Brown and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
– Sweet Dreams by DoubleTree sleep experience
– Close to all downtown attractions including the Georgia World Congress Center, CNN, Centennial Olympic Park, Georgia Dome, World of Coke and the Georgia Aquarium
– Wireless high-speed Internet access and remote guest-room printing
– Fitness Room and Outdoor Pool (with outdoor bar)
– Reimagined restaurant, lounge, catering and special event experiences
– A new open and welcoming arrival experience in the hotel’s lobby and public spaces.

I’ve negotiated a very good guaranteed rate compared to the rack rates, plus anyone booking via my discount code will receive free breakfast (usually $20 per day) for up to two guests. I have rooms allocated from Saturday May 18th to Saturday May 25th for those coming earlier for TechEdge or labs or those staying a bit later. The rate is guaranteed and won’t increase nearer the conference and will be available until a month before Synergy or until my allocation is sold out.

HotelMy rateStd rateTotal (4 nights+tax)WebsiteRank &
Reviews
The American Hotel by DoubleTree$139$179$679Website#38

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 in the neighborhood (or book my hotel deal with includes breakfast)
  • 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”. Georgia has a state-wide $5-per night room fee, so don’t confuse this with other hotel-levied resort fees.
  • 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, 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)
  • If you run or jog, why not see if other delegates want to join you on a morning run? Twitter is great for arranging these kind of things.

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
  • Mobile power bank – you can spend long days out of your hotel so might need to top up your phone if you’re taking lots of photos and tweeting.
  • 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
  • Passport!
  • 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. And walking. All the walking. 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. Pre-book your shared shuttle ride if you’re using one (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.
  • Download the Summit/Synergy mobile apps and download the Atlanta area in Google maps whilst on WiFi to avoid expensive roaming data charges if you need to  search for your hotel or are using Google Maps as a GPS whilst driving.
  • 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 into your flight 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)
  • If you visit the US frequently, and you’re from one of the supported countries, consider applying for Global Entry. Since I applied three years ago, I’ve never had to queue at US immigration since. Well worth the modest fee and arranging the interview en route through ATL for your next visit.

Session iCAL downloads

The online agenda builder does allow you to download a combined iCAL file containing all your chosen sessions. I’ve provided some alternate iCAL downloads below if you wish to import the entire session catalog into your favorite calendar service.

Note even if you use my iCAL files you should still sign-up for the sessions you want to attend, either on the website or mobile app. The conference organisers use sign-up numbers to gauge session demand and ensure the allocated rooms are of suitable size. Also note that my iCAL files are a snap-shop in time (as of 15th April). If sessions get changed, or cancelled after that date, the change wont be reflected in the downloads.

iCAL links will be available once the session catalog is online

During the conference

Keep connected

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 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 amounts 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 extra 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. My hotel deal above includes a daily breakfast in the room rate.

Learn like crazy

There’s loads of opportunity to expand your knowledge during conference.

  • Take one (or several) self-paced or instructor-led 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 Lunchtime Tech Chats
  • Hunt out the CTP sessions in the catalog to hear from industry experts, CTPs and fellow Geeks.

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? 😉
  • If you see me around the conference venue, do say hi. I’d welcome any feedback you might have on this guide.

Have fun

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 place the first year it was introduced, 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 World of Coca ColaThe Aquarium, Zoo or The Mercedes Benz American Football Stadium. Atlanta has many cool neighborhoods you can explore via the MARTA.

You can ride the Streetcar (or tram as most Europeans call them) around a loop for only $1 and see a bit of downtown. There is also a useful whatson guide for other cultural and sporting events.

The Clermont Lounge is an Atlanta institution having had a string of famous clientele over the years!

Parties & events

Thank to Carl Behrent for his help finding some of the below events

EventDay & TimeLocationRegistration details
Tuesday
Welcome Reception6pm – 8pmExpo hallNone required
Presidio & partners7pm-9.30pmRuth’s Chris SteakhousLink
NitroCrew drinks (buy your own beer)9pm-Georgia Beer GardenLink
Wednesday
Sayers Happy Hour4.30pm-6.30mHudson GrilleLink
Igel community happy hour5.30pm-7pmDer BiergartenLink
Parallels cocktails6pm-8pmSkylounge at the GlennLink
Experts Exchange Meetup7pm-9pmSTATS BrewpubLink
M7 Client appreciation party8pm-12amTabernacleClients & partners
Thursday
Synergy Final night party7.30pm-11pm
GWCC, Building B, Level 1, Hall B4

None required

Hung over in your hotel?

Don’t miss out – selected sessions are streamed over the internet. Enjoy Synergy from the comfort of your hotel room!

Other Synergy guides

A Synergy guide for introverts

Find this post useful?

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 10% on the conference fee by using my discount code “NEIL10”

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