As Hoyt Axton would probably have sung: "well, I've never been to Spain, but I kind of like the music". It was the same experience for me with Cisco products and technology being the music in this analogy. I was attracted to CiscoLive! by everything I'd heard about it. There were some doubts in my mind, though. "What will I do there for five days?" I asked myself. Now I know. CiscoLive! is by far the biggest non-commercial event I ever experienced in my life, and even left me hungry for more. Saying CiscoLive! is an overwhelming experience, is an understatement at best. There's a large stage for the keynote speakers with room for thousands of attendants. There's the DevNet zone, a "World of Solutions" where many Cisco partners showcase their solutions to real-life problems. There are dozens of coffee stands, Quick Bytes (pun intended), fresh juice stands and even a real TV studio and a library. There are also many corners where you can just sit and relax for a while (don't laugh, you'll need it, just to let your brain rest a little).
There are probably about a hundred lecture rooms and halls for the many sessions that you could attend. That is, if you paid for the "full experience". I went as an "explorer" and I'd do the same again next time. That means I was allowed to wander everywhere, except for these breakout sessions. I don't mind, because I can view all of them on the CiscoLive! website later on, which leaves me more time to explore" the fair itself. Also, the overall catering, coffee (and great latte), quick bytes and juices are all included in your admittance fee. If you happen to be a CCIE you'll have access to the CCIE lounge too. I think I'll study a bit more. One day I'd might report about that, but don't count on it. As a CCNA and CCNA Security instructor the most interesting hall was the Devnet-zone for me. I've done eight WISP's (Walk-In Self Paced-labs) and I wish I'd done more of them. I followed about a dozen session with Cisco evangelists about a lot of different topics. Don't be fooled with the small-scaled nature of these sessions. Even if there are only 20 to 50 people there, it's still more than worth it.
The World of Solutions is packed with passionate network engineers (salespeople are probably not allowed). Everybody is friendly and eager to explain their technology, over and over again. It is actually refreshing to experience this. Nobody is trying to sell you anything. They're trying to explain why they like this and that technology. If you like it too, then that's just collateral damage to them. The Cisco on Cisco boots are also very interesting. Of course they'd appreciate us convincing our managers of the need for a new Cisco product/technology, but that is not the primary focus of CiscoLive! I heard nothing commercial at all the entire time I was there. Interested in a specific technology or not, if you visit the fair, you'll certainly have a nice overview about what's happening today in the world of networking. This link to enterprise-level networking is important to me, and it certainly helps me teaching my students.
This is also one of the best fairs I visited, ever. They have thought of everything. It's clear to see that the CiscoLive!-team is very experienced at organizing these mega-events around the world. I can't fault a single aspect. People that know me, will find that hard to believe, but it's true. I stayed in a small B&B in the center of Barcelona. I highly recommend staying in the center of town. There is an Underground (Metro) station close to the venue. The "Fira" stop on the L9 sud (which also connects the city with the airport) is modern and only a few hundred meters away from the North entrance where Cisco has it's registration booths. And if you stay in the city center, there is always something interesting going on at night...
Next time, I'll take the first plane on Monday morning and go straight to the venue. You can leave a small bag and your coats safely in the cloaking room at the entrance. Mondays and Fridays are the days you can wander around in most halls and experience an overview. I'll do some labs (at least two and more if possible) every day. I'll be leaving on Friday, early on in the evening, as the fair ends around noon on Friday. You'll need a "Bittlet Aeroport” to get from and to the airport, which costs 4.60 euros. For daily commuting, a T-10 ticket, valid for 10 bus or underground trips, is highly recommended. It is cheaper (10.20 euros) than the Hola!-card for 5 days (30+ euros). The latter has the advantage of being useable for airport traffic too. Also, make sure you have walking shoes. I did about 20000-25000 steps each day. Also, next time I'll go to the Academy day on Thursday, because I just didn't get around to doing that this time.
As a first-time "explorer", I tried to plan the (free) sessions in advance. It seemed impossible. Plan the opening and closing keynote, and then just "explore". You'll encounter more interesting sessions than you'll have time for. Don't plan, enjoy the experience!
Also, this is no holiday. Come alone. Don't count on being back early in your hotel or b&b at night. There's so much to do and to see there. You'll probably stay until the venue closes end when you do get back to your bed, you'll sleep like a baby until you're phone wakes you early the next morning. You won't mind, because you'll really enjoy yourself there for another day. Remember that there are some people there that refuse to speak Spanish, and use Catalan instead. Since I speak neither, I tried verything in English. Barceloneans understand the importance of this language, but apparently it is not as common as it is in Belgium.