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2020 AWS re:Invent Ultimate Guide

10 minute read |An icon depicting a retail tag with a heart for 'favourite'AWSCloud

This guide will grow as we get closer to the show. Please check back regularly for updates! Ping me, @marknca if you spot a problem or if something is missing

For the last few years, I’ve a blast writing the “Ultimate Guide” (or some variation of) for AWS re:Invent. This is the biggest conference in cloud and it’s always a fantastic event. Jammed packed with new services, great conversations, and so much more.

Here are the previous guides I’ve written, they’ve helped thousands and thousands of builders get the most out of the week on-site and the learning that continues for weeks afterward;

This year will be different.



Like everything in 2020, the team behind AWS re:Invent has had to re-evaluate how to deliver the content to its audience. The result? The 9th AWS re:Invent will be presented entirely online.

The show will now be spread out over 3 weeks and is free to attend for anyone.

No, we won’t be able to see friends from around the world and make news ones. But we will continue to stay safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Let’s look on the bright side, this presents a unique opportunity to re-imagine what AWS re:Invent and how to get the most out of it!

Advice That’s No Longer Relevant

I always start the guide off with an outline and then add more as the team publishes more fantastic activities. I’m taking that approach again this year but here’s an interesting look at what I’m assuming is no longer relevant;

Some of the ideas behind these areas will come back in a new form and I’m sure some new ideas will come to the forefront. For now, let’s dive in.

Who Am I?

You might be wondering why you should read this guide. Marketing teams around the community are starting to crank out these guides. Why read this one?

Well, I’ve been at re:Invent since the start. I’m very active in the AWS community. In fact I’m an AWS Community Hero, author for A Cloud Guru (I wrote “Mastering The Well-Architected Framework” and “AWS Business Essentials"), and repeat speaker (15 and counting!) at the event.

AWS re:Invent is my favourite conference by far and I write this guide to help you get the most out of the show and to share in the excitement!

Why Attend?

Usually, I would say for the networking, hands on learning opportunities, and to experience the energy of the community. For a virtual event, that’s going to change.

We don’t yet know what the format will look like or the technology that will be used. Over the past couple of years, AWS has been upping its streaming game on Twitch and its video game on YouTube.

What will re:Invent look like? We’re not sure yet.

If I had to guess, we’ll see a lot more content streaming on Twitch which means the change to engage with community in the chat in real time. AWS has always posted the majority of the sessions to its AWS Events YouTube channel…that shouldn’t change.

Unfortunately the platform AWS has been using for virtual Summits and other online events is…um…less than stellar.

Assuming they can address that and/or put a focus on Twitch, the reason to attend live is that real time discussion, sharing, and sense of community.

Code of Conduct

This event is all about learning. You can only do that in an accepting, supportive environment. Regardless of the shape the event takes on, the AWS Community Code of Conduct will be enforced.

That might be trickier for a virtual event, but based on what I’ve seen in the past, AWS takes this very seriously and I know they’ll do their best to make this an inclusive, safe event.

You have to do your part too. Read the code, and live it!


The first item on any re:Invent @TODO has always been “get a hotel room”. Thankfully this year, that’s not an issue. This is a huge weight off of our shoulders. Trying to pick the right hotel (out of the 14+ official properties) was always a stressful time. This year you’re staying chez vous.

Registration is currently slated to open in “Late October”. Given that this message was posted to the AWS re:Invent 2020 website in mid-October, I think it’s more likely to be the end of October. That’s ok though. The advantage of virtual events is that it’s significantly easier to boost capacity.

AWS re:Invent registration opens in Late October, clipping from the official website

Stay tuned for more details as they come and make sure to sign up for updates on the event website.

Mobile App

In previous years, the mobile app has been the way of staying up to date as you trek the properties of Las Vegas. Could a mobile app be useful for a virtual event? I’m leaning towards no, but there are some intriguing possibilities.

Good bet that the app isn’t in use this year but you never know.

Daily Survival

The key to making it through a day in Las Vegas is planning and flexibility. Packing snacks, a water bottle, good shoes, and knowing how to pace yourself is how you don’t end up wiped out after the first day.

A three week virtual event has a different set of requirements.

I imagine that one of the reasons re:Invent is set across three weeks is that you can only stare at your screen too long…and we are all probably well past that point already.

Here are a few tips for surviving the grind of an extended virtual conference;

How to re:Invent

One of my favourite parts of the lead up, Annie & Jill host a wonderful show called, “How to re:Invent”. This show covers the logistics of the event, brings some surprising announcements, and generally helps us all get ready for an exciting week in Las Vegas.

I truly hope they bring back the show this year. It’s a ton of fun to watch and while there might not be a lot of logistic to cover, there should be enough for a few episodes.

Fingers crossed.


The keynote line up as been announced and it shows us the first change in content strategy for 2020.

AWS re:Invent 2020 keynote schedules

There are 5 major keynotes this year. The “classic” keynotes remain with the following schedule;

The new keynote is the Machine Learning Keynote, VP Amazon AI (live on Tuesday, 08-Dec from 08:00—09:30am PST). Swami Sivasubramanian from AWS will be delivering this keynote covering all of the latest in machine learning in the AWS Cloud.

Now, nothing is the “same” for this year but in previous years, the pattern has been;

The keynotes are always exciting. This year, we’ll be able to tune in live but also catch the repeats for various time zones. Expect (again, I’m just guessing based on previous experiences) for these to be among the first sessions up on YouTube shortly after the last repeat.

Here’s a quick way to add these sessions to your calendar;

Be sure to make sure you get the time zones right! Remember, that these are repeats offered for these keynotes. The calendar links above are for the live session timings, you’ll have to add the alternative re-broadcasts if you’re interested in those.

Leadership Sessions

AWS has also announced an expanded “leadership sessions” series. These were introduced over the last few large events (re:Invent and re:Inforce) and they are excellent. Think of them as mini-keynotes with a very specific scope.

A sampling of some of the AWS re:Invent leadership sessions from the official website

Each of these sessions is given by someone at AWS with direct responsibility or a deep involvement in the subject matter. These sessions typically contain new service/feature announcements that aren’t big enough for the main stage keynotes but are still worth calling out.

You should definitely have these sessions on your itinerary as they are a great starting place to figure out what you want to dive deeper into. Use them as a bit of an index or table of contents for further exploration at AWS re:Invent 2020 and beyond.

Session Catalog

The Session Catalog and reserved seating were always a challenge in years past. The catalog fills up over the summer but there always was a gap between when reserved seating opened and when the catalog was actually complete.

The good news? With a virtual event, reserved seating should be a thing of the past.

The catalog itself should be much, much simpler this year as sessions need only be run once because physical space in the room is no longer an issue. This should be a much more enjoyable experience for everyone this year.

More To Come…

Usually we know a lot more about AWS re:Invent by this time in the summer. Nothing about 2020 has been “usual”. I’m excited for the new format and know that the team will make the most of it.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to participate in some new experiences and old favourites—like AWS Hero Guides, Hackthons, GameDays, etc.—will make an appearance too.

Stay tuned, this post will be updated regularly with information as it becomes available.