Building a workshop for AWS re:Invent - part 3

Building a workshop for AWS re:Invent - part 3

Ever wondered what goes into the design and delivery of content at re:Invent? This series of posts explores the process of creating a 300-level workshop for delivery at AWS re:Invent 2023. This final post (part 3) covers the delivery of the workshop.

Matt J
Amazon Employee
Published Feb 13, 2024

end-November: Delivery

As speakers at re:Invent, you are expected to be available for the entire week (that means from Monday at 8am through to Friday at 1pm) - this is to account for last-minute agenda changes, repeat sessions being scheduled, etc. For Laura and I, that meant a 11-hour flight from the UK; I arrived on the Saturday night, Laura arrived on the Sunday. Our first workshop session was scheduled for 8am on the Monday morning - which meant there was some work to do on Sunday!

Workshop deployment

Given the scale of re:Invent, tens of thousands of workshop accounts are deployed over the week of the event; s a workshop owner, you are responsible for deploying your workshop accounts and code (using Workshop Studio) 24-hours in advance of your session. This gives you time to troubleshoot any issues that might arise. We kicked off our workshop deployment at around 8am on the Sunday - Workshop Studio provisions individual workshops in batches of 10 AWS accounts at a time, and our CloudFormation template takes around 10 minutes to deploy - so within 3 hours, we had deployed the 145 accounts needed for our first workshop.
This deployment meant that we now had the unique access code needed for attendees to access the workshop, and so we could update our opening slides with this information. To do this, we need to take a trip to the Speaker Ready Room.

Speaker Ready Room

Presenting at re:Invent is a privilege in so many ways, not least of which because you get to spend some time in one of the Speaker Ready Rooms (SRR). This is where the folks presenting at re:Invent check-in with the organisers to let them know they've made it to Vegas - with speakers coming from all over the world, travel isn't always 100% reliable! It's also the location where you can make any last-minute updates to slides (this happens a lot, AWS is continuously releasing new features!), run through a "tech check" to see how the in-room AV equipment works, and even get a chance to work with one of our awesome speaker coaches for some last-minute presentation tips.
Images from the Speaker Ready Room
Images from the Speaker Ready Room
There is an added benefit of spending time in the SRR - you get to bump into some amazing people, whether those are some of our best technologists from AWS, or some of our fantastic customer speakers. Oh, and the refreshments are pretty good as well!

Workshop delivery

The day of the workshop itself is a combination of emotions; nerves, anticipation, excitement all compete for space. I normally try to get to the room itself about an hour before the session starts, to get a feel for the space (and to make sure I can find it - re:Invent is a big event!). Since our session was at 8am, that meant an early breakfast, but thanks to the joys of jet-lag, getting up wasn't a problem!
As an attendee at re:Invent, you have two options for joining sessions - the first is to reserve a place in advance via the event app (a percentage of the space available for each session can be reserved in this way). If you aren't able to reserve a seat, you can instead join a "walk up" line, for the non-reserved seats, which is first-come, first-served. If somebody really wants to get into that session, they will often arrive well in advance. As a presenter, it's very humbling to get to the room and seeing people queuing for your session already.
Once in the room, this is also the first chance you'll get to meet the in-room AV team. There are normally at least three people, one covering audio, one covering the visual presentation, and a room host, who is responsible for coordinating the badge scans at the door, and also dealing with anything unexpected that might come up. In the five re:Invents I've done, these people have always been amazingly helpful - some of the unsung heroes of the event.
With 15 minutes to go before the workshop begins the doors open and people start coming in - first those with reserved seats, and then for the walk-ups. At 8am we started the session. Laura and I presented for about 10 minutes, covering the concepts behind the workshop, how to get access to the AWS workshop accounts, and what do to if you had problems. With that, we stopped speaking and the attendees got on with the labs.
Laura and I delivering the opening presentation
Laura and I delivering the opening presentation
I also want to call out our workshop supporters; these are AWS staff who are familiar with the workshop, and are available in the room to answer any questions people might have on the workshop or related content. All of them were fantastic, and were a key part of the workshop, so thank you - you all know who you are!
The NET301 workshop team!
The NET301 workshop team!

Repeat session

With the first workshop completed, it's already time to start thinking about the repeat session. For our workshop this was on Wednesday at 9am, and so we would need to deploy the AWS workshop accounts early on Tuesday morning. Before we did, we fixed a couple of minor bugs in the dashboard code, and updated some documentation based on the in-room feedback we got from the first session. Again, we had a full room, and lots of interaction, which is always great. The session finished at 11am, and so we shut-down the workshop, and with that, our workshop commitments for re:Invent were done!

Post re:Invent

About two weeks after the event, we get the survey results back from the sessions; these include an average (out of 5) for the overall satisfaction, and another (again out of 5) for the ability of the speakers. Our first session scored well, and our repeat workshop even higher - we tweaked some of the way we delivered content based on in-room feedback from our first session.
Post-event, we get (anonymised) written feedback from those who chose to leave some. Some quotes from this feedback include:
  • Exceptional workshop. Encouraged you to solve the problems without just following a predefined script, so really felt you were learning
  • I really like how the workshop had an overview of the problem and links to documentation and some hints on how to solve it without doing the full walkthrough.
  • This was a great workshop, especially as the lab covered numerous areas which allowed people to focus where they wanted, but also for people to revisit other areas. Network engineers would find sessions like this invaluable
We also had some suggestions on how to improve, which we'll look to incorporate into the workshop early in 2024:
  • Workshop had more content than could easily be covered in the time allowed. Did not make it through all the exercises
  • Not very much context around why we were doing the tasks
  • Would have been a bit better to maybe have a demo of how to use the content


The aim of this short series of posts was to provide some insight into what it's like to design, develop and deliver a workshop at AWS re:Invent. It's a lot of hard work, but also an incredibly enjoyable experience, and hopefully one we'll get to repeat in the future. If you're interested in looking at the workshop we delivered, you can find it here: Approaches to layered security on Amazon VPC

Any opinions in this post are those of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of AWS.