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Robert Karbaum

Robert Karbaum National Digital Strategy Manager

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19 Tips & Tricks to Prepare for #DSES2014

50a861a5cb5407dc48f6a49856393bdd.jpg?t=1The DrivingSales Executive Summit 2014 is less than 80 days away, and Vegas can be an overwhelming experience if you aren't prepared. []  After attending for the past several years, I wanted to share the best tips and tricks I have accumulated. Whether this is your first DSES or you are a Vogelheim Veteran, hopefully you can use this advice and benefit from my experiences.


Arrive Early

Fly in to Las Vegas before DSES begins on October 12. There is nothing worse than missing a portion of the conference because of a flight delay. Besides, you deserve a break. Take the weekend off and get your Vegas fix before the conference begins.


Leaving the Airport

You can choose a taxi or a bus; both are available outside baggage claim.  The taxi ride is worth it, as the bus can take over an hour by the time it drops everyone else off. 

When taking the taxi, Nevada state law requires the driver to ask, “Do you want to take the tunnel, or the freeway?”

Choose the freeway. The tunnel is a longer route and will ultimately cost you more, even if the driver says otherwise.


Free Hotel Upgrades









FREE Hotel Upgrades

Ever heard of the Vegas $20 Sandwich trick?

Tipping the hotel's front desk staff means the chance of landing a cheap room upgrade. Twenty bucks for a room upgrade is a no-brainer, right?

The so-called “$20 sandwich trick” or “credit card sandwich” is common across the U.S., but in Las Vegas – a city that runs on tips – it's universal.

When checking in, sandwich a $20 bill ($50 or $100 will have a greater effect) between your identification and credit card and ask the front desk clerk, “Are there any complimentary upgrades available?” Smile, be polite and cross your fingers. 

According to the Bellagio has an 80 percent upgrade rate, so your chances are pretty good. 


Bring a cooler to your hotel room.









Stocking Your Hotel Room

The hotel mini-bar is heinously expensive, and you will find yourself famished when you finally crash at the end of the night. After check-in, head to the Walgreens just south of Planet Hollywood. It’s a hike, but worth it. Spending $20 in Walgreens will save you at least $100 in mini-bar fees. Grab snacks, chips, energy bars, Red Bull, Gatorade, Tylenol, and anything else you may need for your Vegas experience. You can also get an 18-pack of PBR for around $14 if that tickles your fancy.

If you are someone that likes a cold beverage, buy a Styrofoam cooler (approx. $4). Stock it up with ice from the hotel, and you can guarantee a cold drink in your room at all times. Or grab a collapsible cooler and pack it into your suitcase. In a pinch, you can always use your bathtub as well.

Before heading to DSES, buy yourself portable power for your phones and tablets.









Portable Power

If you take away anything from this list, it should be this tip. Before heading to DSES, buy yourself portable power for your phones and tablets. You WILL run out of battery between taking notes, live tweeting, adding people to LinkedIn, and checking the baseball scores (Go Blue Jays!). 

I pack myself two units: a pocket-sized Powerocks Super Magicstick for my phone, and a HyperJuice Plug for my tablet. These will be life-savers, and may even make you some new friends.



WiFi systems have user limits, so if there are 100 spots and 500 people you need to be creative. It’s no one’s fault; it just is a reality. WiFi alone for a conference organizer costs $10,000-plus, so be patient.

To increase your WiFi chances, get to the conference early and secure a spot. As long as your device is running, the signal slot should stick. Make sure to share a hotspot with the people at your table.

If you are stuck and can’t find a signal, the Bellagio has a separate signal outside of the conference rooms that you can pick up. It’s limited speed, but will do the job. 


Go to the breakouts that are of the most interest to you, and concern yourself with making the most of your session.









Breakout Sessions – Be Selfish

If you are attending DSES as part of a group, you will likely hear “Let’s divide and conquer,” which is a great aspiration but unrealistic in execution. There is so much information to take in that when it comes time to “share notes” with your colleagues afterwards, you may only get one or two items from the other sessions.

Go to the breakouts that are of the most interest to you, and concern yourself with making the most of your summit. [] If you take great notes, share those and hopefully your colleagues will too.


Watch out for Ninjas.  Phone Ninjas.









Meet as Many People as Possible

The first year I went to DSES I went alone, and I wish I’d made more of an effort to reach out and meet people. Make a point of sitting down with strangers for lunch, in a breakout or, if you are a smoker (the smoking patio is located on the Bellagio balcony just outside main hall), you can meet some amazing people. 

One of the few people I met in my first year was Brian Armstrong (@BryanCarGuy) and he single-handedly made my first experience tremendously more enjoyable. 

Bring a handful of business cards, or better yet, include your Twitter handle on your name badge!


Secret Passage to the Bellago from Vdara









If You Can’t Book into the Bellagio

My 2nd year at DSES I stayed at Aria. It wasn’t until the third day that I found the “secret shortcut” between the two hotels. If you walk through the Vdara (in the CityCenter complex) there is a walkway that directly connects with the Bellagio. It saves a quarter-mile of walking and easily 20–30 minutes. 

If you aren’t a fan of the “Vegas smoke smell,” the Vdara is a non-smoking building and is easily the best hotel deal on the strip.


Evernote, for notes.









Taking Notes

DSES provides faaar more information than you can mentally retain, so taking notes is crucial. My brain is mush by the end, and without my notes I would miss out on some fantastic nuggets.  Get yourself a tablet so that you can quickly type, but more importantly, take photos of slides.

For note software I am a big fan of Evernote. It’s free, easy to organize, adding pictures is super easy and it even has an audio recording feature.


Wear Comfortable Shoes

Walking from one end of the Bellagio to the other is half a mile. Everywhere in Vegas “looks” close, but you can easily pack in 6–10 miles of walking in a day. It’s a great excuse to grab a new pair of shoes from the outlets anyways.


Pizza Five50 and other alternatives if all the Bellagio restaurants are booked.









Planning Dinner

Especially at the Bellagio, book your reservations at least two days in advance. Eating dinner at 11 p.m. after a full conference day is not pleasant. You can always cancel if need be.

If you can’t make it into one of the restaurants at the Bellagio, here are my favorite nearby establishments:

Rao’s – Upscale Italian. The meatballs have been compared to Jesus by Scott Stratten @unmarketing, and for the vegetarians, the beet salad is to die for. Located at Caesar’s Palace.

Five50 Pizza Bar – In my list of top five pizzas I’ve ever had in my life. You can grab a slice, or sit down for a whole pie. Located in the Aria next to the Sports Book.

China Poblano – Chinese-Mexican Fusion. Small portions, big flavour. Small spot hidden at the back of the Cosmopolitan.

Mon Ami Gabi – Casual French. Try to grab a seat on the patio so you can look over the Bellagio fountains. The goat cheese marinara dip alone is worth the trip.

Hidden Pizza – Legitimately hidden. If you have been out late doing nefarious things, this is the holy grail of destinations. Also on my top five pizzas in my life. Slices only. Basic, New York style, but perfect for late evenings. Hidden on the third floor of the Cosmopolitan.


Plan in Advance

DSES is intense. Your three days will be jam-packed with keynotes, breakouts, working lunches and dinners and general mingling. It’s almost guaranteed, unless you come a few days early or leave Vegas a few days later, that you won’t have time to gamble, shop, or reenact The Hangover

Before you arrive, plan as much of the conference as you can as time flies quickly. Pick your breakouts, meetings and dinner reservations in advance so that you can focus on the conference once you arrive. 


More important than regular shopping, @BrentWees is running a shopping trip to Chapel Hats at the Venetian.  Tweet @BrentWees for details.










If you do book the extra time, shopping in Vegas is for walks of all life. If you want to drop $15k on a Rolex, you can at Caesar’s. If you are like myself and are not rollin’ in dough, you can spend an afternoon at the North Outlets. A $20 cab ride away, there is a plethora of shops where you can moderately blow your hard-earned bonus dollars. Pre-plan your shopping excursion at

More important than regular shopping, @BrentWees is running a shopping trip to Chapel Hats at the Venetian. Tweet him for details.



My favourite way to cap off DSES is with a little karaoke courtesy of Joe Webb @zonewebb and Shaun Raines @shaunraines.  What better way to relax after a mind-bending conference than to float your brain in suds and belt out your best rendition of “Don’t Stop Believing”.   Be on the lookout for info leading up to the after-party.  It’s where all the cool kids hang out.  


Heading Home

If you are exhausted, your brain is fried from information, and your soul feels only slightly dirty, then you know you had a fantastic DSES experience. The flight home can feel like New Year’s Day: you are kind of sad, but excited to get things started. Thankfully McCarren’s Terminal 3 is a great airport terminal. There are plenty of places to eat and ponder on everything that happened over your three days at DSES. 

If, however, you do get stuck overnight, don’t worry. Just do what this guy did:



DSES is only valuable if you execute. When you get home, take all your notes and create an action plan. Take 5–10 items, order them in order of importance, impact, resources and time and create an action plan to get them completed in 3–6 months.

You may want to rush and get everything started, but trust me, planning out what you have learned at DSES is the key to executing.


Extra Reading: The Vegas 30

Scott Stratten @unmarketing (DSES 2012) has a FANTASTIC podcast called The Vegas 30 (, dedicated to experiencing the best of Vegas for those who are “too old to stand in line for a club, but too young to retire for the bingo hall.”

To date, there are 14 podcasts, all worthy of downloading and perfect for the plane ride while you are heading to DSES. Some of the topics include:

  • Tips on attending Vegas conferences and trade shows
  • Is Freemont Street worth the time?
  • Off-strip entertainment

Check out all the videos and podcasts at:

Extra Reading: Anthony Bourdain – Parts Unknown

If you are a fan of Mr. Bourdain, you will know that Vegas and him go together like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. His travels in Las Vegas go from eating a hot dog in a gas station to eating the most expensive meal money can buy at one of Caesar’s villas. Definitely worth a watch:

Anthony Bourdain takes on Las Vegas









What Have I Missed?

Tell me what I have missed in this list, what I am wrong about or what I’m SUPER-right about! Share your stories in the comments below.


Droppin' Baums








Robert Karbaum arguably has the best name in the automotive industry. His combined experience over the past decade in E-Commerce and the automotive industry has allowed him to master the art of “AutoSpeak”; the ancient language that bridges the gap between internet geeks, the showroom floor and everything in-between. He manages the E-Commerce, Social and Digital Marketing operations at Weins Canada Inc. (formerly Don Valley North Automotive Group); a prestigious automotive group in Canada which includes the #1 volume Toyota and Lexus dealerships in the country. 

Catch him on Twitter (@karbaum) or

Joe Webb
All great info, Robert. While I usually stay in condos off the strip to get away from the hustle and bustle one is inundated with during the lengthy Vegas conference stays, this year I'll be in the Bellagio. I hadn't thought of tipping, but that will certainly be something I try this year. And thanks for the Joe and Shaun Karaokethon mention. Last year's venue was lousy - but the one we had scheduled it for had cancelled their karaoke for that night. We found out THAT day. This time we hope it will be a little better. Not sure if we'll have a sponsor for the event or if everyone will be on their own for drinks. But the truth is, we're all fairly well-compensated at our work and the minute you go to a JASKT, you can rest assured that nobody will talk about what transpires there.
Lauren Moses
Great read Robert. I would DIE to go, but doubt it is going to happen this year. I'll just have to live vicariously through ya'll posts and tweets!
Robert Karbaum
I had an unforgettable time at last year's Karaoke. The memories I have of Mr. White Suit Ponytail singing "This is why I am hot" or the dude in full army gear belting out Black Sabbath will never be forgotten.
Lauren Moses
Oh my...
Robert Karbaum
Bonus points for anyone who remembers this guys performance last year:

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