TechEd US 2008 IT Professionals, Final Thoughts
Well, it’s finally over. My two week marathon stint at TechEd has come to a close and I’m so happy to be out of here that I would do a dance if I had any energy left. I spent so much time on my feet and walking back and forth across the mammoth OCCC building that I fear my feet are going to simply fall off when I remove my boots. Here are a few thoughts on how things went:
Sorry to point out the blatantly obvious but the new split format for TechEd just sucks. Everyone I talked to – attendees, staff, exhibitors, speakers – hated it. It’s impossible to reach all of your target audience as a vendor when half of the people you want to talk to are missing. It forces MVP’s to choose which week to attend, which ruins the whole networking concept, and the turnout for Developer week was anemic compared to IT Pro week. I also couldn’t help noticing that Microsoft added a lot more TLC stands for the second week – what’s that all about? Developers don’t care about all the product areas? There also seemed to be a purposeful effort to put the most popular speakers at the end of each week to keep attendees from bailing (I have nothing to back that up, just a general impression that myself and few others share). I also heard a number of complaints from attendees about the Microsoft speakers; they wanted more community experts and fewer corporate kool-aid drinkers who seemed to be there just to fill up empty space in the schedule. I’m not sure I agree with that – I know a lot of really good speakers who happen to be Microsoft employees and give fair and balanced presentations – but that’s what I was hearing out on the floor.
Unfortunately, next year’s event in Los Angeles is already scheduled to use the same format. I understand they probably had to book it way in advance but the responsible parties in Redmond need to wake up and listen to what people are saying. The message is clear – find a way to go back to one week and keep it that way. Or, as an alternative, eliminate all the other developer events (like PDC and ODC) and pack them into the first week of TechEd. That would at least have some value and people wouldn’t have to choose which one to attend. At least I don’t have to see Orlando again for at least another two years – and that is a very good thing!
Despite a somewhat strange schedule for the exhibition hall I felt we made some very good headway introducing Sonar into the market. Surprisingly, quite a few people had already heard of it and a few had even tried the Lite version already. The looks on their faces when we showed them all the page performance data was priceless; you could literally see the light bulb go on in their head. We collected some very good leads and hopefully this will lead to increased adoption of the product and build anticipation for the Professional version due out this fall.
We managed to give away most of our swag but Dell and Intel ruined our can koozie idea by stocking all the beer tubs on vendor night with their own goodies. So I’m shipping a few hundred Sonar koozies back to Dallas (please email me if you’d like a few dozen). The hats were a big hit; I definitely need to order more of those. Some T-Shirts would have been a good idea as well but with all the Quest, Avepoint, Colligo and various other freebie tees out there people may have taken a pass on yet another shirt. If I could only find someone to make me up some black straw cowboy hats with the Sonar logo we would have had the entire conference lined up at our booth; I can’t even begin to tell you how many people asked if we had any hats like mine (especially all the foreigners).
There’s never any doubt that the SharePoint Nation knows how to get their party on. Every night went way into the wee hours. The standouts in my mind were Bob Fox’s adventures in the fountain, John Holliday dancing on the tables at Taverna Opa, Stacy Draper giving Ben Curry a lesson in interpersonal relations for the funniest twelve minutes of my life, singing with the Blues Brothers at House of Blues, and drinking for free at Howl at the Moon while the piano player wore my hat. If I don’t see another Corona for the next month it will be too soon. I need to dry out and get back on the straight and narrow for a while – I’m getting too old for this stuff!
The whole Speaker Idol thing (even though it happened last week) as definitely a cool experience. It sounded really cheesy at first but once I got into it turned out to be kind of cool. Due to booth duty I didn’t get to see the IT Pros go at it but I’ll be looking for the videos to come out next week. It’s really challenging to come up with a technical presentation that can be done in five minutes without rushing through it like you’re on fast-forward. I can’t wait to see how it goes over in Barcelona in November.
Another great experience was meeting up with Mo Omar from Jordan (where’s that blog, bro?) and Mike Houston from Nashville. Great guys and great additions to the SharePoint community.
As always, talking to SharePoint users is the best part of these events. There are a lot of creative ideas out there on how to use the product and good feedback on how it’s being accepted within the enterprise. Of course, we also get to hear complaints about this or that feature missing, or something not working right, or a bug that someone has discovered, but that’s an important part of the process as well. I can tell you this for certain – SharePoint is making massive inroads in the education community, both at the university and K – 12 levels. The number of people I talked to that were affiliated with educational institutions was mind boggling. Our kids won’t have any trouble adopting the platform, that’s for sure. And that’s a good thing.
All in all, another successful TechEd, despite the drag of it being split up. It could have been better and hopefully Microsoft will listen to attendees and refine the format to make everyone happy. As for me, I’m just happy to be leaving Orlando!
UPDATE: Naturally, the morons at Orlando Airport goofed up the luggage on our flight and left half the passengers with missing bags. Since I’m heading home it’s not such a big deal (I learned a long time ago not to pack anything vital in a checked bag) but lots of folks weren’t pleased. Sigh. A fitting end to the trip, I suppose…
UPDATE 2: Mo Omar’s blog can be found at www.muhanado.com.