A couple months ago Microsoft announced their reorganization of their technical conferences. A consolidation of what used to be multiple product specific, and generalist conferences into one unified conference. At the time of the announcement the only info provided was the image below:
The Round Table:
Earlier this week I had the honor being invited to Chicago by Microsoft to participate in a round table focused on this new event.
(note- that isn’t a beer at the bottom of the picture, it is cold pressed coffee from a Chicago company)
Around a dozen influencers from around the country from all different backgrounds were invited this week to help Microsoft make this new <still unnamed> event the best it can be. Members included past attendees of various conferences including MEC, MMS, SPC, Lync, Project, TechEd, WPC, etc… And backgrounds spanned from a CTO, front line MVP consultants, marketing experts, Educators, Systems Admins, and Solution Architects. Microsoft representatives included the leaders who own and produce these conferences directly.
We also had Microsoft superstars (and the faces of TechEd) Joey Snow and Rick Claus in attendance helping guide and encourage deeper conversations around the important topics.
We toured the massive McCormick Place, and saw many of the areas MS has already reserved. Millions of SqFt are at their disposal, and hundreds of breakout rooms. Including unique areas where the convention floor actually has glass windows overlooking Lake Michigan.
Higher Res of one of the many the convention halls MS has access to: https://38.media.tumblr.com/e5d656b73b2552a7cea1914c21ce038d/tumblr_ncezxwRzpS1qmm86to2_1280.jpg
(plumbing Expo going on, but you can see the walls of windows surrounding this area of the floor)
This is the view from outside of one of the halls.
The next big event:
The conversations at this round table were incredible. We were instructed from the beginning to “pull no punches” in terms of our feedback to Microsoft leadership. Microsoft was there to listen, and ask questions, we did all the talking. Topics and areas that were covered included (but not limited to):
- How to incorporate the various Microsoft product/technology specific conferences into one.
- Fostering better community building in general
- Enhancing networking possibilities and opportunities
- Enhancing the existing communities already built from the various other conferences
- What is important to us as attendees (this was asked many times, in different ways)
- Keynote suggestions
- Event layout and flow
- Closing party ideas
- Schedule building
- Social integration and apps
- Overall event image and social “vibe”
While we all know every idea that was mentioned or discussed wont necessarily end up implemented in May, it was very clear Microsoft is taking a huge interest in doing this right, and is rewriting the entire playbook on this event. The round table group isn’t done working with our visit to Chicago. As specifics become solidified, and the event gets closer, more discussions will be happening with the team and Microsoft to further refine plans.
What I saw in these last few days in Chicago gives me hope that this is going to be a new kind of event for Microsoft, placing community, and long term value ahead of marketing. Taking the best parts of the various other conferences, and ideas from the round table to build something that is a “must attend” conference for every IT pro.
Look for more info in the coming weeks/months with more specifics.
Thanks to Microsoft for inviting me, I am truly honored to have been included with this incredible group of people.