TechEd 2014 Roundtable Follow-Up

Last month I was invited to Houston to take part in a roundtable discussion about TechEd North America 2014. When returned, I managed to put up a short blog post with a promise to talk more about my experience “soon” and showed a video of doughnuts being smoked. (I know, it’s always about the food with me.)  I guess soon meant next year because here we are in 2014, and I’m finally getting back to the roundtable.

In the meantime, there have been three other blog posts about the event. Gary Pretty and Michael Collier) have both have posted their experiences, and Denise Begley (@Begley_D) added to the TechEd Blog on Channel 9. Be sure you check out all three of these links (if you haven’t already).

After re-reading these articles, I’m not really sure what more i can add, but I’ll try.

Microsoft invited ten of us to join them in Houston. Five people were nominated to represent the TechEd experience and five others for the MMS experience. As you know, Microsoft decided to discontinue the MMS Conference and merge its content into TechEd for 2014. I think this demonstrates that Microsoft is serious when they’ve said they intend to make the MMS audience feel at home at TechEd. We didn’t really touch on any details about just how they intend to bring the two together, but I trust they will be successful.

There were several people from Microsoft at the Roundtable, all representing various aspects of TechEd, ranging from logistics, marketing, content, and so on. I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t remember many of the names of the Microsoft folks I didn’t already now.  The day and a half went by so quick that it was only as I was flying home to St. Louis that I realized I hadn’t taken any notes during introductions. Shame on me. What I can say, however, is that there was (and is) a genuine interest on their part to really understand what we thought about all different aspects of TechEd.

There was a particularly interesting discussion early on about Foundational Sessions. If you recall from last year, the Foundational Sessions were the bridge between the high level messages presented in the keynotes and the detailed, technical information in the individual breakouts. Or maybe you don’t recall that.  As it turned out from the discussion, there was a fair amount of confusion about these sessions, and the general conclusion is that Microsoft needs to do a better job of positioning and marketing these sessions to attendees. If you want to take a look back and refresh yourself about what they were, read the Server & Cloud post blog from last May about these special sessions.

The roundtable was this sort of exploration and discovery repeated across all of the topics. What all did we talk about? According to the TechEd blog, we covered Pre-Conference Seminars, Keynotes, Foundational Sessions, Breakouts, TechExpo Welcome Reception, Jam Sessions, Closing Party, Forums, Alumni Lounge, and Community Outreach. As you can imagine, when you get ten people from different backgrounds and experiences, you’ll get a wide range of opinions. It becomes pretty obvious that the people who make TechEd a reality have a tough challenge in front of them. There’s no way to create an event that meets the expectations of every attendee, not when you have 12,000+ of them. But after the roundtable, I think they have a better understanding of where they should aim as they move forward.

Every year for the last several years, I’ve made the suggestion that since TechEd is our event, we (IT Pros and Devs) should have a voice in the planning process. I’m sure there were others saying the same thing, and for whatever reason, we saw Microsoft just such an opportunity.  I was honored to have been included in the group, and came away even more excited about TechEd 2014 than I already was. If you know me, that’s saying a lot.  We don’t have any further in-person meetings scheduled before TechEd, but we have been promised the opportunity to continue to network and provide feedback and suggestions over the next 131 days until we kick things off in Houston. I’ll be sure to share with you any new developments between now and then, so keep an eye on Twitter and this blog.

In the meantime, check out my photo albums on Facebook and Flickr of the TechEd 2014 Roundtable.