The Good and the Bad of Microsoft Ignite (IMHO)

I have been attending a Microsoft conference each year since 2003.  (I think I missed one year because of a child being born close to the same time as the conference.)  Until last year, the conference that I went to was the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS).  I am an infrastructure guy so that conference seemed to be pretty relevant.  TechEd would also have been relevant, but I didn’t attend TechEd until last year when the combined MMS and TechEd. 

This year TechEd and several other conferences were all combined into one giant conference, Microsoft Ignite.  This is the first year for this conference.  As a first run, with a conference that has 23,000+ attendees, it hasn’t been too bad.  I am somewhat disappointed in the logistics.  Chicago is a great city and the dedicated bus route between the hotels and the conference center is a great idea.  Not running any buses for half the day isn’t a great idea. 

With a conference that lasts a full week and covers such a broad range of topics, you can become mentally exhausted.  Being able to go back to your hotel room, take a nap, make phone calls, answer natures call, etc. is a key factor in surviving the conference.  With a conference of this size, in a convention center that is the largest in North America, going to sessions an different topics can be a challenge. 

There are a lot of talented people at Microsoft.  I enjoy going to the conferences and hearing what they are working on, what the plans are, what I should be focusing on to be ready for the next thing they release.  I enjoy hearing about the successes, and how the non-successes are handled.  I manage infrastructure.  My interests span a wide range of topics covered at this conference. 

The good:

  • It is Microsoft
  • The presenters are very talented and knowledgeable people
  • There is a lot of information
  • They are getting better at working with customers every year
  • I like the direction they are going with their products
  • Closing party – I think for the number of people, and how it was laid out, the closing party was actually pretty good. 
  • Second screen – I did spend one afternoon, and Friday morning watching and listening to sessions from my hotel rom via the second screen feature. 

The bad:

  • Selling – I am at a Microsoft conference, to hear about technologies that I already believe in.  Can we cover the technical parts a little more, and the sales part a little less?  If there is a track for a technology, can we not cover the same sales information in every session, for 30 minutes (at least) of the 75, and focus more on the technology?
  • Session length – Most of the sessions I went to could have been handled in about half the time if the sales part had been left out.
  • Announcements – Most Microsoft conferences have announcements.  That is part of the fun.  This time, the announcements seemed a little less spectacular, and a little less fun.  It seemed that the announcements weren’t given the spotlight as much as in previous conferences.
  • Food – I don’t eat much conference food.  This time I didn’t eat any, so this next statement is strictly hear say.  I spoke to a person who claimed to eat pretty much anything, and he said the conference food was very disappointing.  Even for conference food. 
  • Crowded sessions – almost all the sessions I went to were very crowded.  I went to a variety of topics, so it wasn’t just a particular topic.  With 23,000 people, maybe there needed to be more sessions.   Although, we brought 5 people, and there were at least 2, maybe as many as 6 other people that “should” have come.  For us that is a significant number of people.

All in all, I hope that some of the issues I have with this year are resolved for next year.  I will come back next year, but I won’t be as excited as I was in years past.

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