Whenever we announce a tour, we get emailed asking why we missed city X. Even before I joined Microsoft I would email the IT Pro Advisors and let them know they were disappointing my community (Winnipeg in this case) by not making a tour stop. Since joining I've heard the same from other communities across Canada venting the same frustration. Now that I am on the other side and understand what goes into the planning of a tour and what goes into the decision making process I thought I'd share this with you. Believe me when I say, and I am speaking for the entire team, we would LOVE to get to every city on every tour. There are a few key factors that go into the selection process and I am going to break each one down a little.
Time - Time is the biggest issue. We only have four IT Pro Advisors to cover all of Canada and among that we are split into some technology specialties. In order to get a tour done in a reasonable amount of time, we pair up on the technologies to be covered and then spilt up, one person heading East and the other heading West. With at least two national tours, a launch tour, user group events we also have local events, internal events, internal training and oh yeah, families. Taking that all into account it also takes 17 weeks from the start of planning to the start of the tour, and then another 3-5 weeks to actually go on the tour. Unlike the Rolling Stones, time is not on our side.
Budget - We live within the confines of a budget, the same way any department of a company would run. We only have a certain amount of spend in a year and this also restricts how many cities we can visit. That said, even with unlimited funds we would still be limited by time.
Hardware - We have lots of hardware, Dell has been very good to us. We all have our Precision M90 demo laptops and we also have a set of extra hardware we use on tours. Because we share a lot of the tour hardware and we need time between tours to refresh it, this is part of our planning cycle but this prevents any overlap of tours.
Scale - Within these confines we still want to see as many IT professionals as we can. This becomes even more difficult due to the geographic dispersity of Canada and in order to reach as many people as we can, nessecitates making stops in large urban centers.
On top of all this there are other things that come into play, venue availability for example, and they all add up. That said, live events are just one of the many ways you can connect with the team. We work really hard to ensure the content is available to you via:
- Streaming Events - We started streaming events live a while back and the last stop on the tour is streamed so you can take part in the event from work or home
- Recorded Events - After the event has been streamed we make the recordings available to watch at your leisure. We also record the TechNet Monthly events we host in Mississauga
- Webcasts - We will be starting webcasts soon via LiveMeeting and recorded sessions will be available for viewing afterwards as well
- User Groups - There are a number of User Groups across Canada that offer local sessions on a monthly basis. If there is no local user group, email us and we can help you get one started in your area.
- Blogs - This is a pretty active blog and a source for a lot of the information we bring on the road with us. It is also YOUR blog for you to share your thoughts, experiences and knowledge.
So what else can we do? Do you like webcasts? Do you like streamed events? Do you attend user group meetings? Any other ideas, forms of media, suggestions you'd like to share? Leave a comment below, send us an email, tell us what we are doing right, what we are doing wrong, and how we can improve our interaction with you.