Over the last few months the team and I have been discussing how we can make TechDays 2011 even better than in previous years. We took your feedback over the last three years as the basis of our discussion on making an improved TechDays 2011 – an even better experience and even more value!
Here is what you told us you want to see and get from TechDays:
- Give me more content!
- Let me understand how all the pieces fit together
- Help me to acquire these skills all year long
- Let me play with the technology
- Let me spend more time with partners to understand how they can help me
- Make it easier for me to find speakers and experts to answer my questions
- Let me connect to the office while I am at the event
My goal for TechDays 2011, is to provide you with a richer in-person experience as well as a robust year-round online technical learning capability. At the same time I also want to be able to deliver all of the things you have asked for at the reasonable cost that TechDays has always been known for. In order to make all this happen, the team and I had to have some tough conversations and make some difficult decisions/trade-offs. In the end, after much deliberation and debate, I realized we needed to reduce the number of in-person events, and increase the online investment in order to deliver on the things you are asking us for.
So what does this mean?
Starting in October 2011, TechDays will transform into an enhanced continuous online learning portal and, for 2011, include three in-person events starting on October 25th in Toronto with Vancouver to follow two weeks later and Montreal two weeks after that (exact dates and locations will be announced on the TechDays website in a few weeks). In order to make it easier for individuals outside of those locations to attend the in-person events, we are working with airline and hotel partners to provide discounted travel and hotel options, which will be announced on the TechDays website in the next few weeks.
By making this tough decision to reduce the number of cities TechDays will visit, and focus on an ongoing online experience, I believe that we can deliver on those elements that are, according to your feedback, most important to you, and really enhance your overall experience. I am really excited to share what this actually will look like with you.
- Content is king! – Across the board you have told us that you want more sessions and not just on shipping products but also on key new technologies. TechDays 2011 will include sessions on current products like Windows 7, Office 2010, Windows Server 2008 R2, Visual Studio 2010, but also on upcoming releases such as on System Center 2012, Windows 8, Windows Phone 7 “Mango”, HTML5 and IE9/IE10, SQL Server “Denali”, Office365, and more! In fact, my goal is to have more sessions at TechDays 2011 than ever before!
- Show me the big picture! – Individual sessions are a great way to dig deep into a specific technology area. Many of you wanted to get a broader understanding on how all the pieces of the Microsoft stack fit together. This year we will have a keynote presentation at every TechDays 2011 in-person event to give you that big picture perspective, and I’m looking to get some real heavy hitters to deliver those keynotes!
- Learning is a year-round activity – Your feedback is clear – you really like the TechDays in-person experience. However, you need to keep up-to-date on Microsoft-based technologies year-round. Later this year we will be launching an expanded and richer TechDays Online experience providing Canadian developers and IT professionals with updated and relevant technical learning content gleaned, not just from the TechDays in-person events, but also from other sources like Microsoft TechEd, the BUILD conference, MIX, Microsoft Management Summit, SharePoint Conference, and many more. I also want to highlight content created by Canadian MVPs, local gurus, and Microsoft Canada’s own technical experts. My goal is to make TechDays Online your one-stop shop for great technical learning content all year round and in the future!
- More hands-on with the technology – Going to conferences I liked the option of attending a session to hear a local expert tell me about a technical topic and show me, through demos, how to use the products. Every time I find myself wanting to play with it on my own. I know that many of you feel the same way so this year all TechDays 2011 in-person events will include both instructor-led and self-paced hands-on labs for you to get familiar with the technology. These same labs will also be available on TechDays Online allowing you to try the technology when you need to learn it, on your timetable.
- More time with Partners and Sponsors – At TechDays 2010 in Toronto we piloted the idea of a Partner Fair to allow attendees to interact with organizations whose products and services complement the technologies being discussed in the technical sessions. The idea proved very popular and many requests to extend this concept, as well as requests to increase the sponsorship opportunities available to those who would like to connect with the attendees. For TechDays 2011, we will have an improved Partner Fair in each city hosting at TechDays 2011 in-person event.
- More time with speakers and experts – The Ask-The-Experts area concept at previous TechDays was a good idea but not very well implemented, or so you told us. Speakers and experts were sometimes hard to find for the topic you wanted an answer to, and it was not clear where to engage these individuals, which you told me was frustrating. At TechDays 2011 you will find a Microsoft Showcase within the Partner Fair that will include technology and product pods staffed by speakers and experts allowing you to easily identify where to go to get your question answered.
- Free WiFi – I can’t begin to count the number of comments I have read on TechDays evaluation forms asking for wireless at the event. It is the one request we get from almost everyone. At TechDays 2011 in-person events you will be able to connect to a wireless network in the common areas and respond to that critical email, or connect back to the server using RDP. I’m really excited to be finally able to offer this to you!!
Now, I understand that those of you living in cities that TechDays has visited in the past may have some concerns with the reduction in the number TechDays in–person events, but I want to assure you that while TechDays 2011 may not be coming to your city, we are committed to supporting you in your locale in 2011 and the future. Some of the ways we will be doing this include:
- Participation in locally organized events such as Prairie DevCon, DevTeach, SQL Saturday #93, and others.
- Working with local Partners and being actively involved in events they organize, such as the Epic Technology Day in October in Winnipeg, among others.
- Working with community and user groups across the country and participating in their regular meetings throughout the year, as well as getting MVPs and others involved to deliver sessions that you want to hear.
- And many others. In fact, if you hear of a local event that Microsoft should be a part of, or want to look at organizing a local “TechDay” in your city, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk. We can assist you with content, speakers, and other support to help you succeed!
In the next couple of weeks we will be launching the TechDays 2011 web site and announce pricing and many more details. In the meantime, please feel free to send me an email at email@example.com or leave a comment on the blog if you have any questions or concerns. I look forward to the conversation.
Damir Bersinic, TechDays Canada Program and Skills Manager