Microsoft kicked off their free, global Tech Summit event in Sydney on 16 & 17 November. This is their first attempt at this event format which is travelling to 13 countries around the world, with a US series also planned. So, what was different and did it work?
Sessions, but not as you know them
As well as the traditional 1 hour sessions, Tech Summit introduced 15 minute “rapid fire” talks too. These talks were held in open areas inside the expo hall. A mini wall held a presentation screen with no stage for the speaker (they did have a lapel mic) and there was graduated seating (couches at the front, tall tables & high stools at the back). I was expecting sound issues but this worked surprisingly well. It allowed people to stand and listen, so runnng out of seats at a popular session didn’t cause any issues. It also meant you could easily join mid-session if you were walking across the expo floor and a session caught your attention.
Content ranged adoption to architecture, from Azure to Yammer, with a strong focus on Microsoft 365 (not Office 365 – an important differentiator). The number of US-based speakers was very high considering how far away Sydney is. Many of these faces will also be appearing at the other venues.
Overall, the content was well placed and well received. Now that people have had a chance to play with new products or product updates post-Ignite, the timing of this event meant we were ready for a deeper level of information, but we also appreciated the best practices guidance on product adoption and usage.
Expo halls mean swag and we weren’t disappointed – thanks vendors! Unfortunately with Tech Summit being a free event, it was easy for locals to register and go crazy at the vendor stands, then disappear back to work. Don’t expect an Ignite-style backpack or a hot lunch though (did we mention this two day event was free?). You will be fed, with sandwiches, salads and vendor-sponsored barista coffee carts.
Microsoft on show
Microsoft had a strong presence in the expo hall too. The modern workplace stand showcased Microsoft 365 and the staff were happy to run spontaneous demos and answer questions. Dynamics 365 was well placed too. There was an abundance of Surface devices including the Surface Studio and chances to test the new Windows 10 compatible VR gear. Hololens also made an appearance with 3 test booths, but you had to pre-book them and they did run out of time slots. To cope with the demand, the Sydney Microsoft store was also hosting Hololens sessions over the following weeks.
Microsoft Tech Community was pitched as the place to be to ask questions, be on top of the latest announcements and view event recordings. If you don’t have an account yet, register for free here: https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/
The atmospheric acid test
Event organisers can line up the best content, venue and catering but there’s still one important thing they can’t guarantee – the event atmosphere. The feeling at the event grows organically, fuelled by the attendees. You can sense from the general chatter if the sentiment is favorable or not. I’m pleased to say Sydney was a success in this regard. Everyone I spoke to was enjoying the communual spaces, the sessions and the “bump factor”. Because most sessions were around or inside the expo hall, you literally bumped into many familiar faces more than I’ve experience at any other event. These spontaneous meetings gave the event a great sense of community, regardless of your area of technical speciality.
Don’t turn up at this event expecting a mini-Ignite. For two days of free content though, it’s definitely worth it. The Sydney event was well supported by US-based Microsoft staff and local Microsoft MVPs. This event felt big enough to be done well, but small enough to make the content experts feel approachable.
For venues, dates and registrations, visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/techsummit/default.aspx