I wasn’t surprised to read in “Here’s the Scoop on TechDays 2011” on IT Pro Connection that would only be coming to Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto. Attendance at TechDays 2010 in Halifax was half of what it was the year before. A common theme amongst the people I talked to at the conference was that their organization could only send a single representative to the event and that their job was to collect as much information as possible and bring it back to their colleagues back at the office. Further, some attendees were not even sure that they’d be returning this year due to the low turnout and the pervasive feeling that the content covered at TechDays wasn’t helping solve their immediate issues or concerns.

This year’s sessions will be made available through the TechDays Canada Online website for everyone to enjoy, but it just won’t be the same. Watching sessions, learning new technologies and best practices, and expanding my technical knowledge is just one aspect of what makes TechDays valuable to me. Personally, I find that it’s the interaction with people who attend that defines the true value – and at its heart, I think of TechDays as a social experience and an opportunity to network in a way that IT Pros and developers otherwise can’t.

Each year at TechDays, I get to mingle with likeminded people who use Microsoft technologies throughout the Atlantic region and get to “geek out” by telling technical war stories, lamenting over technical huddles, bragging about successful solutions, and sharing our enthusiasm for the technology. I enjoy listening to other people explain what they are currently tackling within their organization and what successful solutions they’ve implemented. Sometimes, as a IT Pros and developers, we forget that there are many companies throughout our region that are tackling the same issues. Call me an idealist, but part of the reason I attend these conferences is to ask questions and to provide answers where possible so that we can help and get to know one another.

To me, attending TechDays is like going to a rock concert for techies. I want to go to see the big names, listening to their music, see them dance a little, see what cool things they are selling at the concession stands, and if I have a VIP pass then I get to chat a little with the big stars. As great as technology is it doesn’t replace the satisfaction of personal interaction and feedback from presenters, Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs), and subject matter experts. People typically go to these conferences hoping that someone will be able to solve their problems or point them in a new direction, but sometimes it is just nice to chat with someone who is technically savvy in the area you have interest in. The best part about talking with local vendors and Microsoft partners is that you can continue the conversation after the conference is over and see about buying or developing solutions for your company’s immediate needs.

As much as I enjoy TechDays each year I realize that pulling together and putting on these events is not a small or inexpensive endeavour. I have had small glimpses of how the TechDays conferences are put together. There are months of planning involved, reviewing of attendee feedback, creating content for the sessions, finding local presenters, getting sponsors, and setting up venues across the country. There are many dedicated people who that help bring it all together smoothly and seemingly effortlessly. My limited understanding is that ticket fees and advertising rarely cover all the cost involved.

I will be attending TechDays Canada 2011 online this year, but my hope is that TechDays will be back in Halifax for 2012. The Atlantic region may not be able to afford attending TechDays annually, but if that cost were spread over two years then I think it becomes more entertainable. In the mid-2000s, TechDays stopped coming out to the Atlantic region due to poor attendance, but later returned with overwhelming online support and feedback. If you are like me and wish to see TechDays return to your region next year then you have to let the TechDays Canada organizers know! It’s your feedback and support that allows them to come back each year. You can tweet your support on Twitter with #techdays_ca tag, retweet this post with the twitter button above or below this post, reply to the @techdays_ca twitter account, write your comments on the TechDays Canada Facebook page, write a blog posting about why you want TechDays to come to your region, or visit the TechDays Canada Online website and send an email explaining why TechDays events are important in your region.

Additionally, below are just a few ideas I had to improve TechDays events and reduce spending in the future for consideration. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

  • Please offer some of the sessions live on the Internet for people to enjoy.
  • Please have an online chat room if the TechDays sessions will be live on the online website. These will allow attendees across the country to ask questions and discuss session topics.
  • Please ask the presenters be available online for questions after the presentation is complete.
  • Let prospective attendees help choose session areas or topics. Having an online survey may help target particular topics of interest and let the Canadian Microsoft community feel like they are helping contribute to the event. A contest prize such as an Xbox 360 or Windows Phone 7 for helping to fill out the survey would be great.
  • I like the TechDays shirt, however I would rather go to an online store and redeem my shirt. Unfortunately, men’s large size shirts are useless to me and would rather not receive them.
  • Conference swag is cool if it is useful. Free software is always awesome. Pens and bags seldom serve a purpose. Books are great (if relevant).
  • I would pay more to see big name MVPs or other Microsoft rock stars come out and speak in my region.
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About Author

Christine Weaver has been the technical lead on projects designing, developing, deploying, supporting, and delivering solutions for SharePoint since 2003. Christine’s knowledge and experience leans heavily on her 10+ years as a software consultant and from being a Microsoft certified professional. Christine has been a regular presenter at TechDays Canada and runs the Halifax SharePoint User Group.

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