TechEd North America 2013 Review


I decided to use the last few days of 2013 to write posts to review conferences and events that I attended outside Trinidad this year. Why? Because I find people's views on events to be helpful when deciding what to attend and hopefully my feedback will be useful to someone when they are choosing events in 2014! I will start off with TechEd North America 2013 which was held at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. TechEd is an annual technical conference which is held by Microsoft for IT professionals and developers.  The conference has various sessions that allow you to learn about the future of Microsoft’s products, solutions and services. Please note that this was my first time attending a TechEd event so I can’t compare it to previous instalments.

Front view of the Convention Center

Content
There were many sessions to choose from but not many if your focus is just one product/technology like SQL Server. To me this wasn’t an issue because if there were no SQL Server sessions that I wanted to attend then going to an Infrastructure or Developer session was still very useful to me. Even if you couldn’t find a track session that you considered interesting, there were certification sessions that were valuable even if you already passed the exams. Let's be real, passing an exam doesn’t mean you know absolutely everything in the course and who knows this may come in handy if you start offering training in the future (hint: opportunity). As for the speakers, the list is made up of individuals who are well-established and very knowledgeable in their field. 

Transaction Log session

Certification and Labs
If you went to sessions and saw something that interested you in a session then you could head down to the hands-on lab area and actually try out what you saw or play around with the product/feature. Not sure what you're doing or how to get started? No problem because there were a number of MCTs available to assist at the labs area. Also, you could have done certification exams on the spot for 50% of the cost. There was even the option to take practice tests

Expo Area 
Me at MSE Booth
Expo areas are my favourite at conferences because it is the best place to meet new people and build your network. The interesting thing about this expo was the fact that there were vendors with products  that are considered competition to Microsoft products. They were there because they were a sponsor and added some value to another product (Yes Oracle had a booth!).  This expo was also different because I was working at Microsoft Solutions Experience (MSE) Data Insights area. In most MSE areas there were a number of product experts made up of MVPs and Microsoft Product Group members who answered questions about various products and features. One cool thing about the MSE was the fact that the experts included speakers so if you needed clarity on anything from their session then you could have asked them at the booth.
Other Cool Stuff
There were many book signings which meant free autographed books. There were lots of swag from various vendors and you also had the option to buy at a conference store at the venue. An abundant supply of caffeine was available but I guess that is expected at Microsoft events. The event had random events at various MSE booths and various “After Hours” events during the week which included vendor parties and the closing attendee party at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with a Tina Turner performance. Last thing that I must mention is the super Surface sale that allowed me to get my Surface Pro for $399.

Closing Attendee Party with Tina Tuner on stage

Expo Hall

Con
The venue was too big which made it very difficult to get to some sessions on time and in some cases I didn’t even bother to attend one or two because of the hassle involved in reaching back to the booth on time.

As I mentioned this was my first time at TechEd and also my first time in New Orleans so everything was fantastic for me (hence why only one con). I know people say TechEd has become more marketing oriented but the sessions that I went to had lots of demos and the MSE areas is a great platform for technical discussions. I understand why you might not want to attend if your focus is one product but I recommend it if you want to widen your scope or if your focus is more than one Microsoft product. New Orleans was also a factor for the event because I really enjoyed the food and the weather. I also had a great tour guide named Adam Machanic so finding the right places to eat and hangout wasn’t an issue.

Registration is open for TechEd North America 2014, which is being held from May 12-15 in Houston, Texas.

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