Rocking The Toronto Launch - My Day At The VS / SQL Event In Toronto

Rocking The Launch:

 

Bristowe Rocks Out At The Launch

 

Here at Microsoft Canada we have been working our butts off getting ready for the tour.  I am talking about really long days and a lot of effort from a lot of people.  So, it was a real thrill to finally get to Launch Day.

 

For me, Launch started on the 7th with the press event (see my previous post).  It was held downtown and featured 6 of the customer case studies that my team worked on.  I am really proud of the team for working with our customers and partners on such amazing stories such as Toronto.com, Workers Compensation BC, TD Bank and Squirrel Systems.

 

From the press event I headed home to do some email and to change (I was wearing a suit and tie for the press event, which wasn't going to go over well at the largest Developer event in Microsoft Canada history!)

 

First stop was the venue to check out the setup.  It was about 5pm when I arrived at the Congress Centre and after figuring out how to actually get into the building I was able to see first-hand how much work it takes to transform this giant building into an event.

 

Piles of chairs, tables were spread across the floor while the AV crew assembled the massive screens in the main room.

 

We waited while the speakers went through the keynote and prepped the machines for the next day's sessions.  Jerome and John have 2 state of the art AMD 64-bit demo machines to use.  We run all of the demos as VPCs -> it's the easiest way to maintain a constant state and is super easy to restore to the beginning of the demos (thanks to the "don't commit changes" feature in Virtual PC.  Actually, the guys load Virtual Server)

 

Once we were sure things were under control at the Congress centre, we headed over to a local bar for the User Group reception.  This was a ton of fun.  The very cool thing about my job is the interaction with the community.  We had a really great turnout for the event - thanks to everyone who stopped by.  After the UG event I headed home to get some sleep.

 

At the UG Event with the Community folks!

 

I was out the door and on my way to the event at 6am.  I occurred to me that this wasn't even all that early compared to the dozens of folks from our events company that had been at the show for at least an hour before I even got into the shower at home!

 

The event looked GREAT when I arrived in the morning.

 

The room just before the crowd came in.

 

People started flooding into the event.  If you have never been to the congress centre, let me paint a picture for you.  It is a large warehouse-looking building near the airport in Toronto.  It is surrounded by huge parking lots.  These lots were completely full by the time the keynote started!  People have asked me, why the Congress Centre and not somewhere downtown.  Well, two reasons - 1) there are really only 2 venues that can hold an event like this - the Congress Centre and the Convention Centre.  2) the feedback we have had from the attendees overwhelming tells us that people find events downtown hard to get to, expensive to park at and hard to get home from.

 

9am.  Keynote Time!  David Hemler (MS Canada President), Craig Symonds (VP Tools Division), John Bristowe (Developer Evangelist) and a few guests were the featured speakers.  The keynote went well, but I have to say the John's demo was the high point.  He really brought great energy to the morning (which was on the verge of seriously lacking intensity).

 

John Rocking The Keynote

 

Several people said they felt that John did better with the demo than the guy in San Francisco!

 

The day then moved into 2 tracks.  The "IT Pro" Technet (SQL) track and the Developer (MSDN) track.  Barnaby and Damir were the presenters on the IT Pro side and John, Jerome and Barry Gervin were on the Developer side.  Given that this was the first time any of these guys had presented this material to a live audience (outside of the dry-runs) everything went quite well.  It wasn't perfect, sure - but try to run 8 hours of content flawlessly - it's hard.  We had 1 demo self-sacrifice to the demo Gods, but it wasn't a major part of the content.  (And with a quick restart of the VPC was easily fixed).  We haven't had the evaluations come back yet, but I think we did well.  (If you have comments, let us know)

 

John and Jerome

 

During the breaks a lot of people went to the experts area.  I am so glad we did this, it really helps to raise the technical level of what is essentially a marketing event.  30+ experts from Microsoft Canada, Microsoft Corp and the community were on hand to answer questions.  For anyone going to the other cities ->  save your questions up and visit the experts area!! You won't regret it.

 

 

Anthony holding court in the experts area

 

Check out the "Launch2005" tag for more photos:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/launch2005/

 

(I had my SLR with me - I am a bit of a photo nut.  I took 200 photos and have uploaded about 60 of them to the Flickr pool)

 

I previously announced 2 contests in the blogs.  The first was "wear your old Microsoft clothes to the event" - the winner was a gentleman wearing a VB4 t-shirt.  Not bad!  This contest will still be in effect for the other cities.  Just show your stuff off to one of the staff or the VJ. 

 

The second was the blogging contest.  This was a little disappointing to tell you the truth.  We had to basically beg to find 3 people with blogs and even then they weren't seriously posting material about the launch.  So, if you have a Launch post (good or bad) let me know and you might still win a prize.

 

Some people felt that the banter between the presenters was "forced" - I am not sure on this one.  Yes, this was the first event so it was a little scripted, but the other option is a free-form approach that means things are more likely to go off the rails.

 

Here is what I think could have been better in Toronto:

  • We need to promote the experts area a little more.  Too many people missed a chance to talk to some very smart people.
  • The main area was a little noisy because of the music from the launch area during the Developer Track.
  • Not enough chairs in the SQL track
  • The Q&A session wasn't practical in the big rooms -> just too many people and not enough time.  (if you had a question you wanted answered, please do visit the blogs of the presenters and post your questions.
  • Traffic was a bit of a problem.

 

The good news for the remaining cities -> we take everything we learn and make as many positive changes as possible.

 

I think that the day was easily an 8/10 in my books.  Not perfect, but a great day.

 

Check out the launch blog for links to the various other blog posts.  http://blogs.msdn.com/canadian%5Flaunch%5Ftour%5F2005/

 

Thanks so much to everyone who attended.  I really do hope that you found the event valuable.