Starting the conversation at Tech.Ed


The three themes of Tech.Ed this year are Learn, Explore and Connect. For me, at least, much of the value of attending a technical conference is to get to meet and interact with like-minded geeks and subject matter experts. I was having a chat with Dr Neil this afternoon and we were chucking around ideas to make this connect thing a reality. Neil had a suggestion that I've really taken to and I'd like some feedback from you folks too. What if we were to make the first session after the keynote on Wednesday a panel discussion and "track kick-off" (one for each track). We'd have most of the speakers from that track on the podium and a moderator. The agenda would look something like this:

10 min: Introduction from the track owner - what's this track about, what will we cover, where are there cross-over sessions with other tracks etc.
20 min: 2 minutes (max) from each speaker on what they're presenting on, what else they're passionate about, why you should come to their session(s) and where they'll be hanging out during Tech.Ed
30 min: Moderated discussion with the panel and audience on a topic/topics relevant to the track

Of course, this wouldn't be the only opportunity to initiate and continue the conversation. There'll be a discussion board on CommNet, a connect tool to help you to find those like-minded geeks, lounges in the expo hall, round tables for meals, an Ask the Experts evening, speaker 1:1s and lots more.

What do you think?

Comments (9)
  1. fmclean says:

    Great idea give good intro to tracks before attending. Initial info about sessions may not appeal but a presenters personallity sometiimes can make a lot of difference.

    Go for it, just wish I caould attend

  2. Garry Trinder says:

    Seeing we get a very small subset of the huge number of sessions in US would hate to lose (n) tracks worth of sessions.

    Why not make this available before the event so ppl can know what to expect and have something to use to convince their boss to fork out the registration fee?

    Do a Silverlight Streaming vid for each track. Then have small vids of each speaker.

    Then people who are interested in more than 1 track i.e Dev and SQL or Web and Dev etc. will have to opportunity to see the info on all tracks.

  3. Rob Farley says:

    I agree with Bronwen in trying to address the "I’m interested in multiple tracks" issue. Recording it could also benefit those people who are trying to persuade people, sure… but I think you should also record it. Still do it at the event, and in fact, run them twice or three times, so that people can get to multiple track headers.

  4. Ditto to Bronwen & Rob.

    As an option, why not do something alongside the registration process, a bit before the opening night party?   Delegates can come, pick up their bag of tricks and head to an open panel discussion where they can rummage through the bag while asking questions about some of the content.

    Admittedly though, most people will have already worked out most of what they plan on attending from the session briefs on the registration site.

  5. As a speaker (first time) and attendee, I think that would be a great idea.  I’d be first in line to participate.

  6. SoulSolutions says:

    I think you need to separate the ‘choosing sessions to attend’ from the idea of connecting with the speakers. Since there is a lot of focus on making a personalised session planner prior to the event I think the introductions of speakers and tracks would be well suited to something prior to the event as well.

    Video maybe a little too optimistic of the resources you have, maybe just audio is the way to go? How hard would it be to record a conversation with each speaker, a few minutes for them to introduce themselves and their session(s), why you would want to attend etc. Kick this off really soon, make it a feed people can subscribe to, comment on, get engaged prior to the event. This may very well make people feel I little more connected already and more likely to line up a 1:1 meeting. Link to this from the session info and planner.

    At the event itself you need a way for people to feel comfortable in talking to a speaker and knowing where to find them. Some sort of introduction of the speakers at the Keynote maybe a great idea to put a face to the name, but how do you keep it entertaining? 40 my name is… I’m presenting…. would be boring.

    Totally agree that unless you’re struggling for content dropping a whole timeslot of sessions may not be a great idea.

  7. Garry Trinder says:

    Richard makes some great points.

    1. Come to think of it…I don’t know anyone who hasn’t already worked out which sessions they want to go to by the time they get to tech ed.
    2. Putting this panel on before everything starts is a really good idea. Those that are there early can watch.  It could be recorded and then played in the exhibition hall throughout teched.

    To follow on from your twitter response and to follow on with from John (SoulSolutions)

    What’s the aim of the session? If it’s to allow people to connect with the speakers, maybe there should be more chalk talks – where speakers team up and dive a little deeper into an aspect of their talk.  Smaller group..more chance of interaction.  Maybe you can run some chalk talks at each of the track areas at the Ask the Experts evening so it encourages people to come over and listen and then start a conversation instead of having to walk up to a group of "official-looking" speakers.

  8. We’ve kicked this around a bit more and refined it a little. Current plan is to have the first 15-20 min of the first session after keynote be the track kick-off (which we’ll extend by 15 or so min to accommodate). The idea is to see who else is attending the track and to put faces to the nemes of the presenters.

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