So I'm in charge of Ask the Experts night this year at Tech.Ed, and I have some idees!
Firstly, my experience at Tech.Ed has been that there are many experts that attend, it's just that Microsoft doesn't know about all of them! It's that person who has run their own successful consulting firm for 20 years, or has just deployed a massive data center, or just implemented a killer Web 2.0 app.
Secondly, experts have knowledge gaps too, and are interested in stuff that other people know intimately, so why shouldn't they get the chance to chat to someone who is an expert in that field of interest?
Thirdly, when I mince it with the mob, I want broadband baby! None of this, "Oh yeah, I spoke to two experts, yay for me!", I want, "My jaw hurts from all that talking!". So I want speed dating, I want to meet lots of people for a little time rather than the other way around, as my dear friend Brendon used to say, "I'm here for a good time, not a long time!".
And finally, I want to create some connections, I want some way to PREpare, and FOLLOWup. If I'm meeting a Program Manager from Corp who has spent the last 2 years building BizTalk, and I am dying to know where the product is heading in the hosted space, then the last thing I want to do is ambush them! I want them to know that I'm interested in a particular angle, and give them a chance to prepare.
So this is my idea of Ask the Experts:
1. Everyone who is registered for Tech.Ed, can profile themselves on the Ask "An" Expert site (to be provided soon). Profiling is simple, just answer some questions around your background, experience, areas of knowledge. If you don't want to provide wisdom to interested souls, then you that's cool, but know that I'll know, and will have pictures of my judgmental eyes all around the Tech.Ed venue, watching you, making assumptions regarding your character, you know, all that good guilt generating stuff my Mum taught me!
2. After a few weeks of the profiling site being available (to let some folks register themselves as ready and available), people can start reviewing those willing to chat, and start submitting requests. This is open to anyone, so even those who are making themselves available to meet, can make requests to meet others! It's all demand generated baby, I mean, who are we to say who has something to provide or not. Let the people speak! And with each request, there will be a short note to say what the topic of the request is.
3. As requests come through, each "provider" can accept a request, or decline it. When they accept it, it goes into their "lead" queue, and when someone accepts their request, it goes into their "follow" queue. Based on timings, etc, there will be a limit on how many total "leads" and "follows" people can possibly fit into the night.
4. There will be a cut-off a couple of weeks before Tech.Ed, where Dexter (remember the love robot from Perfect Match? He's on the MS payroll for this project) will have time to match up times and locations (the expo hall will have little podium tables for people to meet), and send out to everyone a "dance card"! On it, you will have a number of 10-15 minute slots, with hook-ups. There will be a 5 minute "motion" break between slots.
5. On the night, come ready to provide or consume "expertise", and as each round passes, our MC (maybe Greg Evans, not sure yet) will signal the end or start of each round, you look at your card, move your booty to the desired location, hook-up, chat, network, gaze catatonically (not a real word, but I'm into mashups at the mo') at one another, what ever, then feel content that you had an awesome experience networking and gleaning new info and smartness!
Now, being the good democrat that I am, I welcome feedback and ideas on how to make this better and more improved, but obviously will take all credit for other peoples great input. Don't fight it, it's just the way things go.
Looking forward to peeps ideas!