Wednesday 21st March 2010.... The final day of the Convergence conference.
Breakfast was busy, even those who were up partying last night were up and about and getting ready for the day. Everyone headed over to the Convention Centre as today was the Closing Keynote with a very special Guest Speaker.
Once we were seated, we were surprised with a quick Line Dancing show before the session started. It turned out that the dancers were Convergence conference attendees who were willing to dance in front of everyone with only a single training session the night before. Well done guys, you were great.
Line dancing by Convergence attendees after one evening of learning... Yee haw
The session started with Doug Kennedy, Vice President - Microsoft Business Solutions, telling us that this was the largest Convergence ever. Last year there were 9,500 attendees and this year there were 10,250 attendees. There were 268 sponsor companies showing their offerings at the Expo hall. On the night of the Convergence Reception we ate over a tonne of BBQ Brisket, and over 5,000lb (2268kg) of excess food was donated to the homeless people of Houston. During the conference the wireless network infrastructure peaked at 3,200 concurrent users on the system. At one stage during the Opening Keynote session, Twitter blocked tweets from the network as there were so many being sent, it thought that it was a Denial of Service (DOS) spam attack.
Doug Kennedy giving us the rundown on Convergence 2012
One part of the Convergence experience that I think is amazing is the volunteer work performed by the attendees. Sadly, as I am normally busy with preparation as a speaker, I have not been directly involved. But many of the other attendees arrive a day or two earlier than needed and donate their precious time to give back to the host city. This year again saw Microsoft staff, partners and customers make a difference with home maintenance and neighborhood beautification projects and many other initiatives. During this session we got to watch a video of the volunteers in action, accompanied by an original piece of music from Nick Brophy and the Heroes. Well done to all the volunteers, it makes me proud to be part of the Microsoft ecosystem. Thank you.
Volunteer work by Convergence attendees makes a big difference in the lives of those less fortunate
After the audience had a chance to dry their eyes. Doug reminded us that we need to complete our conference evaluations. To help encourage this while supporting a good cause, Microsoft will donate US$1 to every evaluation completed to Dance Houston.
Don't forget to complete your evaluations
To show us where those funds would end up, we were treated to a small show from the Dance Houston team. They included many styles from street dancing to latin to ballroom. A great display of the joy of dance.
The Dance Houston team showing their moves
The penultimate task for Doug was to announce the location of the next Convergence Conference.
Well... Convergence 2013 will be held on the 18th to 21st March 2013 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Centre in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Hope to see you there. One very interesting tidbit of information I learned was that the architecture in the French Quarter of New Orleans is actually Spanish. There was a fire which destroyed most of the buildings and as the city was under Spanish control at the time, it was rebuilt in the current Spanish style of the era.
Convergence 2013 will be held in New Orleans, LA, USA
The final task for Doug was then to introduce the Guest Speaker for the conference: General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.).
From his early days as a grunt in the US Army, he rose through the ranks to become a four star general and has served as National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State for the USA. You don't have to be a US citizen to appreciate the achievements of this man. I was very excited to hear what he had to say. I knew it would be fascinating given his knowledge and worldly experiences over the years.
Guest Speaker: General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.)
General Powell discussed a number of stories and life experiences. While I can't do them full justice, a few of them stood out for me.
- Colin spoke about this grand children and how they are growing up in a world where technology is normal and everywhere. His grandson decided that Colin should have a Facebook page. When he went to create one, there was already one existing ... created by someone else. Colin then was upset and wanted to shutdown the page. His grandson then pointed out that there were already 3,000 followers. Well, that changes things. So... after some negotiations with Facebook to prove the Colin was the real General Colin Powell, he now has a Facebook page ... starting with 3,000 followers.
- Sticking with the grand kids: One of his granddaughters was upset that the new 46" flat screen TV that they had bought was broken. She had been touching it all over and it would not do anything.
- Last one on grandchildren: When the youngest two grandchildren (ages 4 & 6) went for a drive with their Auntie, they began screaming for her to pull over and stop. They then explained that she had forgotten to turn on the GPS navigation system and that without it they would get lost.
Full house listening to General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.)
- Colin is known by the local law enforcement around his home town as he bought a Corvette car and sometimes goes just a little faster than he should. So when he goes out for a drive, all the different police forces talk to each other to keep track of him and wait for him to speed. Eventually he gets pulled over and the Police officer comes to the window and addresses him as General and salutes. Colin thinks this is great, as many of the Police officiers are ex-servicemen, he will be fine..... So, the officer salutes and says "Hello Sir"... and then writes him a ticket.
- When Colin travels, you would expect that he is known and would be rushed through the TSA security checks as a VIP. But no, he has to go through the system like everyone else, in fact they bring in extra staff and have the honour student of wand waving give him the full treatment. Why? Well in this YouTube era with everyone watching, it is important that there be no exceptions.... even for the man who put the security measures into place.
- When Colin worked at the State Department, all the cars were valet parked in a garage that did not have enough bays. So cars were stacked in with up to 3 cars in one bay. Now Colin wondered how the team working in the garage knew what was the best order to park the cars so that they were always quick to retrieve the cars. Who was number 3 in the back of the bay and who was number 1 at the front? One day he went down to the garage to have a chat with the attendants. They initially suggested he was lost and that they could guide him back upstairs. When he asked them how they make this complex decision, they replied that it was simple. Drivers who pull in and ignore the staff and just get out of the car and walk off.... they are number 3's. Drivers who wind down the window and smile and say hello and make an effort to be nice.... they are number 1's. Moral: It is important to be nice and friendly with everyone you meet, get to know their name. In an organisation, everyone from top to bottom is important.
Rapt audience listing to Colin's stories and experiences
His parting comments were: "You know you are a good leader when troops will follow you, if only out of curiosity. Just to see how you get them out of the mess. This is because they trust you. Trust is the glue that holds an organisation together and the lubricant that helps it move forward.".
Then it was question time, with the attendees being offered a chance to ask Colin questions and put him on the spot. One attendee asked to shake his hand and ended up coming up on stage to receive a hug from the man himself.
One Convergence attendee even got a hug from Colin
As the question time was running a little late, Mariano and I had to leave early so we could get ready for first presentation of the day.
Thank you Colin for an inspiring speech.