The most important PDC decision we’ll make

This week, the team is under an enormous amount of stress as the deadline approaches for the decision that will make or break PDC 2005: the swag bag.  Sitting in Steve's office are three different styles of computer bag, and we must choose which one we will stuff full of goodies and hand out to attendees in September.

Our candidates this year include two briefcase/over-the-shoulder style bags, and one backpack.  Veterans of PDC 2003 may recall that, for that event, we were unable to make up our mind between briefcase and backpack, and so went with a bag that did both (it had a backpack harness that could be zipped up into a hidden compartment.)  This year, though, I am committed to taking the time to make the hard choice -- one shoulder, or two?

I've spent some time analyzing all our options, and I have to say I'm leaning heavily towards the briefcase form factor.  I like the way it comfortably sits in the hands if you want to carry it by the grips, but also quickly can be slung over the shoulder for hands-free operation.  The backpack model, by comparison seems too bulky to carry, even using the hand grip that's built in to the top.  The backpack also tries to be clever and has a special zippered compartment on the back side where your laptop is supposed to go, but 1) it's not large enough to accommodate the monster 17" Alienware laptop I take on the road for demos, and 2) even if it did fit, the laptop would then be in direct contact with my spine when wearing the backpack, which is not a pleasant sensation.

There is some dissent among the team about whether the briefcase style bag is sufficiently "cool" for our PDC attendees, and there's also discussion about the ergonomics of a bag filled with fifteen pounds of conference materials plus laptop hanging off only one shoulder.  I can only hope that through continued careful evaluation, we will be able to make an inspired -- and inspiring -- choice for our 2005 swag bag.

Comments (10)

  1. Steve Hall says:

    Time for a swag whore to chime in…

    The backpacks serve one really good use: hauling back the initial dump-truck load (that comes in the bag) back to the hotel. Oops! Make that two: hauling same said dump-load back home. Personally, I don’t use it during the conference.

    It’s always humerous to watch a couple thousand lug fully loaded backpacks around the first day (esp. those that arrive late on day 1, instead of day -1 or -2). The look on their faces by the end of day 1 is usually of "Why oh WHY?!?! didn’t I make an extra trip back to the hotel in the morning!". And each day following that the population of backpacks always decreases about 10-20% each day. By the last day, <10-20% are lugging the things around… (I’ve observed this at dozens of conferences.)

    Does anyone seriously expect to use such a backpack for hauling exhibition hall swag to the hotel each day and then home? It’s almost a sure bet to cause something to be broken or messed up…

    The arguments against back-pack form factor: 1) Most that have brought a laptop, already HAVE a laptop bag (and won’t use the backpack long-term for that purpose), 2) it won’t hold much more than the initial dump-load (ok, maybe one more book and a couple dozen marketing glossies…), 3) they’re too bulky to lug around when fully-loaded, and 4) they won’t fit in/through some airline’s size "holes" at checkpoint charlies (the x-ray machines) or won’t fit under the seats or in the upper cargo holds. (I heard about some problems flying out of LA 2 years ago…some over-stuffed backpacks were forceably checked… I didn’t encounter such myself, since I drove!)

    People just need to be convinced that shipping back excessive swag via UPS/FexEx is the way to go. Maybe a bag insert that’s an ad flyer for shipping rates for the conference shipping center would help in this regard. (A discount coupon or getting the conference ship center to cut their excessively high rates might help sooth some "just gotta have a backpack" feelings…)

    Overall, the PDC2003 backpack wasn’t bad…in fact it was probably the best I’ve ever gotten at a conference. But, I’d prefer a brief-case style bag, as I would be inclined to reuse it. (Most of the 2-3 dozen backpacks I’ve gotten over the years were just given away…since they weren’t exactly presentable at my company or at customer meetings.)

  2. Steve Perry says:

    If it makes any difference, I am still using the 2003 PDC bag, every day. It accomidates my old 14" compaq laptop and still allows some paperwork, and my PPC and Blackberry. But I do only use the single shoulder strap. I have been to may VS live conferances and have never been happy with the briefcase style bags they have given out.

    Just my 2 cents

  3. James says:

    Good luck Jeremy. You hold the future of Microsoft in your hands.

  4. Don Demsak says:

    The VictorInox backpacks that were given out to the 2004 MVPs are the absolute best bag I’ve ever got. Perfect for one shoulder or 2, great support and lots of cushioning. Not that I would ever expect a bag of this quality at a conference.

  5. I vote for the briefcase style. I have used both, and prefer the briefcase, personally! 😉

  6. Ian Ringrose says:

    Why not just reduce the cost of the PDC a bit and not provide a bag at all?

    I can never see myself using a bag in public that says “portable in side, please rob me”, any bag that has a Microsoft logo on it fails this test.

    ian at ringrose dot name

  7. Mark Wan says:

    I’ve been to PDC 2003 and 2001 plus other non-PDC conferences and I’d say I prefer backpacks over briefcase style. And the PDC 2003 backpack is still my favourite conference bag. Also the ability to hold a notebook inside is important but I am not using those giant multimedia notebooks so form factor is not an issue to me.

  8. Rob Cannon says:

    My old PDC bag finally wore out and I had to replace. Just make sure it can handle a wide-screen laptop!

  9. Szoke says:

    If it counts, I still use my PDC2001(!) backpack. For me it was one of the bests I ever encountered.

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