This post has been long overdue. Seriously – after finishing off Vancouver TechDays a couple of MONTHS ago, Edmonton is in the rear view mirror – heck even OTTAWA is over with now. I think it’s about time to talk a bit about Experience in general. I’ll be updating this post with even more up to date information if anything changes for TECHDAYS 2010 CANADA.

What do I mean?

I’m talking about the stuff you do leading up to the event, while you are there and also after you leave. This one might be a little long – but let’s get crackin’ and cover off all the bases.

Leading Up To The Event:

imageok. You’ve decided you want to go. you’ve gotten permission and funding and you’ve registered at www.techdays.ca site. what’s next? First off – no matter WHEN you registered – make sure you go back and check out the complete line sessions and read up on the abstracts that are of interest to you. Use the ScheduleBuilder in order to plunk down the order of sessions and build our your schedule to stay organized. We also use this information as a tool to help us better gauge what rooms to use for what sessions and tracks. Crowded rooms don’t lead to the best experience for you – but we can only estimate to a certain point what tracks will be the most popular and adjust accordingly.

CALGARY_ATTENDEEShow a little TechDays pride and download a “bling” badge for your email signature, blog site or personal T-Shirt design (ok – that might be a bit of a stretch, but you never know). You can get them from here online in two sizes showing your city pride. If you’re a blogger – you’re welcome to put them up on your blog – heck, if you are looking to get some exposure – tag your post with “Techdays_ca” tag (we monitor this and a number of other tags regularly) and we’ll send you some link love and hopefully traffic.

twitterIf you are active on twitter (or looking for an excuse to be) the staff, attendees, speakers, executive sponsors ALL monitor and use the official hashtag of #techdays_ca. Leading up to and during the event – if you have anything to say, good or bad – you can say it with the hashtag and someone will get back to you in short order. You’ll also find interesting anecdotes, events and goings on if you happen to follow the hashtag yourself. a mobile client is probably best for quick comments on the fly.  Not on twitter yet? sign up and check it out – it’s free and a little addictive!

Download the City Specific Agenda from the online site. You can get it in PDF form at least a week before the event. It will have more accurate information about what’s going on in what room as well as include the special “local flavours” session titles and abstracts.

CloudCamp Montreal Nov 22, 2010We’re a location sponsor and supporter for http://cloudcamp.org. I’ve participated in some great discussions with other cloud affectionatos in almost all the cities where TechDays is put on.  We make our facilities available for members of the local community to use in the evenings and we’ve made the offer to these guys to help out with some great cloud discussions. Check out www.cloudcamp.org for details and REGISTER for cities that are on the horizon. (it typically takes place in each TechDays city the day before TechDays opens).

At The Event:

imageGet there early. Maybe not as early as the staff – I’ve got a 7AM call onsite (some people have a 6AM call) but registration does open at 8AM (you could come earlier – I am sure they could register you) and THERE IS breakfast available in some form with COFFEE. Grab something and grab a seat. Maybe introduce yourself to someone new or grab a cuppa joe with one of the speakers – we’re all around and quite friendly.

Speaking of introducing yourself – TechDays brings the largest concentration of Tech people WITH SIMILAR INTERESTS to yours together in one spot for two days. This IS your best opportunity to establish some new professional relationships with peers and experts in your industry and area of specialty. I mean seriously – who do you go to for answers or opinions on a particular topic when you have a question on a product? 1) the Internet. 2) you network of professional resources.  How do you get to the next level with a job search? Your professional network. Get and bring your business cards and practice your introduction skills. Don’t miss this opportunity.

What do the Colour shirts mean? Yup – we’re colour coded. Blue golf shirts with the TechDays 2010 Speaker logo on them are reserved for speakers. You can’t get one unless you are presenting a session at TechDays. Look to ask your technical questions to the Blue golf shirt people – they should be milling about at breaks and lunch and quite possibly hanging out neat the Collaboration Lounge / Experts area (more on that next). Red golf shirts are for Microsoft and Event staff who’s job it is to make sure you are getting the most that you can out of the event.  Got a question about something related to the event or can’t find your session room? Track one of the Red Shirts down. The 8 “port” a.k.a. purple polo shirted people are members of my team – The Technical Evangelism Team at Microsoft Canada. We’re the blue badges at Microsoft who’s main role it is to be a connection point for you INTO Microsoft about Microsoft products, career issues and generally anything Geek. We’re all technical folk with consulting backgrounds who specialize in different areas of technology from infrastructure to development, from consumer to cloud.

DSC_0333 (2)Rogers Collaboration Lounge – WTF is that? This is something that we came up with in response to your ask for having access to some cool technology to try out the latest and greatest things on the Microsoft Platform. In this years edition – we have 8 systems from our Supporting Partner Dell that include netbooks, multi-touch tablets, multi-touch monitors, executive sleek notebooks and all in one systems. It is being staffed by volunteers who are eager to show off some of the cooler technologies on the Windows platform: Touch interface, Collaboration with WebApps, browsing with IE9. It also contains a pair (yes TWO) Windows Phone 7 devices that you can touch, play with and take for a test drive. Lastly – to show of some innovation around interface and user input – we’ve even got an xBox Kinect device you can try. This area is open and staffed during breakfast, breaks and lunch and your hands on participation is strongly encouraged. 

Right next to or somewhere NEAR the Collaboration Lounge is the Experts Area. This is where all the speakers that aren’t presenting a session or members of the Technical Evangelism Team should be hanging out. It’s equipped with WhiteBoards for brainstorming / diagramming, powerbars for laptops and/or phone recharging as well as beanbag chairs for relaxing in. You should DEFINETELY come here to connect with the speakers and ask those questions one on one if you didn’t get the chance during the session.

Ultimate Q and A timeslot. We’ve dedicated time at the end of the day where all the speakers from the days sessions return to the track room for a dedicated time to take questions. Take the opportunity to come out and ask your questions as well as listen to what others have to ask / say to the speakers. I participated in the Vancouver Infrastructure chat and it was quite lively and informative.

Have Fun. Seriously – have some fun while you are here and make some new networking connections (and by that I DON’T mean RJ45 cables).

PhotoWarningSignPhotos on Flickr. You might see this scary sign when you come in to TechDays… It has startled a few people along the way but rest assured - don’t worry. It’s just something the legal team has requested we put up in order to inform you that someone at the event MIGHT take your picture in a crowd shot and it could be posted up in a blog post (like this one) or on to the Flickr public pool of photos that we share as part of TechDays. Don’t worry – we won’t be using your photo as part of a new ad campaign or using it as an endorsement of some product or whatever – it’s really just a simple notice.  You can see all sorts of TechDays Pictures up on the Flickr group which can be found here.

Lunchtime fun – we realize that since you’ve been attending TechDays that you brain is either starting to get full or is already at the full point. As a result – we’ve made the decision to keep lunchtime activities light hearted and FUN. Besides some housekeeping activities and announcements – we do DEMOS (not PowerPoint or Marketing speak) on Day one – we focus on Windows Phone 7 from usability and consumer point of view.  On day two – it’s all about IE 9. Don’t worry – it’s not marketing hype or corporate speak / keynotes.  I try to keep it as informative and FUN as possible.

imageAre you interested in issues facing Women in IT? We’ve partnered with CanWIT (formerly known as CataWIT) to provide a forum for introduction and discussions at designated tables at each TechDays city.  So far - a dynamic group of women meet over lunch and discussed their challenges and success in the IT field.  It is a great opportunity to meet other women in IT, network , and make some new friends.  There will be more opportunities to continue the conversation through various CanWIT chapter events focused on networking with other women in technology fields, leadership development for career advancement,  and mentoring opportunities.

imageEvaluations and their importance. You might get a little sick of us talking about filling out the EVALS throughout the event. Unfortunately it’s a necessary evil and it’s the simplest way to get your comments back to the organizing team who puts TechDays on.  Without some form of validation that what we’re trying to do provides you value – it makes our job harder to get support to keep TechDays going.  Think of your eval as being your direct line to the TechDays Executive committee. If you have suggestions on what we could be doing better, what we should stop doing and what we should start doing – we would LOVE to hear from you in the comments section.  Besides your comments – it’s you way of telling us directly which sessions and which PRESENTERS were good and which ones could still use a little work.  Speakers and Presenters at TechDays are doing this conference for free (they are not being paid to speak) and as someone who does public speaking for a living – ANY AND ALL FEEDBACK on how I can do better is greatly appreciated.   With the TechDays evaluations you are able to individually rate each session you attend on each day. At the end of day one you pass in your eval form to any staff member including the room monitors or registration desk. At the start of day two – you will be receiving a new evaluation form for the second day activities. Some people think that eval comments and scores go down the drain and are never acted upon – as someone who reviews EVERY SINGLE ONE of them – I can tell you that the exact opposite happens. In fact – TechDays is the direct product of your previous feedback to “stop the marketing events with shallow depth of technology”. Our team created TechDays as a direct result of comments like this over 4 years ago!  As a thank you for providing feedback – each evaluation you pass back (be it good, bad or blank) enters you into a draw for a Dell Vostro V13 laptop (which can be seen in the Rogers Collaboration Lounge).  There is one per city to be won!

SWAG? what’s that? It’s the free stuff that is VALUABLE and given away for coming out to TechDays. Our main item is a handy on site GUIDE with full session abstracts, free offers and note pad.  It comes with very nice conference pen. (I am a little partial to the pen as I chose it and stuck to my guns about it’s quality instead of going with a cheap $0.25 pen. Go ahead – try it out – you’ll like it). Some might argue this isn’t swag, but it’s part of what’s given out during the two day TechDays.  There are also “prize giveaways” throughout the day. We’re talking T-shirts from the Internet Explorer team, Ball caps and touques from the Azure team and Prize Cards that can be redeemed for a random prize you pick up at the Rogers Collaboration Lounge. How do you get the prize cards and other things? PARTICIPATE! Ask and Answer questions during TechDays to speakers or members of the Team – you might just get a PrizeCard for participating. Tweet with the #TechDays_ca hashtag – it’s been known to have random giveaways for tweets throughout the day. Talk to the Experts in the Expert Area – besides answering your questions – they might have a card or two to give away. in summary – HAVE FUN and Participate!

Partner offers and TechNet subscription: This is too big to cover here – check in the next section for details.

After TechDays

Slide Decks and other Resources. This works for during the event as well.  If you go back to www.techdays.ca/firstlogin  and sign in with your LiveID (don’t forget to fill in your work email in the “Already Registered” field a little lower on the screen. This will associate your liveID with your work email address correctly the first time). Once there you will find a link in the top right corner called “TechDays 2010 Resources” in the top right corner of the screen. This will contain the PowerPoint decks for your city AND High Definition VIDEO recordings from either Toronto or Montreal once they have been processed and posted (an announcement will be posted to this blog when the videos are up). 

Want some Hands On? There are over 50 Hands On Virtual Labs that have been associated with the sessions that are presented at TechDays. Some sessions have corresponding hands On virtual labs, some do not. If the session you are interested in does have a Hands On Labs resource that matches up, you will be able to access it with the same logon process at www.techdays.ca mentioned above. These labs will be available exclusively to TechDays Attendees for a period of One Year. 

TechNet_ProA TechNet Subscription email will be sent out to ALL attendees 2 – 3 weeks after Techdays finishes in your city. The Confirmation email goes out to each registered email address for the city and requires a full mailing address and phone number in order to be process. In certain cases where this information is missing during the registration process, the attendee will be contacted by someone on the team to collect the missing information. This is a “bulk registration” process and if for some reason you are missed, we periodically process updates on a regular basis.   Because this is an email that could be caught in your spam filter – please check your junkmail folders or spam filters to find the original offer email. If after three weeks you have still not received your subscription, please send a note to td@can@microsoft.com with your original confirmation number and we’ll do our best to track down what happened.

 

 

imageTelerik Rad Controls for Silverlight offer. One of our sponsors for TechDays has further sweetened the pot for attending. They are offering their famous Telerik RAD Controls for Silverlight (Developer license valued at $799) to all attendees.  In case you missed the multiple announcements during TechDays – a special unique code was printed FOR YOU on the back of your attendee badge. You use that code and visit the sign up site (http://www.telerik.com/canada-techdays-2010-landing.aspx) in order to input your code after you click on the “Redeem Your Free License” button. They also have some resources available on the page which includes a Webinar about what’s new with the controls, some sample apps as well as special upgrade offers.

More Offers in the Guide. Don’t throw that Guide away – there are more partner offers in the Guide that you can take advantage of. Do yourself a favour and have a look at each of the sections of the guide – there’s some valuable stuff in there from PluralSight, Xceed and others!

Now What?

Stay Connected and keep on learning! We’ve got three cities left to go (Montreal, Winnipeg and Calgary) and we’re already planning on what to do for NEXT YEAR. Got any direct feedback that didn’t make it on the eval forms or just came to you now? Best way to get it into the hands of the folks running TechDays here in Canada is to mail td_can@microsoft.com.

Rick
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