TechEd North America has been and gone, (our TechNet man on the ground, MVP Chris Rhodes provided a great wrap up). Next stop TechEd Europe! An event I look forward to every year, this year it's back in Barcelona. Early Bird discount is still available so be sure to get yours before the 7th July to save $300. 
In anticipation for the earlybird deadline, It got me thinking what it is about the conference that I enjoy. I've penned a few favourite points below:

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1.  Presenting: TechEd is a paid for event and delegates not only have to travel but also pay for hotels, so speakers really need to work hard to ensure that expense is justified.  I'm hoping they’ll let “Tech”Ed Baker and I do a session, as I also enjoy co presenting and bringing in fresh talent. Of course many of you will want to hear direct from the product team about roadmaps and new announcement, as well as deep dives on particular aspects of a subject, so we may get not get a look in.  Speaking is also a very competitive sport, where speaker scores are keenly debated, if your average score is less than four from a 4/5 rating then you won’t be asked back to present again.  That’s a standard we work towards anyway, but it does show that while expectations are high for TechEd, it does deliver.

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2. Ask the Experts: It’s not called that now, but its perhaps best known as the exhibition area, where the speakers hang out for longer conversations about technology than the Q&A in a session allows.  I have had a couple of great experiences doing this one where a DBA was having trouble getting a SQL stored procedure to work as expected and because he had a VPN connection to his server we fixed the problem right there and then.  On another occasion a customer was trying to do analytics on MS Project and couldn't understand why his reporting was not up to date.  It turns out that Project builds cubes and the credentials need to fire the job weren’t working. Also, If a really interesting design problem shows up then you’ll tend to see a whole group of experts and crowd of delegates white-boarding the solution. 

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3. Community and Networking: You could probably watch some of TechEd online and you can of course contact Microsoft or ask your questions on forums, but there is something else about being there in person. Last year we had first hand experience of what that was as we hosted four winners of our TechEd for free competition (which included flights and hotels). The lucky winners thoroughly enjoyed their time there, so much so they and were even going to bed well before 11pm to ensure their were refreshed for the following day. One of these guys also got spotted by an MVP and they now work together. For me it was just like they were evangelists as were just always discussing the tech, the new stuff coming out and what that might mean.

There's also exam cram sessions at TechEd and you’ll find a lot of certified trainers (MCT) to help you apply your knowledge to getting certified.  There’s even a free exam centre, so you can apply your new found knowledge immediately if you want – and chances are you’ll even have your passport with you for ID!

All in all, these are just a few of the reasons I look forward to TechEd Europe. I mention all this because it's now open for business and so those of us who are going can book the early bird offer and reduce costs by also booking travel arrangements while hotel and flights. Hopefully we’ll see you there in session on a stand or at our UK party.