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Microsoft Ignite: One Geeks Take On the Conference

Posted in GeneralMSIgnite

There is no denying the fact the conference was popular. 23,000 people don’t show up if it doesn’t at least look good on paper. Microsoft condensed their events into a single event/conference, so this first year (2015) is somewhat of a “pilot” I feel like. The ultimate question(s) is what do most people think, and whether they would come back next year or go to other conferences…

The good:
Product announcements: This is the flagship conference for Microsoft, so all the big product news more or less lands here.

Streaming: Great for people who couldn’t attend, great for people who can’t decide between sessions, and great if you missed a session.

Technical crossover: Due to the wide variety of people attending, you’ve got some developers, SQL guru’s and others that you wouldn’t normally have, at say an Infrastructure based conference. There are also more C and D level people attending sessions.

Expo: Probably one of the biggest Expo’s I’ve seen. Talking with vendors they received 3x or greater traffic than at TechEd. It remains to be seen if the percentage of good leads increased as well, or if it was just freebie junkies who really like color changing pencils (great for kids) or cloud erasers (to erase away your cloud fears).

Microsoft Staff: Due to the conference being what it is, the who’s who of Microsoft is in attendance. A lot of product group staff and others were available in booths and Q&A sessions.

The bad:
Food: Everyone has a different take on this, some people will eat nearly anything. A poll on yammer pretty much sums it up though.

Lines: I hope you like lines, because there are a lot of them. That’s what happens when you shove 23k people into any spot. Lines everywhere.

Bathrooms: Never before has mankind (stress on on the word “man”) had to wait so long to use a restroom. It’s payback for all the years we looked at women standing in line and snickered. Some clever marketing person also though it apparently should be a scavenger hunt to find a restroom. Hint: The best bathrooms were below the expo hall, those were the biggest.

Technical depth: Presenters need to be realistic about the session level, I sat in many that were allegedly 300 that I would have barely called a 50. I also talked with many other people and got responses on Twitter confirming the same feelings I had. I have no issues with level 100/200 sessions, they serve their purpose. However, lets label them correctly so people can decide for themselves what they want to go to. Overall I think the conference lacked technical depth, at least for System Center focused people, a lot of overview sessions and intro sessions, no 400/500 level. However, I don’t think that was the main focus for the conference, it just didn’t have the technical depth I’ve seen at other conferences.

Streaming: Good and bad, on the bad side, you can stream everything after 24 hours, so why do you really need to even be at the conference? (Of course the answer is to get out of the office, to meet fellow IT professionals and hope to learn new things)

Venue: McCormick is a BIG place, it’s confusing to find the rooms and get around. You also can easily spend 30 minutes walking from one side to the other to catch sessions. Many people complained about having to leave sessions early to get to the next one early so you wouldn’t get turned away (yup that happened).

Location: McCormick is downtown, but not “downtown” downtown. So even if you wanted to get food somewhere else, you couldn’t just walk to a restaurant. There was a Starbucks, a little convenience cafe (sandwich on a shelf), and a McDonalds. Ok there was a restaurant in the Hyatt as well, but that was a secret for a few days until everyone else found it, then it was crazy busy.

Shuttles: I talked to a few people who waited 45 minutes in the rain to get on a shuttle, ouch. Or the shuttles ended too early at night, so you either left sessions early or took a cab back to your hotel that was anywhere from pretty close to 40 minutes away.

Overall opinion:
Would I go to Ignite 2016? You know I don’t know that I can answer that right now. I’ve gone to quite a few conferences over the years, and spoken at many as well. The crowds and logistics of Ignite and the McCormick convention are not my favorite. I prefer the technical depth I’ve seen at Microsoft Management Summit and Midwest Management Summit. IT Dev connections is a well organized conference that is growly steadily in the infrastructure/System Center space. Midwest Management Summit last year was easily one of the best conferences I’ve attended. 3 days of awesome System Center sessions and a 3 story food court at the Mall of America to please all types of stomachs.

I will be at IT Dev Connections later this year speaking. I will also be at Midwest Management Summit in November as well.

I far prefer Vegas for location, you’ve got a ton of very good hotel options. You have a million restaurants to choose from and you don’t really need shuttles to get around.

So overall, if I had to only pick one conference to attend, I wouldn’t waste my time on Ignite, there are better conferences for me personally to attend. If I speak or was given a free space, I would attend Ignite again.

Let me know your thoughts/comments! Would love to hear what you thought of Ignite as well if you attended.


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I am a Microsoft MVP for System Center Configuration Manager and owner of Nackers Consulting Services, LLC. I focus primarily on System Center Configuration Manager and the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit. In addition to helping clients leverage the technologies they use, I enjoy spending a lot of time on the forums and email lists helping answer questions and just seeing what people are doing with the deployment technologies available to them. I have spoken at Microsoft Management Summit on ConfigMgr/MDT integration and I have spoken at user groups around the country. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, I am always willing to help.

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