When Microsoft announced that rather than throwing large launch events in select cities they would enable Influencers to throw ‘House Parties’ there was a lot of ridicule; many said it wouldn’t work, others poked fun and even shot mocumentaries about them. Cameron McKay and I set out to prove that not only COULD they work, but we wanted to set the bar for what one of these parties should look like.
Some of our colleagues across the country (and around the globe) invited people into their homes; others leveraged their pull with local businesses (including Microsoft offices) to make the event look a lot like a user group meeting. We wanted to do something different.
We reserved Artisano’s Bakery Cafe in Oakville; they would cater hors d’oeuvres and deserts and we supplied drink tickets to everyone. At 4pm we starting setting up… five machines in all running Windows 7, a VERY powerful hi-def wide screen projector, a few KVM switch boxes, and a really powerful set of desktop speakers with sub-woofer. Thankfully the duct tape kept the wires down, and nobody got hurt!
We had five computers set up and running… two relatively new ones (my production laptop and my netbook – these would be for demos and PowerPoint respectively), a two year old laptop for people to play with, as well as what we called the Clunker Corner… machines that were previously thought to be ready for the junk heap, but that Windows 7 runs nicely on! One of those machines acted as the sound system, the other was another demo box for people to try out… and they did, in droves!
In total we had 52 guests show up. Most were local to the west end of the GTA but we also had a few people take the train from downtown, Scarborough, and Oshawa; we even had a couple of out-of-towners – from Montreal and Chicago!
The kit that Microsoft supplied included a jigsaw puzzle; As I set up the computers my beautiful wife Theresa put the puzzle together, and I had an idea; why not use the puzzle as a fundraiser? We sold pieces of the puzzle; for $2 each people could choose their piece and write their name on the back; the pieces then went into a wicker basket (borrowed from the restaurant). Not only did the puzzle pieces sell out, but one very generous attendee asked for 50 pieces. Rather than giving him the individual pieces I thanked him for his generosity and gave him two of our 15 prize bags. All in all we raised $250 for the Meadow Green Academy Gymnasium Fund! For the winners we handed out prize bags containing Windows 7 Ultimate (NFR) licenses, pens, stickers, and more.
People started coming in at 6:30 but we kicked off the formal presentation at 7:15. For the next hour Cam and I demonstrated many of the cool new features of Windows 7, ranging from the GUI and Aero Peek, new Windows key combinations, and more, BitLocker to Go, Location-aware devices, security (including the much improved UAC!), Windows XP Mode, and much more. As the saying goes, a good time was had by all.
After the official presentation someone asked if it was really an easier and faster install than Windows Vista and XP; I could have explained to him that it was but I decided to show him instead, popping my USB Deployment Stick into the 2-year-old laptop and redeploying Windows 7, Microsoft Security Essentials, and Microsoft Office 2007 from scratch in about 20 minutes. Everyone was amazed!
In the ‘Fireplace Corner’ we set up a video camera so that our team (Steve Syfuhs and Sean Kearney) could interview the attendees about the party, Windows 7, and asked them about what they hoped to see in Windows 7 (or what their experience was already) and what they were excited about; a few of the popular answers to that were XP Mode and BitLocker to Go, along with the faster interface and GUI functionality.
In case you missed it – or if you would like to reminisce about the great evening, our camera team had the video cameras rolling the whole evening. Sean ‘Friday Funny’ Kearney took all of that footage and did an incredible job compiling the event video, which you can see here!
I would like to take a moment to thank all of the people who made this event happen: First and foremost my beautiful wife Theresa, without whom I am not allowed to do anything! Despite being seven months pregnant she helped with the set-up, brought our son down for dinner, then took him to Tae Kwon Do and then back, where my boy was amazed that his dad really is a public speaker (every time I had tried to help him with that aspect of schoolwork he refused… I suspect that might change now!). My partner in crime, Cameron McKay, who joined in making it an incredible evening, and also picked up half of the bill (don’t forget that we paid for the food and drinks out of our own pockets!). Sean Kearney and Steve Syfuhs not only helped with setting up and breaking down, but also were our cameramen and videographers throughout the evening. Additionally Sean went above and beyond by taking the video footage and creating the incredible video you see here! Also I have to thank Sue and the crew at Artisano’s who not only make a mean pizza (PEPERONI!!) but went out of their way to make everything just right for the night. From Microsoft (and Microsoft Canada!) I want to thank Stephen Rose (STEP… absolute genius!) and the whole STEP program, Mark R. who showed me a few W7 tricks early on, Rob Gellar who contributed some of the prizes, Simran Chaudhry and the MVP Crew (LJUPCO!!), the DPE guys (Rodney came but Rick and Damir helped as ‘advisors’). I am probably forgetting a bunch of people because when an event goes this well and this smoothly there are so many people behind it. THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO CAME! Without them Cam, Sean, Steve, and I would have had a lot of celery and cookies!