The quiet of the Exhibitor Hall is disturbed by the sounds of preparation. To my left there is a crew frantically working to fix something with a carpet. There is some hammering, more yammering, and the sounds of carpet tape being unfurled. To my right there are two security agents talking, but they are too far off for me to know what about. Somewhere in the distance the beeping of a crane reminds us that conference centres are a weird mix of indoors and out. Slowly… VERY slowly, the vendors and the booth bunnies are filtering in, mostly sitting around, many checking e-mail, others chatting quietly.
Day Two of TechEd North America is underway upstairs, with sessions and breakouts and hands-on-labs. I rather suspect that many of the people attending those sessions are moderately hung-over, which would be par for the course for any major IT convention.
Thirteen hours ago, midway through my last shift in the Microsoft Springboard Booth, there were thousands of people milling about. A great mixture of people wanting to learn, wanting to teach. A lot of people were out to collect swag for sure – at our booth they would range from asking for a box, reaching in and taking a box, to reaching in and trying to take a handful of boxes. A few actually asked what was in the boxes, but to many that mattered less than getting something for free. Some people, when they asked, would get a spun yarn about the contents… it breaks up the monotony.
In truth, the best thing that we are giving away at the Springboard booth does not come in a box. It doesn’t even come on the lanyards in the form of passes to the hottest party at TechEd (the Springboard Community Event!) but rather a link… www.microsoft.com/springboard, which is the link to the Springboard site, the best place for the IT Pro to learn about all things related to Windows 7, Office 2010, Internet Explorer 9, Desktop Deployment, Application Compatibility, and the Optimized Desktop. It has articles, KBs, forums, and blogs. Whether you are just now thinking about transitioning to Windows 7 and you need help planning your deployment, or if your entire org is on Windows 7 and you have questions about support, it’s there.
Of course TechEd is much bigger than our booth… the Microsoft pavilion is the center point, but if you look to the left and right (as well as the front and back!) you will see vendor booths, community booths, and more. HP is here in full force, as is EMC… I count at least three CPLSes represented as well as several on-line and video learning companies – companies that sell practice exams and other exam-prep material. There are vendors demoing their hardware, others selling software. Of course the new trend is people selling cloud-based solutions, which until recently was geek-speak for vapourware, but now is a very real and viable solution, and critical in this day and age.
There is an entire section of the Exhibitor’s Floor dedicated to community… the MCT Lounge, the MVP Lounge… Blogger’s Row, Microsoft Learning, GITCA and other User Group services. There is a stage where I saw Richard Campbell interviewing Mark Minasi yesterday, and of course the Microsoft Company Store, your one-stop shop for Microsoft-branded crap, but also a 20% discount off all books which ROCKS!
Upstairs there is a section devoted to exam-crams, as well as an entire exam center where I know of several people who have taken my advice to GET CERTIFIED! One friend, I hope, will be taking his FIRST EVER certification exam exam today or tomorrow… and I will be there to be the first to congratulate him and welcome him to the MCP fold.
What are you looking for? If it has to do with IT then it is here in Atlanta, at Microsoft TechEd 2011 North America!