The Social Side of Microsoft TechEd – My evenings in Orlando


This week was a real roller-coaster of ups and downs… in more ways than one.

I have been attending Microsoft TechEd for the past five years, and this year’s conference brought me back to where it all began for me… Orlando, Florida.  The Orange County Convention Center is not the worst of them – although in a building that size it can take even the best of us some time to get our bearings!  The show was great, the people were great, and the information was incredible.  I learned a lot, met some great folks, and do not regret for one minute coming down to the show.

Monday evening after the opening cocktails (which they always do on the show floor) I went back to one of the hotels and played poker with some friends and colleagues.  It was a nice time, and I am glad I only had a salad despite the terribly unhealthy menu options available to me.  It was probably the only night I was good with my diet.

Throughout Monday and Tuesday I was stressed because I was hosting a modest get-together for all Canadian attendees.  Of course not all of them came, but it would have been easier to know just how many people were going to come.  In the end we had nearly fifty people attend, and we all had a great time.  We took over half of the sports bar in the Renaissance Hotel from 5:30 to 8:00, and talked technology, hockey, family, friends, and of course business.  We compared stories; we talked about everything we could. 

I made a toast to Graham Jones, a longtime user group leader from Vancouver, who when I first decided to start MITPro in Montreal was already a longtime veteran UG leader.  Graham announced his retirement last month, and has hosted his last event.  I was honoured to present at the penultimate event under his leadership, and thanked him for his long time service, and for honouring me with his friendship and wisdom.

After the Canadian party I headed out to the Microsoft Learning party at Howl at the Moon.  It was a blast – I spent most of the time outside on the patio drinking and smoking cigars with a group of friends with whom I do not have the pleasure of seeing very often, but when we do get together we have a great time.  Brian Blum, Carnegie Johnson and a few others (you know who you are ;)) started at the restaurant next door then made our way over the Howl… Great to see them all!

Wednesday was the Springboard (Windows Community) party, and I arrived in a foul mood.  I just didn’t appreciate sitting on a bus for nearly an hour (as the driver got lost) then show up 45 minutes late.  The lineup for the buffet was ridiculous, and after speaking with a few key people three of us decided to leave and head back to one of the MVP parties at D&B.  It was smaller and a lot more fun, and without the hoity-toity ‘even at our invite-only party we are going to have a roped off VIP section’ of the previous one.

The one good thing about the Springboard Party, I should mention, is that I found out that Sean Kearney, a long-time dear friend, became a grandfather.  He is only a few years older than I am, but some people start early.  May Dimitri live to be 120!!

After the MVP party I went back to one of the hotel bars with a friend and talked until we realized it was 1am, and I made my way back to my own hotel – I had an early start to the next day!

Thursday evening was the closing party, and I nearly blew it off to go to Tampa.  I am really glad that I didn’t, because Universal Studios Orlando is a lot of fun, and I hung out with Sean Kearney, David Trupkin, Skand Mittal, and Nikhil Balagopalan.  Sean is an MVP, the others work with the Windows and MDOP teams at Microsoft.  None of them were strangers.  They even convinced me to go on a few of the rides (which I generally hate), starting with a Doom ride which took us hundreds of feet straight up then shook us like a ketchup bottle.  I never understood the appeal.  The Spiderman ride was incredibly cool though, with 3D effects that were absolutely amazing!  The Pterodon ride in Jurassic Park was… well, a bit of a letdown.  It was fun I guess, taking us on a winding course over the park.  I skipped out on the other Jurassic Park ride because my knee was really bothering me, and I am not sure what from.  When I say bothering me, I mean I was limping in agony.  Weird.

We met up with a few other friends for the Harry Potter ride at Hogwarts, and had a great time in line with Erdal Ozkaya and his clan, as well as Ali Parker, Liz Bennett, and company.  I was pissed when they told me I couldn’t do the ride – with all the weight I have lost, I guess I am still too fat for Hogwarts.

Possibly the best ride we did was the Dudley Doo-right water ride.  We all got soaked, but it was a blast.  The five of us in a log boat going up and down.  WOOHOO!  I love the water!

Today (Friday) I woke up to terrible news.  Eriq Neale, a longtime Microsoft MVP, passed away.  He has been battling cancer and we all knew it was going to happen, but that does not make waking up to the news a lot easier.  I have known Eriq for years, and got on the phone immediately with a couple of other friends who I know are much closer with Eriq.  Most of the people I would have called are still on the cruise following Jeff Middleton’s conference.  I will speak with them all in the next few days.  Rest in Peace Eriq.  My thoughts and prayers are with you and your wife.

Erdal Ozkaya and his family picked me up from my hotel this morning and we went to Downtown Disney.  It is an incredible place to be sure, and a license to print money for the Disney Corporation!  We had lunch at T-Rex (an amazing experience!) where I was good and had a lightly glazed piece of salmon.  We then went around some of the shops, and I bought Gilad a giant Mickey Mouse stuffed animal and Mickey ears with his name embroidered on the back.  I love being able to make my kids happy… Gilad is still easier than Aaron – he sees Mickey, he’s happy.

I have work to do this afternoon, but tonight I am heading to Tampa with David Trupkin for dinner at the best steakhouse in North America – Bern’s.  I have been salivating thinking about it for months, and it is tonight.  We could only get a reservation for 10:30pm (which is ridiculously late!) but I’ll sleep on the plane in the morning… which has already been upgraded to Business Class on account of my knee.

All in all the social side of Orlando and TechEd have been great.  I’ll talk about the technology stuff another time!

Canadian Get Together at Microsoft TechEd 2012!

Canadian flag outside the Maritime Museum of t...
I don’t have a flag, but look for the Maple Leaf in my hat and come say hi!

(Third in the series… see for more info!)Hey fellow Canucks, Eh?!

Welcome to Orlando! It is an amazing place to be for an amazing event to be at! We are going to have an incredible time at the 20th anniversary of this amazing event.

So for all of you who have been eagerly waiting to hear where the Canadian Hookup is going to be, I have arbitrarily decided to do it at the bar at the Renaissance Orlando SeaWorld (Shuttle Bus 1 – Red Line).  It is the only hotel I know (I didn’t realize I had stayed there before, and have attended a couple of great events there.  It is also the only hotel where I have an expense account and can buy the appies for everyone coming!  If all goes well we will take the upper deck, and I will make sure we have enough tables for everyone.  However I will be there in my cowboy hat and if we can’t get the upper deck then just look for me J (If you don’t recognize me yet, just ask someone ;))

I had only gotten one other suggestion for a venue, and had to make a snap decision… because my plane was delayed (6 hours GRRRR) I couldn’t scope out other venues last night.  Sorry about that Shaun.

I am also sorry that I was expecting the Kings to win in five… I literally picked Tuesday out of a hat, otherwise I would have suggested (as someone pointed out) that we all get together to watch Game 6 tonight.  If anyone wants to do that, let’s do it on an impromptu basis.

I want everyone here to know that we are here, we are Canadian, and we are united… so if you are a Tweet-type please follow me (#MGarvis) and every time you see my posts (#CdnAtTechEd) about Team Canada please retweet it and encourage others to do so.  Right now we are about 30 people registered for tomorrow… let’s try to double or triple that by tomorrow!  So tell everyone you know – Canadians and Canadian lovers (yes they are out there!) – that they should be tweeting and blogging, and most of all joining us for drinks tomorrow at 5:30!

I Hope to see you all there!

(Third in the series… see for more info!)

Canadians at TechEd 2012! Join us for a drink, Eh?

Canadian flag outside the Maritime Museum of t...ALERT! The venue has been chosen! Join us Tuesday at 5:30 at the upper level of the bar in the Renaissance Orlando SeaWorld (Shuttle Bus 1 / Red Line)!  See you then! ALERT!

Hey Folks!  I am so excited that TechEd North America – the 20th Anniversary of this incredible event – is less than a week away!  I have heard from a lot of you that you would like to join in our Canadian Event – this will not be a formal event at all, but rather a bunch of Canucks getting together for drinks and appies J I will have a meager budget to buy most of you a drink – assuming we don’t have hundreds of people coming out!

"TUESDAY" production sign
“TUESDAY” production sign (Photo credit: Vaguely Artistic)

For no good reason I have chosen to do this Tuesday at 5:30. We will probably meet in one of the hotel bars – I have to scope them out, but am open to suggestions. If you would like to come and have not done so yet please send me an e-mail so I can keep you informed. Also if you Tweet please forward this link and build the hype with the hashtag #CdnAtTechEd. We want people to connect!

Last year was such a great event – Damir and Rick Claus (our beloved former and always IT Pro Evangelist) hosted, and a great time was had by all. This year Damir will be taking my place in Winnipeg (I obviously won a bet along the way) but Rick, who has moved on to rainier pastures with the Global Evangelism Team in Redmond, will be there… as a guest/alumni!

Make sure you let your fellow countrymen/paysans/gens de pays know that they should be joining us… and pass my information along so I can fill them in.

Remember to wear your Maple Leaf guys and girls! Show your Canadian Pride at TechEd all day Tuesday, and then come straight from the conference centre (spelled RE) to the bar, and let’s show Orlando that Canada is not only a source of retirees and geese!  (We also have hockey players, devs, and IT Pros… but most of us don’t have guns, so we shouldn’t belabour the point)

ALERT! The venue has been chosen! Join us Tuesday at 5:30 at the upper level of the bar in the Renaissance Orlando SeaWorld (Shuttle Bus 1 / Red Line)!  See you then! ALERT!

Canadian IT Pros at TechEd 2012

English: A map of Canada exhibiting its ten pr...
Our home and native land, Eh?


The countdown is on folks… I am really excited to be heading to Orlando in just over a month out – my flight is confirmed, my hotel is booked, and I am eager to head to my fifth consecutive TechEd (North America).

One of the highlights of every TechEd I have been to has been connecting with a lot of my fellow Canadian IT Pros (yes, for this context I include Devs in the same group).  In fact for the last couple of years, the DPE (Evangelism) team at Microsoft has coordinated a ‘soiree’ for us where we all got together, had drinks, shared stories, and got to know one another.  Last year we were in Atlanta, and they held the event in a bar atop one of the hotels, and it was a lot of fun.  I got to meet all sorts of people from across the country whom I would likely never have met.

I found out the other day that none of the Canadian DPE team are going to be with us in Orlando this year.  On the one hand it is too bad that they will not be able to connect with a lot of you from across the country, but in truth I have felt that this year they have done such a great job of getting out across the country and seeing so many of you at events, user groups, and IT Camps that it is hard to fault them for it.

With that being said, we got together and decided that we did not want the tradition to end.  So although there will be nothing ‘official’ on the agenda, we are going to get together and drink a toast to the DPE team.  The plans are not firmed up yet, but if you are a Canadian going to TechEd 2012 and are interested in getting together for a drink (and appetizers?) with the rest of the Canadian contingent, I am going to make sure that happens.

What you need to do:

  1. Send me an e-mail at the following address:  NOTE: If you have any other e-mail address for me, do NOT use it for this.  I am using a special group so that I can easily sort requests!  Let me know that you are interested in joining the Canadian Community Get Together at TechEd.
  2. Keep your eyes peeled for further details.  I will be sending out an e-mail most likely the week of June 4th with details about time and date.  The place will most likely be a bar in one of the hotels (I tend to favour the ones that I stay at, but will make sure it is convenient to all).
  3. If you misspell COLOUR, FLAVOUR, FAVOUR, SAVOUR, CENTRE, SERGEANT or any other word that Canadians spell properly and that Americans do not, please brush up!! There may be a quiz before you are entitled to drinks! (On the same vein, brush up on hockey, curling, and make sure you know who really won the War of 1812! Hint: It was NOT a draw!)

That’s about it… As always, this will be an informal get together, so come as you are… I promise that I will!