Two Months on the Job: Conferences

Prior to moving into my new role I always just attended conferences and was never in a role responsible for the success of any particular conference (e.g., conference planner, event coordinator, content owner, etc.)  Two months into my new job and boy has that changed.

One of my responsibilities as the owner of outbound messaging for my set of products and technologies is coordinating speakers and content for all the major professional conferences around the world for the software development industry.  Earlier I mentioned I would be speaking at the ASP.NET Connections conferences in Orlando and Nice, France in April.  Well, since December, I have also been investing a lot of time pulling together the speakers and content for the Web and Client development tracks at Microsoft’s Tech-Ed conference in Boston in June and the ”Next Generation Browsing Experience” track at Microsoft’s first-of-its-kind MIX conference in Las Vegas in March.

Althought Tech-Ed is definitely the bigger of the two in terms of attendees and content, it has been going on each year for over a decade.  The format is well-known despite requiring a fair amount of prep work to make it a draw.  MIX, on the other hand, is completely new.  There has been no other conference that brings the target audience of software developers, designers and business decision makers together for a 3-day conversation about where the Microsoft platform is today and where it is poised to go specifically around providing the richest, most-profitable and most-powerful user experience from the living room to the PC and beyond the Web.

MIX isn’t just about Microsoft talking about how great its products are.  Industry luminaries and major players like Tim O’Reilly, Amazon.com, Yahoo and eBay are presenting and helping discuss the importance of user experience in increasing designer/developer productivity, customer satisfaction and profitability.  Many MIX attendees will not be Microsoft-friendly so there is tremendous opportunity but also tremendous responsibility to tell our story and get feedback that will help us improve.

One thing I neglected to mention above in the “no other conference” category for MIX is just how aggressive the timeline is for making this conference a success.  Initial planning/brainstorming did not start until early December.  Given the holidays, that translates to just 2 months to 14 weeks to pull this thing together.  This Monday we will be at T-4 weeks for the actual event.  How time flies…

So 2 months into the job and I am already helping create an industry-shaping conference which Bill Gates will keynote.  How many places can someone do that?

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