I saw many "twitter people" in the flesh for the first time, which was a very strange experience. From memory, these include: mjeaton, joshholmes, jamesbender, danhounshell, stevenharman, timwingfield, sillyevar, pandamonial, and patrickfoley. It was cool to watch many of the attendees live-twittering the event.
I Need to Speak
One of the great revelations that occurred to me and kept playing on my mind during the event was that I really should have been speaking/presenting.
This is in no way intended to take away anything from the presentations that I witnessed, but I came away feeling very confident that I could give a presentation at least as good as the ones I saw. While I watched the presentations, I took notes on what bothered me about them, and what I would have done differently. I thought a lot about what I would like to see in a presentation that I didn't see.
That's not the only reason I'm convinced that I need to speak next year. It also occurred to me that most of my twitter friends who attended were also speaking at the event. In fact, I didn't see much of them because they were either hanging out together in the "Speakers' Room" or giving presentations.
I came away convinced that people who get the most out of these things don't go for the technical content. They go to talk to people and be seen. The sessions are very much secondary, or perhaps even irrelevant.
So I'm planning to speak next year. I'm not sure what the topic will be, but I already have a few decent candidates in mind.
Feedback for the Organizers
Ironically, my first bit of feedback would be to give us more time to give you feedback! :-) They made a point to say how important our feedback was, and then gave us all of two minutes to fill out the feedback forms! Also, don't expect people to write their names on their feedback forms. People are less likely to honestly criticize you if they can't do it anonymously.
My second bit of feedback concerns the Wi-Fi. I'm not sure if there is anything the organizers could have done about this or not, but the Wi-Fi...well...sucked. When I fired up my laptop for the first time at the event and opened up Firefox, I was greeted with a big, ugly registration screen from Davenport University telling me that only students and faculty were allowed to access the Internet. Are you freakin' serious?! After several panic-filled minutes, I finally figured out how to get around it, but it was not at all obvious. I realize there's probably nothing the organizers could have done about that, but at least distribute clear directions on how to get around it. Also, when I did finally get connected, it was very slow. People nowadays love to twitter from these events, and if they can't get online, then they can't twitter. That's a serious bummer.
My third bit of feedback would be to make the labeling of the session rooms less confusing. I actually wound up in the wrong room for the first session and missed a presentation I really wanted to see because the number outside the door did not match the number that the organizers intended for it.
My fourth and last bit of feedback would be to (if at all possible) put the "Speakers' Room" further away from the session rooms. At one point, I was attending a session in a room that must have been right next to the speakers' room. We were absorbing a tremendous amount of noise, to the point that we could barely hear the presentation.
But, keep in mind these are just a few criticisms of what was overall an awesome event! The organizers did a fantastic job overall.
Overall, it was a great event, and I'm really glad I decided to go. The venue, Davenport University, was very nice and modern. There was a huge amount of variety in the sessions, covering wildly different areas of the Microsoft universe. I got to see a lot of cool people in person and be entertained at no cost. I'm looking forward to next year.
P.S. For anyone who met me for the first time on Saturday, I apologize for my lack of conversational skills. I'm not adept at the art of small talk, and I'm aware of that. I'm actually fairly interesting once you get to know me, but I guarantee I won't wow you with my charisma at our first meeting.