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The Lanham Factor The (ir)rational thoughts of a (not-so)mad man

I had the pleasure to attend the Microsoft Mid-Atlantic Community Leadership Summit at the Microsoft Training Center in Reston, VA on Saturday.  Due to logistics I was uncertain if I would be able to attend.  Many thanks to Jess for enabling me to go and participate.  It was a very beneficial event.  There were a lot of smart people with great experience contributing good ideas to better the Microsoft development community. 

We started by introducing ourselves.  There were around 40 in attendance so this took quite a while.  It was great to see some known faces (David Makogon, Kevin Hazzard, Kevin Griffin, Kevin Israel, Andrew Duthie, Dr. Z) and to meet some new faces (Rich Daly, Lance Wulfers, Pete Brown, etc.).  It was also nice to put a face with a name (Hal Hayes).

Large Events

Dux Sy (Twitter: @meetdux) talked with us about hosting large events.  He had a lot of good information based on his experiences with SharePoint Saturday events (recently hosting 1,200 attendees!).  Some notes I took are:

  • Don't be afraid to ask for lots of money.
  • Get local media such as TV stations to advertise the event.
  • Clearly define roles and responsibilities and treat it as a business project.
  • A Vendor Track was offered for platinum sponsors.  This meets the spirit of "no vendors" by clearing identifying that these sessions are "sales pitches" while at the same time making sponsorship much more attractice.
  • Liability - There was a lot of discussion regarding liability.  Dux learned that local law enforcement needed to be hired for events with this many attendees.  There were several discussions on liability and the need for insurance.
  • Recruiting may be a "problem" for some companies.  Lance Wulfers noted that he has met some companies that emphatically do NOT want their developers attending.  Ultimately, I think this is not something to worry about and many attending seem to feel the same way.
  • Code of Conduct for speakers should be defined.  Additionally, signing a Code of Conduct may be prudent.
  • Lead Time:  5 months

Event Notification and Management

We discussed event notification and management specifically around Community Megaphone, and Kevin Griffin's (@1kevgriff) Mid Atlantic Developers Mail List.  Andrew Duthie (@devhammer) offered some information that Community Megaphone is receiving a lot of traffic.  Ultimately, no decisions were solidified regarding the centralized management of event listing and broadcasting but people are thinking heavily about it.  I learned several other techniques for attracting attention to events.

Speakers/Sponsors/Marketing/Membership/Attendance

We discussed issues leaders encounter regarding speakers and sponsors and attendance.  We ultimately agreed that there are several common issues affecting these. 

  • Basics - Get back to basics.  Have more introductory sessions, more beginner topics and speakers, more "soup to nuts" sessions.
  • I am considering a presentation series to demonstrate "soup to nuts".  This will be logistically challenging but may attract repeat attendees.
  • Use "appetizer" presentations.  I have read on this but never thought it a good idea until Saturday.  Several leaders suggested this technique and described positive experiences.  This helps reach a broader audience, and it helps cultivate new speakers.
  • Hold "new speaker" workshops to mentor new speakers.  Separate these workshops from the regular meetings.
  • Volunteers - Ask specific people to perform specific tasks instead of the general "does anybody wanna?". 

Summary

Ultimately, it was a really wonderful experience.  I think the community will benefit from these types of engagements periodically.  Thanks to G. Andrew Duthie for arranging it and thanks to his family for helping!  I'm glad I was able to attend and I am excited to start implementing some changes based on what I learned.

Posted on Monday, September 20, 2010 10:37 AM | Back to top


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