TechEd Europe has real Coke

For those of you who are confused by the title, Robert, our MD complained bitterly that the SharePoint Conference 2009 in Las Vegas only had Pepsi. I don’t know any geeks who like Pepsi, and a quick poll on twitter seemed to suggest that Robert and I aren’t alone. I just want to report that Berlin has restored my faith and has large fridges full of bottles of Coke. No Cherry Coke, however, so they don’t quite make a gold star.

This conference is HUGE. The conference centre is enormous. We arrived on Sunday by U-Bahn, which is to the north of the centre. It was a ten or fifteen minute walk to get from there to the north, where the entrance is. Fortunately, the S-Bahn station is at the north end. This morning was a bit like a football match – hundreds and hundreds of attendees streamed off two trains in the station and swarmed into the centre entrance. People were taking pictures in awe – incredible.

Big it may be, but I must admit to being a little disappointed. There are few sessions that grab me. After last year, where Andy and I struggled to cover all the new and exciting stuff between us, this year has much less for me. The developer and IT events have been combined this year, and everything seems to lean more towards dev. I get the feeling also that the individual product conferences such as SharePoint and Project are taking over as the place to get great content as they can be more focused. Overall, I think that’s a shame. It’s hard to send guys to lots of conferences, and expensive. Being able to get deep technical content across a broad range of products was the great benefit of TechEd last year, with our IT guys out one week and the devs out the next.

Compared to Barcelona, I have a few key points:

  • It’s a lot colder.
  • The venue is much more organised (although it’s massive and sprawling)
  • The venue catering seems better (food, drinks and fruit is readily available, which it wasn’t last year), although it would be better if it were closer to the session rooms. I have to make a good ten or fifteen minute round trip if I want to forage.
  • The conference pack was better last year. it’s little things, like the session abstracts and pullout cards of session plans that fit easily in your badge holder. This year is not as good – the booklet I have, whilst it fits in my badge holder, requires me to constantly flick through. Most stuff is on the web, which is great if you have an internet connection, plenty of time, and something bigger than a netbook that can run full outlook. I have none of those, so I can’t use it at all. The system is horribly unusable on a netbook. Guess what nearly all the people I’ve met so far are carrying?!
  • Did I mention that it was cold? Last night there were lines of Brass Monkeys all searching for their balls (and that’s not rude, it’s an english naval reference – go look it up!)
  • The jury is still out on a city-versus-city comparison. Berlin is quite varied in many ways; Barcelona seemed more alive.

Content so far is ok. I can’t be more excited as I’ve only been to two sessions. I can tell you, however, that Richard Riley is an excellent presenter and succinctly covered key points for IT Pros in SharePoint 2010. I’m going to a session by Joel Oleson next, and I’m looking forward to that – I have a great deal of respect for Joel’s expertise. Hopefully I will be able to post more later.

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