Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Logistical problems mar WPC06

ow hard is it to run a good conference? Apparently, it's pretty difficult. Microsoft and the Boston Convention Center (and EventPoint and CRG Events, who both seem to have some hand in running this thing) had a tough day yesterday at the Worldwide Partner Conference.

On one hand, the content at the breakout sessions I've been to was very good (especially Gianpaolo's session on SaaS). And there were a couple of good demonstrations in the keynotes. But the list of things that have gone wrong is far longer than the list of things gone right:
  • They ran out of breakfast. How do you run out of breakfast at something like this? Do you not know how many people are coming? We arrived just after 8:00 this morning; the keynote was supposed to begin at 8:30, but because so many people were delayed because of the Big Dig accident, they announced that everything was going to be pushed back 30 minutes all day. Except, apparently, breakfast. As we walked in, they were removing all of the food.
  • The keynotes ran long. VERY long. I know they were put in a bad position by having to delay the start by 30 minutes. So how did they respond? The opening keynote (Ballmer and Allison Watson) started 30 minutes late, but finished an hour and ten minutes late. It ran forty minutes long! So now instead of being a half-hour behind schedule, they were an hour behind schedule.
  • They ran out of lunch. How do you run out of lunch at something like this? The keynotes were scheduled to end at 11:45. With the 30 minute schedule bump, they should have ended at 12:15. I hung in there until 12:40, but I had set up structured networking appointments, so I had 30 minutes of meetings before I could nose over to the food tables…which were, by then, completely empty. I actually had a convention center employee tell me that my best shot at food was grabbing a cab to go into town.
  • The Gold Certified Partner lunches (there were two of them) both ran out of food.
  • The food isn't in one place—it's at various stations throughout the event hall. This is a problem, because when one station runs out of food (or is shut down), I can't see if there is any food anywhere else!
  • No coffee available throughout the day. There was coffee at breakfast (although the first station I went to was out), but later in the morning and through the afternoon, there was no coffee available. There's a reason we call it a "coffee" break, Microsoft: it's because we drink coffee then.
  • Not enough tables for structured networking. Through CRG Events, Microsoft has enabled conference attendees to find each other and arrange meetings at a designated table for a 15 minute meeting. The format is actually conducive to very focused meetings; I like it a lot. But, as of last week, it was impossible to book tables for most of Wednesday—all the tables were booked!
  • No VPN access through their wireless. I can understand the need for high security when I'm at a Microsoft facility. But when providing wireless at an event like this, why go to the trouble to put so much security in place that I can't get on my VPN? It's always like this at Microsoft events, but not at other conferences. It means I can't check my e-mail during the day, which is a serious pain.

  • Ok, so that's the good and the bad so far. Now, on to the great. Last night, at the US Partner party, the entertainment was supplied by the GoGos. I'm not going to go on about it, but I'll say this: 25 years after Beauty and the Beat came out, they still rock, and they look like they are having a blast on stage. And that crush I had on Belinda Carlisle two decades ago? Still going strong.

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