You might probably wonder why I’m writing this article; why on Earth would I try to convince you to attend this conference? Well, first let me start by telling you that it’s NOT because I’m one of the speakers ~ though if that were a reason to attend, I would be flattered if that would be the reason. Anyway, back to reality now…

I consider myself a frequent conference attendee. As such I’ve attended multiple conferences over the past few years. Despite what you might think, I did not attend TechEd Europe or North America. Although they’re definitely on my “to-do” list, I usually prefer smaller scale conferences like the recently demised “The Experts Conference”.

So what is it that makes me want to promote this conference above the many others that exist out there?

Just like you, if I spend my money on a conference, I’m looking to get the most value out of it. This means that I need to get valuable content and I need to be able to socialize with like-minded peers. I prefer having an international crowd – that way you get a more diverse view on things. After all, how things are handled in the US can be very different from how certain IT related problems are dealt with in e.g. Europe; if at all the same business problems exist.

How do you know if content will be good? Actually, you don’t really know until you’ve attended. However, there are some benchmarks which can help you identify if content is likely to be good. And I can assure you, the signs for IT Connections are good. Heck, they’re even great! First, let’s have a look at some of the speakers who will speak at the conference:

Mary Jo Foley, Steve Goodman, Martina Grom, Adnan Hendircks, Dan Holme, Tim McMichael, Jeff Mealiffe, Mike Pfeiffer, Tony Redmond, Paul Robichaux, John Rodriguez, Mark Russinovich, Loryan Strant, Greg Taylor, Rod Trent, Jaap Wesselius and many, many more.

Anyone who hasn’t been hiding under a rock and will easily recognize most of these names. Every single one of them are reputable and well respected individuals that – in some way – have put their mark on the Technical Communities. Some of these speakers are MVPs, others are well-published authors, Certified Masters or Microsoft Employees. Each of these accreditations mean something. So, the likeliness to hear some crap come out of their mouths is very small. Additionally, you should know that all sessions in the Exchange track are subject to Tony Redmond’s scrutiny. I’ve spoken at several events and I have never had so much valuable input back as from Tony. He’s really working hard to ensure the quality, and by the looks of it you won’t be disappointed.

You might think that this is no different from, let’s say TechEd. Maybe that’s true. However, Microsoft conferences are usually about “how things are designed to work” whereas conferences like these will give you more information on “how things actually work [in the real world]”. Both might seem the same, but there’s a subtle, yet significant nuance between both. It’s just that ‘small’ difference that YOU – as an IT Pro – is looking for. That’s why conferences like these have a chance to stand up against the much larger ones, like Microsoft organizes.

Anyway, enough eulogizing the speakers; I wouldn’t want them to become complacent over it… 🙂

A second point which allows you to benchmark a conference are the sessions. A good speaker is one thing, but if he/she talks about a topic which does not interest you, it’s likely not going to bring you much value. And that’s exactly another point where this conference stands out from amongst other conferences. I mean, just have a look at that session list (for Exchange)!

I highly doubt that – in this very diverse list of sessions – there’s nothing that interests you…

Then there’s the aspect of “socializing”. There’s actually nothing much I can say more than: “It’s in VEGAS, baby”! Although I have never been to Vegas before myself, I can hardly imagine there will be a lack of socializing-opportunities. Some of them are organized by the conference, but ultimately it’s up to YOU to socialize with peers. And believe me the best conversations I ever had were at dinner or while having a beer or two (or three, or four, or…). The fact that you don’t have to mingle amongst several thousands of other people is just an additional bonus as you’ll be much more easily able to connect with speakers and other attendees.

Finally, there’s the aspect of cost. Although there’s less impact for people living in the US, it’s usually more of a problem when you’re travelling from Europe.
So, let’s have a look at what this conference might cost you:

Airfare (Brussels – Las Vegas) +/- 800 EUR (just checked via
Conference (Basic Registration) +/- 1.130 EUR
Hotel (6 nights) +/- 900 EUR
TOTAL +/- 2.830 EUR

Considering that a full week of training on Microsoft Exchange (Advanced Solutions of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013) will cost you about 2700 EUR EUR (incl. VAT), this conference is a bargain! You’ll find much more value from these sessions and the experience than you’ll have from a week’s training.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against training. But given the difference between both, the conference is where I’d put my money in.

Note   Because both the conference and the training would take up 5 billable days, I didn’t include them in this comparison as it wouldn’t contribute to the case anyhow.

The UC Architects

I admit, this part is a shameless plug. Nonetheless, if you’re still not convinced after all I wrote, maybe here’s something to think about. Next to some other extra activities and panel discussions that will take place at the conference, The UC Architects will have a live panel discussion (which will be recorded) with some very interesting guests! And you can attend! We are currently working very hard to make something very special out of it; so make sure to keep an eye out for more information. Whatever you do: don’t miss it!

Cheers, Michael