There are conferences, and there are conferences… In my role as a Microsoft Evangelist for Veeam I have the opportunity to visit a lot of conferences and to speak at many of them. The most known ones are the Microsoft TechED conferences or any large vendor conference. Most of the time, they are very well and strict organized and there is always a large expo showfloor with many other vendors or partners. Lately you see the rise of more, smaller, independent conferences such as System Center Universe (US, Europe and Asia) that replaces the lost Microsoft Management Summit and lots of country local conferences (think ITProceed in Belgium as an example…)
The E2EVC (Experts 2 Experts Virtualization Conference) is such a smaller conference which doesn’t come from a vendor but brings a lot of great things during three days. And the value you get from that is not necessary in the presentations alone (they are very valuable but later on that…)
First is first, after multiple weeks of travelling (lost counting) and a sick family, E2EVC was going to be the conference too much for me… I had fever, was very tired and had to skip the last half day because it was just that moment of the year when the body says enough is enough. But that didn’t stop me from learning the value of this conference and to participate the first two days at (sort of) full force and even present two sessions.
E2EVC is three days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and is about virtualization (both server and VDI) and is done twice a year and Europe and (for now) once in the USA. Every time it is in another city and this time the beautiful city of Brussels was the guest city (Yes, I’m biased, I am a Belgian ). Friday and Saturday are full days and Sunday is a half day (the one I missed because of sickness). Top presenters from Europe come over and present different sessions in 2 tracks (besides on Friday where the first couple of hours there is a single track…). There is no speaker room, no booth stand or expo hall, just 2 meeting rooms in a hotel. And yet, the value is huge for attendees (and sponsors)
The biggest value is the fact that you have a lot of experts in the room. Not only the presenters but also other experts and that it is small enough that you can talk to any expert you want and ask questions or start a heated discussion. I’ve listened on a heated, passionate discussion (but in a friendly atmosphere) between a VMware expert and a Hyper-V expert over beers where each pointing out various strengths of the platforms. I have seen and heard a great discussion on various storage solutions and the differences between them. I participated in a lengthy discussion about deduplication and the advantages / disadvantages of software deduplication or appliance based deduplication.
Because there is no expo floor, and therefore the sponsors were all in the room during the sessions and during the evening activities, it was rather easy to step up to a vendor and start a technical discussion on their product. Sponsors also know to sent technical people to this conference that can talk about the product in depth. And the people at the conference really do take this opportunity. I was very (positive) surprised about the depth of questions (and the amount) that I had on Veeam Backup and Replication. (And I was there both as a sponsor attendee and as a independent speaker about other technologies).
Lots of the attendees have visited this conference more than once and many presenters who have experiences this one want to come back (Hello Alex, me too ) but for me it was a first. Most of them knew each other and I first thought that I would be the man in the corner somewhere but that didn’t happen at all. People just talk to each other, introduce each other and so on. After two days, I can say I met a lot of new (and interesting) people.
There are of course the sessions also. And those are very good. Some of the presenters might not be the best presenters in presentation skills (but that’s relative) but the value of the information is huge. I’ll take a presentation with lots of interesting information and a less practiced presenter over a great presenter with some marketing slides. Which reminds me that this is one of these times that a sponsor doesn’t bring a marketing presentation but talks technically to an audience, which is always fun to do for people like me . I might have not learned that much on Hyper-V, but I gained some knowledge on Xen and VMware and in the end, learning stuff is always valuable
It is not your average conference, but that makes the value rather high. Great presentations, fantastic opportunities to discuss with everyone, good atmosphere. Yes, it is not your strict organization of other conferences but hey, a bit of chaos makes life interesting. Yes, you can complain that the coffee had a huge line, the internet in the hotel was below any level and the food was not enough (By the time I came out from my presentation, lunch was all gone and a few of us were left without lunch). But if you complain about that, you come for the wrong reasons to this conference. The value is described above and if my agenda permits, I’m sure I will go back (at least when Alex allows me too…)