I am wrapping up some emails and getting ready to start the week tomorrow. Since I was out of the office all of last week at Convergence, I expect that tomorrow will be busy! Therefore, I want to post my final thoughts tonight on Convergence 2008 (otherwise it might never get done):
- Steve Ballmer keynote: Steve is a great speaker and I think he is one of the most direct and straight forward executives I have heard. When he gives his opinion, it isn't full of "corporate speak" and "marketing fluff" and I really appreciate that. Overall I thought his keynote was interesting but I wish he showed more software demos! On the plus side, the two demos that he did show were both for Microsoft CRM.
- Kirill Tatarinov keynote: This was the first time I heard Kirill speak and I thought he was solid. The demos were for ERP products, but I did think they were pretty interesting.
- Kevin Schofield keynote: I wasn't able to attend this in person because it was on Friday and I had already left. I plan to watch the recorded version in the next few weeks, again hoping for cool demos.
- Sold out sessions: I was very disappointed at the multiple stories I heard about "sold out" sessions where our customers and prospects were not able to attend a breakout session/event. Considering the amount of time and money people invest to attend the conference, I think this is simply in-excusable and I hope that Microsoft corrects this in the future.
- Book launch: We used the Convergence conference to launch our Working With Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 book and it was a great success. On Wednesday, Microsoft gave away approximately 1,500 copies of the book to everyone who attended the Microsoft CRM sessions presented by Brad Wilson (see photo where they put a book on every attendee's chair). In addition, the CRM product team gave away some copies of the book at the Expo trade show. We followed the book giveaways with a Sonoma Partners' celebratory party on Wednesday night, and that event went off perfectly.
- Space shuttle: On Monday night/Tuesday morning there was a space shuttle launch at 2:30am. I thought about attending the launch in person but the late night timing was too much for me to handle. Amazingly, I woke up in my hotel room at that time and I was able to see the shuttle launch from my window on the 11th floor. Unfortunately there was a heavy cloud cover that night so people could only see the shuttle for about 10 seconds before it disappeared into the clouds! I also heard some horror stories about traffic jams on the return trip for those people who attended the launch in person.
- Location: This was my first event in Orlando and overall it wasn't too bad. The weather was good, and I was able to walk back and forth between our hotel and the convention center (this is key!). I still think San Diego was the best Convergence location, but Orlando definitely beat Dallas as a Convergence host city. I learned this weekend that Convergence 2009 will be in New Orleans. Now THAT is a city that knows how to host a convention! I attended the Microsoft Partner conference in New Orleans in 2003 and it was one of my absolute favorite events. Convergence 2009 should be outstanding.
- Logistics: With more than 9,500 people attending from 60+ countries, I can't even imagine how complicated it is to host an event like Convergence. I would say that the event logistics ran pretty smoothly but I did have problems connecting to the WiFi network (too many users) and eating (lunch hall closed at 12:30pm one day!).
- Overall: Convergence is a "must attend" event for anyone who's serious about Microsoft Dynamics, and I had a great time! I spent most of the week meeting with customers, prospects or people from Microsoft so I only attended one session (about Microsoft CRM of course!). The conference does take a toll on you physically as you start around 7:30am and one can can easily go until 1:00am (or later) on almost every night with the various dinners, parties, etc. Do that five days in a row, and you can imagine how I felt on Friday! However Convergence was worth every single dime we invested, and I'm already looking forward to next year's event.