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Is consolidating Microsoft conferences the right move?

The Microsoft Unified Technology Event will replace a number of smaller conferences, which concerns one Exchange MVP. How will this affect attendees' learning experiences?

Microsoft recently announced a unified technology event for enterprises that will take place in Chicago, Illinois, in 2015. This new conference, the Microsoft Unified Technology Event for Enterprise, will replace the well-known and widely attended TechEd conference. But Microsoft isn't just canning TechEd in favor of this newer, larger event -- it's making the Microsoft Exchange, Lync, SharePoint and Project conferences all disappear.

Although Microsoft hasn't released any official numbers, the Microsoft Unified Technology Event (MUTE) likely will be massive. Taking into account that TechEd and SharePoint conferences each reached about 10,000 attendees, and the other events took in anywhere from 500 to 2,500 each, one can only assume Microsoft needs to organize an event large enough to accommodate the better part of all these attendees.

While the company may be motivated by economic reasons to consolidate to one large event instead of conducting several smaller conferences, some in the technology community have been loud and clear on their concerns about Microsoft's new plan. And I'm not sure if Microsoft is making the right move here.

There are certainly some benefits to having a single conference. With this change, for example, companies only need to send people to one conference a year, instead of multiple Microsoft events. But, this also presents a new challenge. Many organizations cannot afford to send their entire staff to a single event. With multiple events, you can spread the conferences out among various IT teams and give people the opportunity to go to conferences that will best serve their needs. It certainly will be a struggle for organizations to find the right balance of those who attend versus those who don't.

Having attended many Microsoft conferences in recent years -- including the Microsoft Exchange Conference, Lync Conference, Connections, the Experts Conference and TechEd -- I think smaller, more focused conferences have a significant benefit over larger ones. The level of interaction and technical depth at small conferences is usually much deeper than what you see at larger events. This presents Microsoft with the challenge of keeping the same feel of the Exchange, Lync, SharePoint and Project conferences while, at the same time, satisfying the needs of those who just want to learn more about the latest and greatest technologies on the market.

It's too early to say which highly specialized Microsoft conferences will be glazed over and which will receive more attention. But, if Microsoft is able to maintain technical depth -- while also offering the warm and cozy feel of specialized events -- with MUTE, it might be on to something. And there's still plenty of time for the company to figure out this balance. It won't be an easy task, but with the right mindset and effort, it's achievable -- as long as the company just doesn't create a larger version of TechEd.

As an Exchange professional, I understand Microsoft might not be able to repeat some of the things it did at the Exchange conference, such as the Exchange museum. But, I will be grateful if the company keeps the same amount of sessions and level of Exchange sessions at least on par with the Exchange conference.

About the author:
 

Michael is a Microsoft Certified Solutions Master and Exchange Server MVP from Belgium and works for ENow, a company that provides systems management software for Microsoft technologies. He specializes in Exchange, Office 365, Active Directory and a bit of Lync. He is an active contributor in the Exchange community by writing articles for several tech websites and his own blog and by participating in the UC Architects podcast. He frequently speaks at international conferences, including TechEd, IT/DEV Connections and the Microsoft Exchange Conference.

This was first published in July 2014

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