Microsoft Ignite 2019 Recap

Monday, November 11, 2019 5:48 AM
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Last week, Microsoft held their annual Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida. I was there recording interviews for my podcast, the Microsoft Cloud Show, presenting one session on Leveraging React in SharePoint Framework solutions (recording available on that link). This year, I made time to attend a handful of sessions. Here's a fun fact, I attended more sessions at this year's conference than all previous four (4) Ignite conferences combined, including all sessions I've presented & live podcasts I've streamed! In this post, I wanted to share a few thoughts…

Overall, Microsoft Ignite is a well done event. Setting aside it's the one conference I can get to without a flight because it's just a two-hour drive south of where I live, it's as close to a command performance for the people at Microsoft I want to sync up with. I'm not a fan of huge crowds, so having roughly 30,000 people at the conference is a bit daunting, but you take what you can get.

Here's a pro-tip: Looking for a specific session or to watch a replay? Check this fantastic resource out from John White & the folks at TyGraph!: https://link.tygraph.com/IgniteSessions

The Good

As I said above, this is a well-implemented conference and one I find very worthwhile to attend.

Expo + The Hub

The expo + “The Hub” is the best part. It wasn't so much the vendor area, or the Microsoft booth area, but everything else. If you were there, I'm talking about everything to the right. From community areas to Microsoft Mechanics to the podcast area, Ignite Live stage or the big screen area. It was well organized and easy to get around or meet up with people.

There was even an area for therapy dogs! As a dog person, it was nice to head over and scratch some heads :)

Podcast Area

This year the conference decided to take over the big stage 100% for their use and to run a live show. This was a change where the last few years, they invited some podcasts to do a live stream from their stage… bummer that's no longer available, but still, a good setup.

The podcast area was just a series of rooms you could book ahead of time to record a show. We had one time booked, which went well, but availability was limited. Nice perk, but we did most of our interviews from the expo floor.

Unconference

This was a new session type at the event. These were more like structured “birds-of-a-feather” talks. I attended one on podcasting & one on going from solopreneur to entrepreneur. Both were great and I will submit one for next year!

Theater Sessions

These 20-minute sessions were on stages scattered throughout the expo area or the Hyatt Regency adjacent to the conference center. I like this format… looking forward to checking out some of the recordings and submitting topics next year. I preferred these over the breakout sessions.

The Bad

Session room logistics. While I'm sure this is tough to schedule, it would have been nice if similar sessions, such as all M365 sessions were on one floor at one end of the conference. I found myself having quite the walk between breakout sessions when they were back-to-back. I suspect most people are there for a specific theme.

Food… conference food isn't good IMHO. It would have been cool to have a food truck army outside the conference center for those who didn't want a lunch mass produced for 30,000 people. Like most conference food options, I found myself surviving on protein bars throughout the day.

I also found random seating lacking. A few times I wanted to grab a seat and have a chat with someone, or just breakout my iPad and work through some stuff. Many times it was hard to find a spot.

The Ugly

Breakout session duration, this was ugly and I heard the same thing from many people.

This year all breakout sessions were 45 minutes. Most of the sessions I sat through ran at least a few minutes long. I like the theater format of 20-minute sessions as you have to stay focused on your topic. But for a technical breakout session, 45 minutes is just too short. Couple that with the fact that there was a 30 minute break between sessions.

I would rather have seen 60 minute sessions with a 15 minute break between sessions.

If they do 45 minute sessions again next year, I don't think I'll submit to present one of those again. I wasn't pleased with how my breakout session was delivered as I felt too rushed. Rather, I'll work on proposing the 20-minute theater sessions.

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