Today I discovered I'm in the wrong Rosen. The Rosen Center is the speaker hotel, the Rosen Plaza is just another hotel. The conference center beside the hotel is the wrong conference center, Tech Ed is held across the street from the Rosen Center. Its only a couple of blocks away, which translates into a mile-plus walk in the steaming swamp heat that is Orlando.
Woke up early and headed for the Peabody Hotel, more or less across the street. The Regional Director (RD) Summit meeting was being held there, Tech Eds are the usual place you'll find a concentration of RDs. RD Summits are comprised typically of three things:
- Insider discussions with Microsoft where they brief us on NDA stuff that will be coming in the future (such as announcements at Tech Ed)
- Interactive discussions with teams around products in earlier stages of development (stuff that is really, really NDA)
- RD specific tasks, like direction of the program, awards, stuff like that
The pack of RDs this year wasn't the biggest, with many trickling in over the course of the day. Sunday is also pre-con day for Tech Ed, and RDs are prone to pre-cons... Kim Tripp, Tim Huckaby and Kate Gregory were all doing pre-cons. Steve Forte, Carl Franklin and Scott Golightly showed up noonish.
I was there early, but that's because I was worried - I had foolishly agreed to give a talk to the RDs. A talk on blogging. This is a problem for two reasons.
- I am only a marginally effective blogger.
- Giving a presentation to Regional Directors is a worse-case scenario for any presenter.
So, how to deal with these two issues.
The RD Manager at the moment, Kim Sanchez (Kevin Schuler is on leave), asked me if I would put together a talk on ideas around being a more effective blogger. One of the anchor points of The Region, the new Regional Director web site, is a feed from the blogs of the RDs. The goal of the talk was to help the RDs to know how to be more effective at blogging - not that they're bad bloggers, but we can always get better. My response was "Why me? Ask Scott Hanselman, he's the master blogger of the RDs." Unfortunately, Scott wasn't coming to Tech Ed.
So I did the next best thing: I asked Scott to talk to me about blogging. I put on my head set, opened up One Note and then typed as fast as I could for about two hours.
Its not that I didn't have my own ideas about blogging. Its just that Scott thinks so much about it and brain dumps so quickly, it seemed silly to start anywhere else. At the end of two hours, my brain and fingers were sore, but I had a heck of a start on a talk. Then I spent some time gathering some other viewpoints, pulling together some links, and presto-change-o, I had a talk. Which brings us to issue #2: presenting it to the RDs.
Many of the best speakers you've ever seen at any conference ever are Regional Directors. And there they are, watching me. And I'm not this great blogger, I've researched the topic, but fundamentally, I'm a hypocrite advocating things like using FeedBurner and URL rewriting when I'm not using them (but I will start soon, I promise!). I wanted to convey the fact that I'm just the messenger and I know I'm full of crap... which gave me an idea. I pitched it to Kim, and she agreed to supply rubber dog poop. So just before I went up to present the blogging talk, a couple of plastic bags containing rubber dog poop were placed on each table. My theory was, if I was full of crap, they could throw them at me.
Richard Hundhausen immediately complied and I caught my first poop. So far so good. The presentation went well, with several RDs that are into blogging engaging in lively debate. I should point out that an RD Summit is really a gathering of friends who don't get to see each other all that often. And like most groups of friends who rarely get together, they love to grind on each other. So the debate was really lively, which was good for me, since that meant they were grinding on each other, rather than me.
My real mistake was not considering that we scheduled the blogging talk over lunch, which is not the most appetizing time to have rubber dog poop on the table. On the other hand, a number of poops immediately went missing and were put to work in harassment missions on the MVP Summit next door.
No, I'm not going to go through my blogging talk in detail: I'll let Scott do that. He asked for my notes, so I sent them over, he planned to blog about it some time soon.
Shortly after that Steve Forte arrived and I decided I needed to get out of the room for awhile... I was more nervous than I thought! So I took the opportunity to take a walk, discover I was at the wrong Rosen hotel, figure out which conference center Tech Ed was in and get registered.
This year I'm registered as Staff, rather than a Speaker. This is really, really useful for me, since it makes it very easy to get in and out of almost anything at Tech Ed when I'm trying to find a guest or record a show for .NET Rocks. Stevie registered at the same time, but for some reason his badge said Stephen Forte Forte. When I saw Forte Forte, I immediately said "Tempo Tempo!" which connects to a long running story about some hot Turkish pop stars . And Stevie's reaction to that when they offered to fix his badge was to get it changed to Tempo Tempo Forte Forte. They agreed, and he was pleased.
From the registration area we wandered over to the sponsors' booths to check out the Strangeloop booth. It looked awesome, even not entirely set up.
After that it was time for speaker check-in with the speaker boss, Lynn Edwards. Stephen and I walked into the Speaker Room and immediately dropped to our knees and went prostrate in our standard response to being before Lynn... "We are NOT WORTHY!" It makes Lynn happy. We got our speaker shirts and headed back for the Peabody in time for the group photo.
The group photo this year was taken out on the pool deck, and took longer than usual because we waited for Tim Huckaby and Kate Gregory to show up... they kept calling as they ran from the conference center back to the Peabody to be in the photo. In total, there were about 35 RDs in the picture.
Then it was time to head back down to the summit room for the awards portion of the day. The RD Program gives out bronze, silver and gold awards based on your reach. I won gold again this year along with about a dozen other RDs. The final award given out is RD of the Year, and this year it went to... none other than Carl Franklin! A fine standing ovation was given. I think Carl was quite surprised.
The awards ended and we all loaded into a bus to head to the RD Party at Tu Tu Tango. Its an interesting place, vaguely resembling the Spanish Tapas Bars of Barcelona. There's occasionally a flamenco performance, and lots of little tasty plates of food. But for the most part, the RDs do what the RDs always want to do when they're together - they talked. Endlessly. And drank.
After three hours or so the party was winding up so it was time to move onto another party, this one the Party with Palermo! Jeff Palermo is a friend of the show, Iraqi vet and one of the nHibernate Mafia out of Austin. And he throws these really great parties at conferences. The last one was at the MVP Summit. This one was at the Glo Lounge, and about 450 people showed up. .NET Rocks! also sponsored the party, so Carl and I were greeted with plenty of cheers when we arrived. More talking and drinking ensued. At the party Carl met an old friend of his named Tina. Tina and Carl met waaaay back when Carl was living in Orlando, going to audio engineering school. Tina is a charmer, she fit in with our unruly mob just fine.
Eventually even the Party with Palermo was winding down, somewhere around midnight. But we weren't done yet, so we gathered up and headed back to the Rosen Plaza for more drinks. Our group ended up being Stephen Forte, Chris Menegay, Carl & Tina and our new friend Arthur (another blue badge pitching in with the RD program) and April (who works with the MVP program). At some point during the Party with Palermo Steve and Arthur had entered into a competition to get the most compromising photograph of themselves with a woman they had just met. This meant that Steve and Arthur were constantly flirting with the wait staff and other female patrons.
Arthur managed to convince all four of the quite beautiful waitresses at the Glo Lounge to pose with him in fairly provocative poses. Steve upped the ante by laying down on a pool table and getting Tina to straddle him and feed him cherries. You see the progression here. So having moved onto the Rosen, they were looking for more opportunities.
In the middle of all this entered Brigit and Virginia, part of the Strangeloop team. They were quick to order drinks and get out of the line of fire to watch the festivities. For me, it was a bit of a Seinfeld-esque "Worlds Colliding" moment. But, that's life in the big city. Eventually around 2am Birgit and Virginia headed up to their room. Steve ended the competition by convincing a pretty lady from another table near by to pose with him for a photo. She pulled down her shirt to maximize cleavage and shoved his nose in there. Arthur surrendered.
It wasn't long before there was no more booze to be had, and we dispersed to our respective hotels. Tomorrow the conference would really begin.