I attended my first IT/Dev Connections (#ITDevCon) this year when it was held September 14-17 in Las Vegas at the Aria hotel. I have had the opportunity to attend a variety of technical conferences over the years and I was still able to find myself pleasantly surprised by this event in many ways. The following are some of the lessons that I learned and highlights that I found from attending IT/Dev Connections.

  • IT/Dev Connections felt like a user group focused event: It is difficult to maintain the feeling of a user group event when you have over a thousand attendees. IT/Dev Connections brought together the majority of the attendees at the first keynote (shown below). After the keynote breakout sessions occurred during the rest of the day. The breakout sessions I was involved with had seating for just over 100 people which provides a more in-person and relaxed atmosphere when compared with rooms that seat several hundred. This allows the attendees to feel much more able to interject with questions throughout the presentation. The end result was an experience which felt like a large user group event versus a large-scale conference.

  • Speakers: IT/Dev connections was able to bring together both excellent speakers and a large number of speakers (by my count easily more than 100). Many of the speakers that I ran into were well known names in their communities and I also had the pleasure to find that there were a significant number of speakers from the MVP community (including my own Cloud and Datacenter Management MVP group). The picture below shows two fellow CDM MVP’s and another speaker deep in final prep for one of their presentations.

  • Track configuration: IT/Dev connections provided a total of six tracks (C&D – Cloud & Datacenter, DBI – Data Platform & Business Intelligence, DEV – Development Platform & Tools, EC – Enterprise Collaboration, EMM – Enterprise Management & Mobility, EXEC – Executive Insights). These tracks contained multiple sessions which could be occurring concurrently. The example below shows the EC track with four different sessions occurring at the same time. This approach to tracks and sessions has several benefits:
    • With up to 20+ sessions occurring at the same time you can pretty well guarantee that you can find something of interest during any time that sessions are occurring.
    • I love the color coded track approach combined with the letters to indicate the track. Attendee’s lanyards were also color-coded to make it simple to identify attendees and speakers and what track they were primarily interested in.
    • Sessions in the same track were located in the same general vicinity so it was easy to find other sessions in the track without having to search the convention center to find them.

  • It does not have to take an army: I was surprised by how few Penton employees I found running the event and was impressed by how well run it was. According to Rod the onsite team included 8 people plus 5 track chairs. While I am sure that there was an incredible amount of work done up-front for this conference the fact that a relatively small team accomplished this event was truly remarkable.
  • Mobile application: The mobile application ran on all major platforms and provided a way to quickly follow what was occurring on twitter, to see announcements of updates at the event, and to download PowerPoint presentation slides. The only critique that I would apply to the mobile application is to state that the website should have access to the same content as the mobile application allowing users to use whichever they prefer.
  • Lanyards: This was a little thing but often little things make the difference. The lanyards used at this conference had two connections on them on the top left and top right side of the lanyard. The result was a lanyard which did not flip around to the other side all of the time. They also used large lettering for the attendee’s name so you didn’t need to feel like you were invading their personal space trying to find out (or remember) what their name was.

Summary: If you are looking for a technical conference which spans a large number of technologies and does so with a user group feel you should definitely check out IT/Dev Connections!

For more insights into this conference check out: http://windowsitpro.com/connections/itdev-connections-2015-pictures and of course http://www.devconnections.com/.