Visual Studio Live is a multi-city tech conference focused on primarily the Microsoft stack. I had the privilege of attending the conference in Redmond. If you’re familiar with tech conferences, there can be great things and not so great things. Fortunately, VS Live has been full of great things!
If like me, you’ve been to Microsoft Build and the now formerly Tech Ed, you’ll know some of the ups and downs that go with big conferences like these. Here’s my take on how VS Live compares.
Location. Location. You Get the Idea VS Live Redmond is at the Microsoft campus. This is cool in and of itself. Its the center of it all. Its cool to be here and see where it all goes down. They let us have lunch at the main Microsoft commissary they call the Mixer, using a pre-loaded credit card, and tour the Visitor Center.
Big Vs Small. Build and the new Ignite are big. There are benefits to this. More swag, more networking opportunities. Typically bigger recreational events to keep the geeks busy at night, and more session offerings. More experts floating around to pick their brain. Comparatively, with a smaller conference like VS Live, you get more intimacy. This means a lot of things, and most of them, in my opinion, are good. Lets explore this.
Speaker Access. Ever want to ask a speaker a question after a session? At the bigger conferences its possible, but you’ll have to fight your way through a mosh pit of developers all clamoring around him or her immediately after they utter “so in conclusion”. At VS Live, you simply walk up and ask them a question. Sure there might be a few other developers asking questions, but you’re basically guaranteed to get some time. At Build, the speakers hang out in the cordoned off speaker zone. At VS Live, the speakers hang out among us mere mortals. You can always see them walking around the hallways during meals or breaks, and they’re more than happy to answer your questions. In fact, they actually seem to enjoy it! There’s really no emphasizing this aspect enough. Being able to talk to and hang out with experts that are approachable, not egocentric, and actually really cool and interesting people, makes all the difference. I learned a lot just through side conversations. They also provided round table sessions with folks from the Microsoft team and speakers. Again, you get plenty of chances to talk to knowledgeable people and ask them questions. Its expected and encouraged. You’re not competing with a mob of people.
Bathrooms If you’re female, this doesn’t mean anything to you and you can skip to the next section 🙂 There’s no better representation of the (unfortunate and unnecessary) gender imbalance in tech than the length of lines for the men’s vs women’s bathroom. In smaller conferences like VS Live, if you’re a guy, the lines aren’t 10 miles long.
Food The food at VS Live is better than Build, hands down in my opinion.
Content The sessions at VS Live are relevant to what you can use TODAY. The content is more rich, in my opinion. Its a good mix of bleeding edge and practical. In depth and informational. The bigger conferences tend to be a bit infomercially. That’s all well and good, they kind of have to be. At VS Live, they seem to be striking a good balance between addressing the challenges we face in the trenches daily, as well as getting us up to speed with the things we need to keep current.
Fun Stuff to Do VS live did a good job of providing fun stuff to do at night.
In short, I’d consider VS Live the next time you’re convincing your boss to pay for something and send you out of town. I’ll post more on this topic later. What are your thoughts? Happy conferencing!