It all started when Kunal was approached by a Microsoft employee at a conference last year to find if there is any interest to host an Azure integration focused bootcamp in Calgary. When Kunal pitched the idea of organizing this event together, without fully being aware of what is asked off of me, I said a straight yes. For the most part, we both were genuinely interested in learning what it takes to host a successful event.
The Global Integration Bootcamp is a free event driven by user groups and communities backed by Microsoft, for anyone who wants to learn about Microsoft’s integration story. This happens every year all around the world on a set date. This year, it happened to be on March 30th in over 21 locations around the world.
For starters, Azure Integration Stack comprises
- Event Grid
- Event Hub
- Logic App
- Service Bus
- Enterprise Integration Services
- API Management
- On-premises Gateway
- Hybrid Integration
- Microsoft Flow
So, there is no dearth to the number of topics for anyone to present and we both were determined to speak and engage our audience for a couple of hours. But, is that all? Are we going to host the event only for a couple of hours? Should we reach out for help? This was the first item in our list which all of a sudden grew to a grocery list long and then we realized there is so much more to organizing an event.
There are 3 important lesson learnt hosting this event and I’d like to share for whoever is planning to organize events. These lessons are equally applicable to organizing any events and not just limited to technology focused event.
Never underestimate the power of Community
Without the community that is interested in contributing and consuming, there is no event possible. When we reached out via social media to call for speakers, we were overwhelmed by the number of people who are already established in the azure community reached out to us for support with the eagerness to present in the event. So, what we originally thought that could determine the break or make the event, completely disappeared and paved a way for us to take the event forward.
So, the next logical step was for us to create the event through event hosting site such as Eventbrite or Meetup. As it is free to host with Eventbrite, we decided to host the event through Eventbrite. Who wants to host an event that a very few folks attend? We really can’t justify the amount of time and effort that we are going to put in host the event. This being a free event, the only way to extract the value out of the event is to present quality content and ensure that we have full room participation.
To materialize this and also to show respect to the presenters who supported us that they are not disappointed by the empty chairs, we came up with a few strategies like reposting the event details in social media almost every week, gathering support from our colleagues to spread the event by word of mouth and their social media accounts to tell the world which may otherwise be non-existent for the most folks.
But, there was no need to employ any strategies as the moment we posted the event on Eventbrite, we got registration almost once every hour. I still remember the first registration that came through and it was exciting. We were absolutely blown away by the number of registrations on a full day Saturday event and the eagerness to learn from the integration stack. I was humbled by this and recognized the need to come up with the content that is worthwhile to sacrifice their Saturday.
Here is the agenda that we ended up publishing finally.
0830 – 0900 – Registration, Meet & Greet.
0900 – 0915 – Welcoming the presenters and attendees
0915 – 1015 – Integrating Microsoft Flow and PowerApps by David Drever
10-15 – 1030 – Break
1030 – 1130 – Microsoft Flow vs Logic Apps by Kent Weare
1130 – 1230 – Conversation UI with Azure Serverless by myself.
1230 – 1330 – Lunch & Social
1330 – 1430 – Hybrid Integration and Enterprise Integration Services by Kunal
1430 – 1530 – API Management – A Love Story by Shamir Charania
1530 – 1600 – Panel Discussion
Never understand the power of Friends
I can proudly say, this event is powered by Friends for the most part. Kunal and I are good friends and have known each other for a number of years.
We had a huge roadblock in terms of finding a location to host the event. Chelsea Phillip from KPMG was determined to help us out and reached out to her contacts at Microsoft to find if it is a viable option to host at Microsoft’s office. But there was a catch – Microsoft agreed to allow us to host the event at Microsoft’s office provided we have a person onsite on that day to take responsibility and this was a huge blow to us and we honestly did not have any other options left for us to pursue.
We reached out to Nasir Nasiruddin , our mutual friend who works at Microsoft as a Dynamics 365 Technical Consultant who is passionate about helping his clients to implement Dynamics 365 in their organization. Without any hesitation, he committed to be fully available for the event and help us out and thinking back we were in the verge of cancelling the event if the location hasn’t played out as expected and we owe it to Nasir for his gesture that made the event possible.
Finally, on the day of the event, Sarvesh Thuse , a good friend of us who works at Collins Aerospace as Senior Software Systems Engineer, came in early to the event and took care of just everything from reception, registration, food, cleaning etc., allowing us to focus on running the sessions. I can’t imagine managing the sessions, presenters, attendees as well as managing all the miscellaneous tasks that could come up on the day of the event. Sarvesh made our day way easier to navigate and make it a success overall.
Never underestimate organizing the event
Presenting in the event is something, but organizing an event is something else. Organizing an event could remind you of the support your friends and the community can extend. This is not the first time I am organizing an event, but the first time in the near past.
There are a number of things that could go into making an event quite successful. I have created a public trello board that could enlist all the todos to organize an event.
Any event, big or small, if backed by a sponsor will greatly help the organizers as it takes out the burden of owning the cost of the event on top of expending the great deal of time and effort that requires to run the event. Charan Sodhi, who co-founded Evolvous recently sponsored the event and we are very thankful for his team for the sponsorship.
The event day started quite early for us and the speakers arrived and promptly ensured that they are able to connect their laptops to the venue infrastructure and taking all the due diligence necessary. The sessions went quite as expected and we found the attendees to be quite engaged with the event – asking questions from different perspectives, engaging with the speakers offline to get their insights on some of their day to day problems and challenges. We conducted a QnA panel with the speakers to address any pending questions which quickly paved a way for interesting discussions and thoughts.
Overall, it was quite an exciting day and a successful event.