With more than 2100 attendees, numbers at Microsoft’s Tech Ed 09 stayed steady this year, despite the economic downturn. Microsoft increased the capacity for 2009 because in prior years tickets sold out in a matter of weeks, but there were still tickets available this year. In fact, Microsoft kept the prices deliberately low this year to reduce the barrier to entry. Scott Wylie, Microsoft’s Director of Developer and Platform Strategy, said one way it did this was to simply offer New Zealand delegates the option to purchase a discounted HP netbook, rather than give them one free with registration, like at the Australian Tech Ed.
“We thought that in economic times like these we want to make it easier for people to get here,” he said.
With an overall cost of more than $3 million, Wylie said the money spent on the three-day event is “an investment that we take very seriously”. New Zealand’s Tech Ed is just one of a number of regional Tech Eds, but ours is the largest per capita in the world. Wylie said that Tech Ed North America draws 10,000 people from a vastly larger population and he thinks the New Zealand Tech Ed is big because Kiwis are typically early adopters of technology.
“I think it comes down to Kiwi ingenuity and thirst for knowledge,” he said. “Kiwis are great innovators.”
Although the event is based on sessions and education, Wayne Forgesson, Director of Business Development at Intergen, believes that Tech Ed is also an important event for resellers and partners. Intergen is known for its yellow-hued presence at Tech Ed each year, and Forgesson said that in addition to branding and education, the event allows partners to hear from their peers.
“With respect to Microsoft, people don’t want to come along and hear just the Microsoft story all the time,” he said. “They want to hear what people have been doing out there with the technology.”
Tech Ed is primarily for education, but Forgesson said that while nobody attends the event with an order book, Intergen has got sales leads from it, even if they didn’t appear until six months later. In terms of events, Forgesson rated it at the top of the list and said “for us, it’s the number one thing we do every year”.
There were also a number of partners and resellers with a presence in the Tech Ed Marketplace, where 2m x 3m stalls started at around $2500 and sold out quickly.
With echoes of Microsoft CFO Chris Liddell’s keynote speech, Wylie commented that companies who continue to invest and deliver excellence will “take a greater share of the global pie” when the upturn comes.