Last night, I attended the 11th Microsoft New Zealand Partner Awards at Shed 10 on Auckland’s waterfront.
And you probably know that it was a whole new look for the awards to go with the streamlining of the awards categories - but how did it go?
Walking into the large warehouse at the start of the night, I was met by a simple but classy mise en scène.
Even the collection of eclectically-sized disco balls dangling from the exposed steel beam above the bar added to the modern-chic feel.
Another striking feature was the minimal number of seats and tables - this is not your grandad’s awards evening.
While I did enjoy being able to move around relatively freely, the lack of seating did cause a slight issue which I will talk about in a moment.
There was no served meal or hour-long wait in a line for a lukewarm buffet - Instead, servers move amongst the guests handing out caviar, arancini, and (my personal favourite) deep-fried tofu in a steamed bun with some kind of heavenly tamari sauce.
Mike McRoberts MC’d the night, his effortless charm and gravitas lending the occasion more weight than, as Barrie Sheers said, “Some comedian telling bad IT jokes.”
However, as with any experiment, there were some hitches that had to be overcome.
For starters, all the trophies were stolen the night before the event (no, seriously - no doubt by some entitled millennial wanting to beef up their CV because of the job market).
Fortunately, there was a stunt-double available and the show could go on.
The only other hiccup came, I think, from the combination of having all the attendees standing (as sitting on the few seats available would have meant zero visibility), plus having the stage at the narrow end of the space so the audience were spread down to the far (and I mean far) end of the building.
This led to a lot of shushing throughout the night as McRoberts, Sheers, and the other presenters sometimes struggled to speak over the rumbling of 400 excited partners and customers.
However, with the exception of one or two disgruntled people stuck in the cheap… standing area, the general conversation was that the changes were definitely an improvement.
The pace was good and the audience was genuinely excited for every award winner; cheers and applause were not in short supply.
What particularly struck me was the feedback that I was getting from the customers who had come along to support the partners.
Representatives from Emerge Aotearoa, who worked with Cloud for Good winners Theta, and Carters, who worked with Data & AI nominated Stellar, both waxed lyrical about what a pleasure it was to work with their Microsoft partners.
Finally, I have to mention how great it was to see a mixture of male and female executives up there presenting the awards, even if it wasn’t quite a 50/50 balance - next year, no doubt, we will see some people of colour up there handing out the accolades as well.
The main thing that I will take away from the evening is the atmosphere that was as effervescent as the wine and the positivity and support that exuded from everyone in the room.
The new and improved Partner Awards gets a thumbs up from me and, with a few tweaks, I can see it getting a double thumbs up next year.