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Diary of a first-time TechEd presenter

TechEd NZ 2008 is over! These are my thoughts and experiences of this year's TechEd.

Day 1

The keynote started off with a surprise: Speakers from National and Labour were invited to present their broadband/IT policies. John Key presented for National, evangelising their policy of bringing fibre to the home across the nation. I was impressed by how down to earth his speaking styling was and he got great lulz with his pitch, "A vote for National is a vote for high definition porn." David Cunliffe presented Labour's policy. He also spoke really well, although after Key's laidback speech it felt much more political to me.

After this, Amit Mital, general manager of the Live Mesh platform took the floor. His content was more practical compared to last year’s keynote by Lou Carbone but I didn't enjoy it nearly as much. Weirdly, after talking about Live Mesh and hyping it up, we never saw a demo of it in action.

Hands on Labs
As Intergen is the Hands on Labs sponsor, I contributed to the Hands On Labs launcher this year. The most interesting and visible change to the launcher is that lab manuals no longer need to be printed, instead displaying on a second screen. The usability is better than the traditional paper manuals with the ability to copy and paste code from the electronic copy and it doesn't require a couple of trees’ worth of paper to print everything out 100 times.

After looking at a couple of alternatives, I chose to convert the manual documents to the XPS format and display them using the WPF DocumentViewer. This approach ended up being really simple and provides a great user experience. Since it is WPF, with some help from Intergen’s Interactive team I was able to style up the DocumentViewer with Intergen colours and logos. When I told Scott Hanselman about what I had done with the Hands on Lab launcher this year, he was somewhat shocked and said it was the first time he had heard of anyone actually using XPS.

Ask the Experts
Finally a chance to legitimately wear a hat with the word "Expert" on it! The session I presented at Tech Ed was document generation using Open XML and SharePoint. Since the session was part of the Office stream that made me an Office expert. Given my general uselessness with PowerPoint and Excel I thought this was pretty funny but I did get some questions on Open XML that I was able to provide good answers for.

Day 2

OFC404 - Open XML Development Turning SharePoint Data into Microsoft Office Documents: A Deep Dive into SharePoint Document Assembly Using Open XML

"We hope to provide you with as much value as there are words in this session's title." - Reed Shaffner.

My session, co-presented with Reed Shaffner, went really well. The demos went without a hitch and I think the content was the sort of information that people went to the session looking for. There were a lot of questions which I think we covered well.

At the end of the presentation, we offered a copy of the demo source code to anyone that wanted it, both as downloads on the TechEd website and copying it directly to a USB key right there and then, which worked out well.

Hanging out in the Speakers’ Room
I got asked to present at TechEd quite late this year and I ended up with unfinished work that needed doing at TechEd. Most of Tuesday after my presentation was spent working away in the Speakers Room.

As a presenter, this year I had the opportunity to spend time in the Speakers’ Room, and hanging out with the speakers and event organisers was a great experience. Last year I was a delegate at TechEd, so it has been really cool this year to be able to interact with a lot of the presenters I saw in 2007.

A highlight was spending the afternoon sitting next to Scott Hanselman and then later meeting up and walking down to TechFest with him. Scott is a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft and is a well known Microsoft blogger. Hanselminutes, the podcast he hosts, is my favourite technology podcast and the knowledge and passion Scott shows in his podcast for techie stuff transfers to real life.

This year, TechFest was held at Princess Wharf and spread across three bars. The music and ambiance was great.

Day 3

Packing Up
The timing of my flight back to Wellington only left me a few hours to explore TechEd. I saw some sessions, checked out the market place and did various other TechEd-ish things before packing up and checking out.

Side note: I am pretty sure I bumped into Teller of Penn & Teller fame in the SkyCity Grand hotel lobby. I would have gone up to talk to him but hearing Teller speak, who is famous for not speaking, quite possibly would have caused my head to explode!

TechEd 2008 has been a blast. Bring on TechEd 2009!

James Newton-King is a developer based in Intergen's Wellington's office. He recently wrote TextGlow, a Silverlight Open XML document reader that was released to great acclaim. To read more of his writing on Open XML, Silverlight and .NET development in general check out his regular blog at http://james.newtonking.com/.

Posted by: James Newton-King, Developer | 05 September 2008

Tags: TechEd

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