I’ve sat in on four sessions today so far and there haven’t been too many take aways. I don’t know if I just haven’t chosen well, or if they saved all the dull and uninspiring content for the last day. As the day progresses, it seems more and more people are playing hookie or just flying home. However, with a $3700 price tag, I figure I better try to get all I can out of this conference. Since there isn’t much to say about the sessions I’ve sat in on, let me just take this opportunity to make some general observations:

  • The prizes have been very nice. They had a drawing for a Segway and gave out four $100 AMEX gift cards to runner ups. They had a drawing to participate in a trivia game and each participant got a free ticket to the 2008 Symposium–that’s a $3700 value. One vendor was giving away iPod shuffles to every vistor to their booth. I’m looking forward to getting that in the mail.
  • The wireless access hasn’t been ubiquitous, but it is adequate, and by the end of the first day I knew where to sit in the main auditorium and which seminar rooms I’d have to work offline in.
  • I geneally get four hours of battery life out of my 12″ PowerBook. Others were probalby suffering for battery, like this guys with a giant Dell XPS desktop replacement, because charging your laptop not terribly convenient. There was counter with powerstrips, but you had to work standing up. If you were one of Gartner’s premier customers, they had VIP lounges–I can only imagine what pleasures were within those partitions, but easy access to power was probably among them. Some participants popped open wall panels in the corridor to jack in. These poor vagabonds could be seen sitting on the floor in pairs near every outlet. My favorite place to charge and work was the Blounge (the blogging lounge). It had easy access to power and the most confortable general access chairs. The rules of the lounge allowed only for blogging. I pretty much honored this, but others were obviously shamelessly flouting the stated purpose of the area by checking email. I was surprised how few people were taking advantage of the Blounge, since there was no enforcement of the rules. i could generally get a seat in a comfy chair and no one asked for the URL of my blog to confirm my credentials.
  • The food has been great. They’ve had breakfast and lunch every day and a couple of dinners. On Monday they served Haagn Dazs ice cream bars for dessert. Yesterday they had a hot chocolate fondue fountain with a variety of fresh fruit on skewers. Decent.
  • Generally, they give out lame tote bags at conferences. However, the Gartner tote was a full-sized computer backpack. I probably won’t use it again after the conference because of the power blue and branding, but it has been useful for the conference, to hold my laptop, conference materials, and my jacket–the weather has been great, but a bit windy and chilly especially in the morning and evening coming and going from the conference center.
  • The pen was good too.
  • The chairs have been comfortable, especially compared to those horrid chairs at the Austin Omni Hotel, for the Educause Southwest Regional Conference. I’m telling you, I will never forget how uncomfortable those chairs were.
  • The A/V equipment has been invisible. It works and I’ve only noticed a single minor and brief technical glitch so far.
  • For the most part the pace of the conference has been good. The first two days had a vendor track at 3 PM, which wasn’t of interest to me. It would have been good if that track were at the end of the day, so that those of us how were not interested could have bailed out early instead of having to kill time until the 4:30 session. Other than that, the sessions have been pretty much scheduled every hour and a half. This allowed for an hour session and a half hour intermission allowing plenty of time for refreshing one’s coffee, restroom break, checking email, making a phone call, or whatever. It has pretty much allowed me to take in six or so sessions. That may sound like a lot of information and a lot of sitting, and it is. But, I’m a machine.
  • The coffee and beverage service runs continuously all day long. You can basically nurse your caffeine habit all day long for free. And if you are not a coffee or soft drink junkie, they have fruit juices and sparkling water all gratis.

Bottomline: The conference has been pulled off very professionally, with generally top-notch content, and with generous amenities.

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