One of the worse things that can happen at a technology conference is to turn up for a session that you really want to attend only to find that the room is packed out and you can’t even get inside the door. It’s only slightly better if you can get in and then have to spend 75 minutes standing – or having your buttocks become steadily more numb as you sit on a hard floor.
The word on the street is that nearly 2,000 people will attend next week’s Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) in Austin. The majority are paid attendees and the rest are Microsoft employees and speakers. Microsoft briefed MVPs and session chairs about MEC details on Wednesday and revealed that 91% of the expected audience come from North America. This doesn’t reflect the worldwide audience for Exchange, Lync, and Office 365 at all and underlines the case for a MEC-like event outside the U.S. (like the old EMEA MEC events held in Nice, France).
With such a crowd, you can bet your bottom dollar that some sessions will be absolutely packed. Perhaps it’s the prospect of hearing a truly compelling speaker who is master of their subject or maybe it’s because the subject matter is new and interesting. For whatever reason, there will be attendee traffic jams going into some of the rooms.
The conference organizers will do their level best to assign appropriate rooms for sessions. They are helped in that MEC attendees have been registering for sessions over the last week or so. That data is used to predict where problems might lie, such as small rooms being assigned to overflowing sessions or, conversely, large rooms (like the ballrooms) assigned to sessions where everyone could shake hands with each other in less than two minutes.
It’s horrible to be a speaker looking out at the empty masses of seats in a large room. Communication is impossible, words echo around the room, and audiences tend to drift away. I think the worst example of this that I ever saw was at a DECUS conference in San Francisco in 1993 where the organizers assigned a room capable of holding 700 people to a session that attracted just two. I think the session was about connecting Apple Macs to Digital VAXes, a topic that you’d imagine would attract a crowd in San Francisco. Alas, it didn’t, and the speaker duly gave up and came down off the stage to chat with the two attendees.
I’ve already published some posts to help guide you through MEC:
- MVP Sessions (Independent experts)
- What to do and what not to do at MEC
- The sessions I plan to attend at MEC
Now to help you take a more scientific approach to planning your MEC agenda, I’ve extracted the data that is available online (to registered MEC attendees through the “Event Hubb”) and done some slicing and dicing to identify different types of sessions. Hopefully this helps you to make sense of the 7 core content tracks, 99 sessions, and 130 presenters. Not all of the tracks have a session for all slots. For example, after the opening keynote, there are only four sessions during Monday’s 10:30AM slot and five in the 1:15PM slot. On the other hand, Tuesday’s 1:30PM slot spreads itself across nine sessions.
Note that MEC is not publishing a paper guide to sessions this year. The new approach is that attendees will receive a OneNote notebook containing all of the session information. Time will tell whether this idea finds favor with everyone.
At the time I extracted the data (10AM East Coast on Friday), approximately 1,250 attendees had registered their options on the site. The data are therefore likely to change as the remaining attendees sign up for sessions. The knock-on effect is that the numbers shown below could expand by 25-30% (my guess). So far, the average attendees registered for a session is 160.
People might change their mind as a result of this information or when they get to MEC and discover the sessions that their friends or colleagues plan on attending. However, I think the data are sufficiently accurate to aid in planning. Have fun with the information!
I want to attend the most popular sessions
Apart from the opening keynote, which is always packed out, the following are the top 10 sessions based on the number planning to be at each. Here are the top 10 MEC sessions to date. [Data updated as at Saturday, 3AM Eastern]
|Monday||10:30||Exchange Server 2013 Architecture: mailbox and client access||Ross Smith IV||589|
|Monday||14:45||Exchange Server 2013 Tips & Tricks||Scott Schnoll||479|
|Monday||16:30||Experts Unplugged: Exchange Top Issues – What are they and does anyone care or listen?||Jennifer Gagnon, Amir Haque, Shawn McGrath, Tim Heeney, Scott Landry, Nino Bilic, Tony Redmond (chair – MVP)||475|
|Monday||13:15||Ready, set, deploy: Exchange Server 2013||Brian Day||470|
|Tuesday||10:45||The latest on High Availability & Site Resilience||Greg Thiel, Abram Jackson, Dmitry Sarkisov||378|
|Wednesday||10:15||Exchange Design Concepts and Best Practices||Boris Lokhvitsky||373|
|Tuesday||09:00||Exchange Server 2013 Transport Architecture||Khushru Irani||361|
|Tuesday||13:30||Exchange storage for insiders||Matt Gossage, Todd Luttinen, Nathan Muggli||323|
|Tuesday||16:45||Exchange Server 2013 Virtualization Best Practices||Jeff Mealiffe||323|
|Tuesday||10:45||Exchange hybrid: architecture and deployment||Andrew Ehrensing, Ronil Dhruva, Tim Heeney||311|
Some people always prefer to seek out the comfort of an empty or relatively empty conference room where you have a choice of seat and can spread yourself out. If that’s your thing, then you should include these ten sessions in your list. However, be aware that the last two of these sessions were added just recently and have not yet been seen by many attendees.I want to avoid crowds
|Wednesday||16:45||Extending Data Loss Prevention For Your Business||Brian Reid (MVP)||60|
|Wednesday||13:00||Experts Unplugged: EOP & Encryption (repeat)||Levon Esibov, Asaf Kashi, Tamar Tzruya, Wendy Wilkes, Ori Kashi||56|
|Wednesday||10:15||5 Real Life Scenarios of Office 365 in Education||Jethro Seghers (MVP)||56|
|Wednesday||13:00||Grab a Wrench – DAGs under the hood||Tim McMichael||54|
|Wednesday||10:15||Experts Unplugged: Data Loss Prevention (repeat)||Jack Kabar, Asaf Kashi||51|
|Tuesday||10:45||Apps for Outlook Evolved||Andrew Salamatov||49|
|Tuesday||13:30||Achieving better business productivity using Apps for Office and Office 365||Pretish Abraham||49|
|Tuesday||16:45||Experts Unplugged: Exchange Extensibility||Glen Scales (MVP), Krushru Irani, Pretish Abraham, Andrew Salamatov, Carolyn Liu, Jason Henderson||24|
|Wednesday||14:45||Making changes to Exchange Online at high scale||Rudra Mitra, Gayarthi Venkartarman||17|
|Wednesday||10:15||Optimizing Exchange Online for efficiencies and snappy experiences||Rudra Mitra, Pravjit Tiwana, Bob Samer||5|
I want to hear about integration
Exchange sits at the middle of an ecosystem. Third party software is not usually featured at a Microsoft conference and that’s the same for MEC. However, here are ten sessions that deal with the topic of integration, whether it’s with servers like SharePoint and Lync, or with clients. There are a relatively small number of sessions in this category:
|Wednesday||14:45||Integrating Exchange 2013 with Lync and SharePoint||Bhargav Shukla (MVP)|
|Wednesday||16:45||Load balancing Exchange and Lync Server 2013||Bhargav Shukla (MVP)|
|Monday||13:15||Collaboration with Site Mailboxes: Exchange and SharePoint together||Alfons Staerk, Shashi Singaravel|
I want to hear about new technology
At this point in its lifecycle, Exchange 2013 is not “new technology.” But a conference like MEC always has a number of sessions where new technology is discussed. Here’s a selection of what you can find at MEC
|Tuesday||13:30||Managing and Securing Mobile Devices using Exchange, System Center 2012 R2, and Intune||Lawrence Novak, Michael Indence|
|Monday||10:30||Introducing The Future of Enterprise Social, Office Graph, and Codename “Oslo”||Christophe Fiessinger, Cem Aykan|
|Tuesday||15:00||Introducing Groups||Sangya Singh, Andrew Friedman|
|Tuesday||13:30||Introducing the Personalized Inbox: “Clutter,” People View, and Search Refiners||Jim Edelen, Kutlay Topatan, Krish Gali, Tore Sundelin|
I want to hear about High Availability
High Availability has been a huge success for Exchange since the introduction of the Database Availability Group in Exchange 2010. A number of good sessions associated with topics around High Availability are being given at MEC. Here’s my pick:
|Tuesday||10:45||The latest on High Availability & Site Resilience||Greg Thiel, Abram Jackson, Dmitry Sarkisov|
|Tuesday||13:30||Exchange storage for insiders||Matt Gossage, Todd Luttinen, Nathan Muggli|
|Tuesday||15:00||Experts Unplugged: Architecture – HA and Storage||Matt Gossage, Todd Luttinen, Nathan Muggli, Greg Thiel, Abram Jackson, Dmitry Sarkisov, Mike Crowley (MVP – chair)|
|Wednesday||08:30||The art of datacenter switchover||Tim McMichael|
I want to hear about Office 365
Of course, Exchange Online and Exchange 2013 on-premises share the same code base, so it is difficult to draw a line as to where Office 365 and Exchange begin and end. In any case, here are some Office 365 sessions that might interest you.
|Tuesday||10:45||Exchange hybrid: architecture and deployment||Andrew Ehrensing, Ronil Dhruva, Tim Heeney|
|Tuesday||15:00||Behind the curtain: How we run Exchange Online||Vivek Sharma|
|Monday||16:30||Modern Public Folders Migration & Office 365||Siegfried Jagott (MVP), Kanika Ramji|
|Tuesday||09:00||Exchange Online Migrations Technical Deep Dive||Ayla Kol, Ram Poornalingam, William Rail|
|Monday||14:45||Microsoft Office 365 Directory and Access Management with Windows Azure Active Directory||David Brandt, Juno Luk|
|Monday||13:15||Getting Started with Office 365 Deployment||Jeff Medford|
|Monday||16:30||Protect your Organization with Exchange Online Protection (EOP)||Levon Esibov|
|Tuesday||13:30||Experts Unplugged: Exchange Online Migrations||Ayla Kol, Juno Luk, Martina Grom (MVP – chair), Ram Poornalinham, Ronil Dhruva, Steve Daigle|
|Wednesday||14:45||Troubleshooting hybrid mailflow||Vincent Yim|
|Tuesday||09:00||Engineers vs Mechanics – the evolving role of IT with Office 365||Jon Orton, Alistair Speirs, Jeremy Chapman|
|Monday||16:30||Exchange Online service security investments: you CAN and SHOULD do this at home||Siddhartha Mathur, Raji Dani|
|Wednesday||13:00||Reporting On O365 Mailflow and Mailbox Data||John Gargiulo, Mitchell Hall|
|Tuesday||15:00||Field Notes – Supporting Office 365 Customers||Kamal Abburi|
|Tuesday||09:00||How to (remote) control Office 365 with Azure||Martina Grom (MVP), Toni Pohl (MVP)|
|Wednesday||10:15||5 Real Life Scenarios of Office 365 in Education||Jethro Seghers (MVP)|
|Wednesday||14:45||Making changes to Exchange Online at high scale||Rudra Mitra, Gayarthi Venkartarman|
I want to hear about Exchange clients
An email server is not much good without some clients. Here are the sessions dedicated to the many varied clients available to Exchange.
|Tuesday||09:00||Experts Unplugged: Architecture – Client Access and Connectivity||Greg Taylor, Jeff Mealiffe, Ross Smith IV, Venkat Ayyadevara, Jeff Guillet (MVP – Chair)|
|Wednesday||10:15||Outlook Connectivity: Current and Future||Guy Groeneveld, Rafiq El Alami, Venkat Ayyadevara|
|Wednesday||14:45||Experts Unplugged: Outlook 2013||Peter Allenspach, Rafiq El Alami, Venkat Ayyedevara, Erik Ashby, Ronak Trivedi, Jason Henderson|
|Wednesday||14:45||Exchange Client Network Bandwidth Calculator v2||Neil Johnson|
|Wednesday||13:00||What’s New in Authentication for Outlook 2013||Venkat Ayyedevara, Erik Ashby, Franklin Williams|
|Wednesday||08:30||What’s New in Outlook 2013||Peter Allenspach, Ronak Trivedi|
|Tuesday||10:45||What’s New in OWA for Devices||Greg Baribault|
|Tuesday||09:00||What’s New in Outlook Web App||Paul Tischhauser, Eduardo Melo, Krish Gali, Mike Brickman|
|Wednesday||10:15||Experts Unplugged: OWA and Mobility||Amit Gupta, Greg Baribault, Julio Estrada, Paul Limont|
|Tuesday||16:45||Introducing Document Collaboration in Outlook Web App||Kip Fern, Joseph Masterson|
That’s about the end of my ruminations on MEC sessions. I hope that everyone that attends MEC has a great time. I know I shall!
Follow Tony @12Knocksinna