TeamsFest has been an incredible ride
Having just finished the event a few weeks ago, Vesku, Adam, Chris and I had the opportunity to catch up before our monthly user group to have a look at the figures. We had over 1300 unique attendees at TeamsFest which was twice as large as our last event, and from over 300 feedbacks we received a speaker rating of 4.65/5 and an event score of 4.7/5 which is incredible considering we ran 85 sessions in a single day. We believe it to have been the largest amount of dedicated Teams breakout sessions ever attempted in a single day by any event, including Microsoft Ignite
For anyone who doesn’t know the history of TeamsFest, this was something that started in my kitchen at the beginning of 2019 when Adam Deltinger and I were discussing how we’d like to do a larger event based upon the user group we’d recently established. At that point, we’d already met some great speakers like Vesku Nopanen, Rick Van Rousselt, Laurent Carlier and Amanda Sterner who, to be fair, had really taken a punt on us back then not knowing who we were and all. The thinking was wouldn’t it just be awesome to cobble all these awesome acquaintances of ours and just talk Teams together. I mean we didn’t even particularly care if anyone turned up! It was that crudely organised it’s kind of a miracle in itself that the first event even happened. We’d named it Oktoberfest largely due to the fact it occurred in October. We still laugh about it today insofar as it wasn’t even in the correct period for the real Oktoberfest
It was a fun time, we learnt a lot. I vividly remember grinding the welcome and the keynote in the Clayton in Belfast as I was also writing a session for Ignite whilst training during the day over in Ireland. I remember having a discussion with Adam on whether we’d even attract more than 15 speakers given that so many had turned us down. I remember arguing on whether we should lead with British or Central European Time. I remember we celebrated getting Karoliina Kettukari onboard since I had attended her session as part of the audience at SPS London that summer (before I spoke at conferences regularly) and I knew we had a special speaker. It is mad to think now we had 2/3’s of the Commsverse organising team speaking in that event with Mark Vale and Randy Chapman and 3/4 of the organising team for TeamsDagen in Marten Hellebro, Linus Cansby and Amanda Sterner. But the best thing that happened in that period was that Vesku agreed to join us as an organiser and a permanent member of the team. It was Vesku who came up with the name ‘TeamsFest’ which we all agreed sounded a lot better than Oktoberfest, but the change was so close to the event itself we kept Oktoberfest whilst mainly using TeamsFest as a hashtag on social
Numbers wise? I can’t remember. It was in the region of 350 to 400 attendees and the feedback was really positive. It was this event which really crystallised three things for us. The first was that we wanted to do it more than once a year which started our bi-annual schedule. The second was that we would keep it virtual as even before Covid we were pretty set on virtual given the lack of risk and wanting to showcase what Teams could do – and besides, none of us would budge on what country we’d hold it in given that I am from the UK, Adam is from Sweden and Vesku is from Finland. The third was that we wanted to keep it as a true community event. One of the most frequent questions I am asked is why TeamsFest is free and why we don’t have corporate sponsors and the real truth of the matter is that we all work for businesses, we have spent a lot of our careers in the corporate world and for us, this is something that is more than about money. We don’t need it to fund our lifestyles. We don’t need it to pay the bills. I always try to get across that this isn’t a judgment on other events. For us, we simply want to focus on the technology as opposed to having to buy something
The second event – the first TeamsFest – was much bigger in scope than the first. It more than doubled the number of the speakers to 50, doubled the number of tracks to 6 and was the first time we had big names from Microsoft such as Vesa Juvonen, Laurie Pottmeyer and Karuana Gatimu. We’d also made a whole lot more friends in the Microsoft Tech Community by that time which made the call for speakers a lot easier and invited back some of our friends from the first event. Because of this we definitely felt a lot more pressure to execute. I mean, at the time I remember thinking things like I had only watched Loryan Strant in person blow the doors off a session to 500 people at Ignite a few months back and here he was agreeing to speak at our event. How are we going to deal with this? How are we going to ensure Karuana’s session goes flawlessly? The main takeaway from this event, which had about 600 attendees and scored a 4.5/5 speaker and 4.6/5 event for the day, was that TeamsFest started moving away from really being a European event. The principle audience was Europe, we ran the event in a European timezone but we were starting to get people who were tuning in from all over. I remember a colleague asking me if I thought Covid had helped the uplift given the numbers. Whilst TeamsFest was right at the start of the lockdown period and we were real lucky in terms that the event was virtual, it was probably more down to the reach of the speakers. To be honest, I was amazed we managed to get 600 people given what people were going through in that situation with the level of uncertainty. What I still laugh about today is seeing this really professional image on LinkedIn of Alexander Eggers watching the keynote in his office on this widescreen next to an MTR – all the gear – when behind that I am doing the keynote in my spare room upstairs in the middle of decorating the room, sitting on a crate with a single surface over a wi-fi connection!
This brings us to the last event, the second but sort of the third TeamsFest. It was five months in the making. We’d upped the sessions to 85. Upped the tracks to 8. As opposed to the second event where we’d received 70 sessions on the call for speakers this time around we received over 230. It was hard, very hard. So hard in fact that even though I believe we had one of the best if not the best, tightest pound for pound community line up ever assembled for a Teams event I still think today what if to the ones we had to turn away. And there was a number of other factors which made this event hard. For one, we were doing a lot of public speaking during the summer. M365 Virtual Marathon, Galactic Summit, Commsverse, SPS Cologne, M365 Israel, Teams Community Day, Ignite 2020 – having to juggle these amazing events with jobs, families and organising this is tough mentally and physically. Secondly, whilst we could draw on our experience of prior events it was still another big jump in terms of size and part of you always wonders if the last one was just pot luck. For sure, this was the event where we decided we couldn’t go it alone. We’d already brought Chris Webb onboard to the organising team since he’s a good friend, a great technical mind and did such a great job on the lift and shift of the recordings for the previous event, but here we responded to the feedback and drafted in a moderator team which is one the best decision we ever made. A big part of the success of the last TeamsFest was because of them
So what do I mean by the last TeamsFest? Where do we go from here?
Since wrapping up the last event, we have stumbled across the fact that another group has begun to use the name TeamsFest for corporate events. Being a corporate event, this is very different from our own, and whilst we have not spoken or been in contact with the organisers, we want to avoid any confusion in the future for either speakers or attendees and so would like to wish them the very best for the future for TeamsFest
In light of this, we are moving forward to the next event as Teams Nation
When we came to think about what we have been doing the last eighteen months, the journey we have been on, the friends we have made and the positive feedback we have received from audiences all around the world, it has brought into focus our mission and the idea that in this democratisation of knowledge, in this giving back we are coming together for a day where there is no such thing as geographic borders, or roles, or barriers that prevent any person being able to reach their potential, to understand and make the most of a technology which is helping businesses survive and providing all of us with a means to communicate with our friends and our loved ones the world over.
We are all part of one community. As technicians, and engineers, and architects, and adoption specialists, as developers, and advocates, and learners and builders, we are all part of Teams Nation
This rename has been long overdue.
We return on the 26th May, 2021. We hope you’ll join us again
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