TechEd, now running in Auckland, is by far the largest conference on the New Zealand technology calendar. And by at least one important measure, the local event is a world-beater.
Microsoft NZ managing director Paul Muckleston says there are around 2,500 delegates at this year’s TechEd. We rarely see anything on this scale.
That’s a capacity crowd at the Sky City Convention Centre. Un-New Zealand like queues form for escalators before the day’s first sessions and there are long lines for lunch. Local bars and restaurants are packed when the day finishes. The expo space is busy even while the nine or so simultaneous sessions are running.
Room for even more
Muckleston says he looks forward to when the new centre opens as he thinks he could get more people along. That’s plausible, tickets for the event generally sell out – a sure sign demand outstrips supply.
Although there have been many Microsoft TechEd events around the world, the New Zealand conference is one of seven held in 2013.
It’s not the largest, the US event attracts a crowd of around 7,000. TechEd Europe has about 5,000 attendees and in previous years the Australian TechEd – usually held on the Gold Coast – gets a crowd in the region of 2,800.
Which means in population adjusted terms, Microsoft New Zealand beats its international counterparts by a long shot.
Mighty morphin’ TechEd
There are unflattering reasons for the relative popularity of the New Zealand event. Some point out there aren’t as many competing events in this country as elsewhere.
That view misses the point. Microsoft New Zealand is expert at engaging with local customers. It does this really well – in larger markets the company can often seem distant and distracted, here you can just get people on the phone or run into them at events like TechEd.
Microsoft marketing director Frazer Scott says TechEd has been running for 18 years in New Zealand and the company has worked hard to ensure it stays fresh. He says Microsoft changes the emphasis and the approach every year to keep people coming back.
The company enjoys better a better relationship with partners and customers here than overseas. This is only partly explained by the nation’s smallness or the tight-knitedness of the tech community.
Consider the commitment. One company sent more than 160 employees to the conference, many have dozens of staff at the event. At $1900 a ticket – although there are group discounts – that’s a substantial investment by any standards. Scott says Microsoft doesn’t aim to make money from the conference, although in a good year it does cover the costs of putting on the event. And don’t forget it means almost an entire week where staff time can’t be billed to clients.
Companies see TechEd as a training exercise – which makes sense, after all, TechEd is short for technical education.