Disclaimer: I don't work on the team that runs the Regional Director program but I do have a fundamental understanding of the progrma and I frequently work with the Regional Directors in my district.When in doubt, refer to the official Regional Director website.
From the official Regional Director website, “Microsoft Regional Directors are a select group of independent developers, architects, trainers, and other .NET profesionals who act as unpaid evangelists to the developer community for the .NET Framework and other Microsoft technologies.”
The page then goes on to read “Microsoft Regional Directors are independent developers and architects, volunteers chosen for their leadership in their local technology circles, whose primary purpose is to share information about Microsoft technologies with their developer communities and to provide feedback from developers to Microsoft. Regional Directors are not Microsoft employees, but instead are industry experts who choose Microsoft technology in order to help their customers reach business goals and objectives.”
I think those are two pretty good descriptions of what a Regional Director is and why they are chosen. I would like to highlight a few differences between the MVP and Regional Director program (none of these generalizations fit every MVP or RD so don't flame me in my attempt to explain the two programs):
*The MVP program is broader in scope than the .NET Framework and development/server products. Regional Directors tend to be experts in development related topics as they pertain to Microsoft.
*Generally speaking, MVPs are more focused on peer-to-peer online communities. Regional Directors are more focused on evangelizing the business and technical value of .NET in their local geography.
*There are far fewer Regional Directors than there are MVPs. There are thousands of MVPs and less than 150 Regional Directors.
Some of the similarities include:
*Neither MVPs or RDs are employees of Microsoft.
*Both MVPs and RDs are great evangelists of Microsoft products and they do an amazing job of increasing customer satisfaction.
*We love both groups equally and we owe them all a great deal for their expertise and passion for helping others in the community.
You can read more about the Regional Director program at the official website.