This past weekend saw the Tulsa TechFest come back to the OSU Campus in Tulsa. Tulsa TechFest 2007 was held over a 2 day period this year (Oct 19-20) instead of one, and contained 16 session tracks that included topics ranging from development on the web, Windows applications, ASP.NET, PHP, ALT.NET, Data Security and Architecture and more. Originally planned as a 1 day conference with a $40 entry fee, it was extended to two days due to the overwhelming requests for additional sessions, and made free based on the incredible sponsorships from companies like Robert Half, Microsoft, Avanade, True, SpringPoint and others. David Walker and his staff were the key people responsible for putting on the event, and they did an outstanding job again this year!
After checking in my booth on Thursday afternoon, and dining with the speakers that evening, the conference itself started in earnest on Friday morning. Registration was slated to start at 8:00 am, but by the time I arrived at about 8:05 there were hundreds (yep, not a typo) of people already there crammed into the OSU North Building waiting to get their badges and get to the keynote at 9:00. I knew then, that there was going to be a LOT of people coming to this event...
Jason Zander delivered the keynote this year - which was totally awesome, and it generated a bunch of buzz at our booth around Microsoft Silverlight. The sessions that day were full of great information led by prominent members of the developer community. Interestingly, there were only 3 time slots per day for sessions - I presume because the sessions were 90 minutes each. Most conferences have 45 minute sessions with 15 minutes in between. Tulsa TechFest had 75 minute sessions, with 15 minutes in between, but neither of my two sessions let me release them early :-) The crowd here at Tulsa TechFest was WAY more engaged than any user group, conference or other event I've participated with in the past. They asked lots of questions, and didn't let you get away with any evasive answers on anything ;-) I had a great time speaking there, and look forward to doing it again...
Besides my two sessions - Building Exciting UX with Expression Studio and Intro to C# 3.0 (slides and downloads to come later) - I spent most of my time chatting with people who had attended the conference that were either wandering the halls, sitting in remote places reading, or visiting us at our booth in the exhibitor's hall. Our booth was definitely a crowd favorite - shag carpet, comfy green chairs (not ugly green - Xbox green) and a 42" plasma TV playing the latest Microsoft Xbox games on one of our Xbox Elites. Needless to say, the Xbox was a major hit with the college crowd that attended, but we still caught a fair share of "adults" playing as well :) I hope that we didn't keep too many people from their sessions, but I think having games there like Halo 3, Guitar Hero 2, Gears of War and Shadowrun were a good break from sessions for those that had the extra time. We also managed to squeeze as many conversations and demos around Silverlight, WPF, or any topic our visitors wanted as often as they'd let us talk about it.
To close out day 1, anyone attending the conference was invited to hop on a chartered bus to go downtown to Tulsa OktoberFest. From what the OktoberFest folks told me the (infamous) Chicken Dance was introduced to the US at the Tulsa OktoberFest many years ago and the Chicken Dance tradition was definitely carried on this year... Fortunately, the party still met with my 3 required metrics for a successful party - good beer, good food, and good friends. Since David and crew arranged for chartered busses to take TechFest-ers to the party, we had a really good turn out and Giovanni got a lot of great pictures.
The second day of TechFest was more of the same - great sessions, great speakers, packed rooms, and happy TechFesters. We don't know if we had as many people on Day 2 as we did on Day 1, but I suspect that it was less based on how crowded the halls and sessions were, and how much pizza was left over at lunch :)
The overall attendance numbers are still out, but the information I was given were:
We're estimating that we had easily over 700 unique individuals attending the conference this year - that's almost 2x the attendance of last year! WOW!!! Those are amazing numbers, and really speak to David Walker, and his team, for running (and promoting) an incredible event. I definitely want to extend a personal THANK YOU to David Walker and his staff for putting on another FANTASTIC Tulsa TechFest! Excellent job all around - from location, to food, to speakers, to entertainment - it all came together when it counted. I know you guys worked very hard for a very long time to have everything so well organized and run so smoothly - you guys totally rock, and you can count on us being a part of Tulsa TechFest next year!