I had an interesting discussion with one of our leads from China when he was visiting Redmond a few months back.  We were discussing cost of the event in China - which I felt was rather steep compared to other events we were holding AND of course I had the typically western perception that everything in China, particularly labor, was very cheap.

Arriving at the event brought the result of our discussion into sharp focus.  Let me also prefix my comments by saying that everyone at MEDC China did an outstanding job and brought together a thoroughly professional event.  Back to my observation!  My colleague had explained that historically in China you tended to work with a few big companies.  If you were putting on an event, you would work with a company who did everything for the event.  This contrasts with the structure here in the US where you have many different companies who all have very tight specializations ... including the company who is responsible for managing all these other companies!  The net result of this, as he described it to me, was that you tended to get a lower overall level of specialization and things tended to have to be done more than once.  And so it proved when I arrived for MEDC China.  My perception was that everything was moving VERY slowly compared to the number of support staff who appeared to be working for the event and comparatively, there were a lot of staff working on the setup.  What appeared to be lacking in speed was more than made up for by hard work and willing to see the job through.  It turns out, most of the team worked until 5am to make sure everything was just so.

The keynote room for this event was very wide.  Anyone who's talked to me about keynotes will know I tend to prefer long over wide.  With long, the speaker can connect more easily and with less walking/turning than a wide room.  THe room in China was about 15-20 rows deep and about 100m wide.  It literally took 15 seconds to walk across the stage!  This keynote was a little different to the others as I was delivering some keynote demos in amongst a Chinese language keynote and other demos in Chinese.  I was also asked to do a more "consumer focussed" demo which meant I spent most of this day building and scripting a brand new demo.  I had hoped to use the Samsung i300 I had been carrying around but - because it was an early pre-production model - I was having some issues with it so had to go with an alternate platform.

My new demo consisted of :

  • Showing how you can download DRM content and sync it to your Windows Mobile 5.0 device, in my case Tottenham Hotspur highlights (www.spurs.co.uk)
  • Showing some of the new features in Excel and Powerpoint Mobile .. in the latter I was showing that it existed for the first time!
  • Showing the groovy Xbox customization Ford showed in Bill's keynote in Las Vegas

Once I had built that out including my backup scenarios I was ready to rehearse by about 7pm.  Unfortunately the room wasn't ready until about 10pm so I had some waiting and thumb twiddling to do.  I made myself useful by suggesting some changes to the demo station configuration, for example :

  • Drilling holes through the table top so we could feed the cables down the back rather than the front.  I guaranteed I'd have pulled all my laptops off if I'd been anywhere near the cables.
  • Moving the visualizer to a separate table.  Locating a visualizer and three different demoers kit on a single 6ft bench was never going to work
  • A KVM switch located on the demo station to put the presenters more in control of which laptop was being shown on the screens

By the time we got to the run through I guess I was tired.  Let's face it, I was at the back end of a long trip and I think my enthusiasm and patience were wearing thin.  I can honestly say, the China run through was the most pedestrian performance I had given to date.  I was most disappointed in myself.  I was also a little worried about the screen/audio switches being handled by the AV team because they didn't appear to be concentrating.  As it turned out, they must have been because the actual keynote went a lot more smoothly than the run through.

In some ways I was glad to be in the keynote room - even though I was missing out on Beijing.  Even at 11pm the outside temperature was above 30 degrees Celsius.  Unpleasantly hot!  After rehearsals ... off to bed to get some rest.  This time, I made sure I set multiple alarms to be sure.