Editor’s note: The following post was written by MVP Lead Alessandro Teglia

Recently more than 85 MVPs from 18 countries came together for the second annual Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) & Italy MVP Open Days.  It was hosted in the beautiful venue of Osijek, right in the middle of the region (close to Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Romania),where  we had a great opportunity to network, strengthen relationships with MVPs in the region, and gather valuable MVP product and program feedback.

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MVPs take a break and a tour of a local winery

This year we experimented with linking the MVP CEE and Italy Open Days with another event, KulenDayz, which is one of the most popular community-oriented events in the whole region.

Saying that it was an amazing experience to me (and, I hope, to the MVPs) is just a small piece of the feeling I had throughout the whole event.

Bringing it all together

Since MVPs are popular presenters at KulenDays, it was a little challenging to bring the agendas of the two events together. But we managed to cover a range of great content: from the Cloud (Windows Azure, Office 365) to Windows 8; from Windows Phone to Visual Studio and many programming languages; from System Center to Windows Server-- the whole event provided great overview, as well as in-depth conversations with the audience.

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Tom, Bernie, Damien Caro, and I, as well as Jamie Mann and Jeremy Chapman from the Office 365 product team in Redmond, were Kulendayz keynote speakers.

Some highlights

One highlight was the joint development of a Windows Phone application for the event (published in the Marketplace) and a Windows 8 app (not yet published) by MVP Tomislav Bronzin, MVP Domagoj Pavlesic, Igor Ralić and the #KulenDayz team.

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Also, the events garnered quite a bit of attention, attracting 250 tweets using the #ceemvp12 Twitter hashtag, as well as a press conference with eight media outlets (IT magazines and local radio and TV) together with Bernardin Katic which resulted in a range of stories.

Attendees were also invited to participate in a Speaker Idol competition, where they could speak for five minutes on any subject. My colleagues Damien and Marko Sever joined me as judges and it was great to see the creativity and passion the speakers brought to a whole range of subjects. And it was my first time being a judge so it was really a nice experience (and a lot of fun!). We had three winners (Tiberiu Covaci, Radi Atanassov and Luka Manojlovic) and the top spot won a slot to be a speaker at the next Microsoft WinDays 2013 event, which will be held in Croatia probably in the spring.

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Speaker Idol in action

You can also have a look at more pictures taken so you can get a better idea of the event!

I travel frequently to Central and Eastern Europe and it’s always great to see the Microsoft MVPs in action, talk with the local Microsoft team members and meet outstanding community contributors who may be the next MVPs. I love that part.

But this time, being able to have many of them together in one place was really unique. The only event that can compete with this is the MVP Global Summit!

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Special THANKS to everyone who helped me in this journey, especially MVP Bernardin Katic who put all the pieces together and worked round the clock with me to make sure everything was smooth. Bernie, you are a rock star!!

Guest blogger Alessandro Teglia (@alead) is a Community Program Manager for the CEE Region (excluding Russia & CIS Countries) and Italy.