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Microsoft Build proves that lively tech events can be successful online

It was a familiar, assignable moment for those who were at home with children during the pandemic and who had sneaked into an important tele-meeting or TV segment. (Microsoft (MSFT)coincidentally or not, is currently broadcasting a TV commercial on this concept).
However, this was a big moment for the company. According to Microsoft, more than 230,000 participants have registered for the purely online event, compared to 6,000 who were personally present last year. It was also the time of the technology giant to prove that a multi-day conference with product updates and breakout sessions was even possible for developers. After all, Facebook and Google have canceled their comparable conferences this year due to COVID-1
9 concerns, and Apple’s global developer conference is still a few weeks away.
In any other year, a child’s interruption could have been embarrassing for a carefully staged technical event. But it was a reminder that Microsoft was made for that moment: a company built to help We work better and are now trying to show that it is tailored to the new challenges of our way of working today.
Despite significant hiccups during the 48-hour live stream (yes, 48 hours of continuous Microsoft content Time zones to consider, including panels, analysis, and demos), Build may have just unveiled a vision for the future – not by launching a new product, but by demonstrating how lively tech keynotes and conferences can take place at a time when we have no idea when we are there will be big personal gatherings again. Facebook has for example said they will not be holding any physical events until at least June next year.
For these companies, however, more is at stake than just giving up the stage time for announcements. These events offer their developer communities the opportunity to personally collect or learn about the next innovations for the following year or not. In his short keynote held in front of a bookcase with picture frames, plants and frills, CEO Satya Nadella said: “It is difficult not to be together personally, but I am comforted that this community is virtually assembled.”
As expected, this year’s build conference, which runs until Thursday, focuses more on updates for developers than on consumer goods. The news included a PowerToys tool to improve basic search and edge browser updates such as Pinterest (PINS) Integration and 3D view as well as synchronization of Microsoft Office in real time with all apps and devices.

While Microsoft may prefer Through personal connections and full virtualization, the event was opened to those who may not have been able to travel to Seattle, where build usually takes place. In the past, the participants were about 80% of US citizens. According to Microsoft, 65% of the participants come from the rest of the world this year. The company said the average length of viewer engagement was 173 minutes.

The presentations were packed with kitschy, staged jokes that you normally do at a live tech event, but with allusions to social distancing and self-isolation. Although developers lacked the opportunity to network with other participants, the event was offered an opportunity for reporters to ask questions and interact with teams through the chat platform. Now a developer again used the hashtag #MSBuild on Twitter to exchange thoughts and get in touch with others.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella during the first virtual presentation for Build 2020

There are compromises. A purely online event prevents Microsoft from hosting a captive audience that can’t sneak into the kitchen for a bit to make a sandwich. That could make it more difficult Receive feedback and guidance on new products after each session. However, the general selling points are difficult to dismiss.

Instead of traveling live from one room to another to watch crowded breakout sessions and consequently miss out on good parts of it, the livestream format saves participants time by cutting directly to the presentations and leaving more time for demos Ramon Llamas from IDC Research, who has participated in several build events in the past. He noticed that the data sets released on the screen were sometimes difficult to read due to the small font size, but the same challenge can arise when you are in a large audience in the audience.

Perhaps the most obvious incentive to attend a fully-produced tech event rather than attend in person is the cost savings: instead of paying $ 2,395 for a pass this year, Microsoft made the conference available to anyone who wanted to watch it for free . (Not to mention the savings associated with the cost of a plane ticket and hotel room.)

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The massive increase in the number of participants over the previous year is A big win for the company, where more developers can learn how to create products for Microsoft from sessions that would otherwise not have led to the livestream.

“I think we have about two years of evolution in this medium in about eight weeks in this medium,” said Bob Bejan, corporate vice president for global events at Microsoft, in a video posted on YouTube behind the scenes. “We would never have accelerated in the event room [at this rate] … if things had just gone normally. ”

According to Bejan, around 95% of moderators deliver keynotes from their home offices, bedrooms and kitchens.

“The interesting thing about the time we are in is, of course, that we are forced to focus on this new medium,” said Bejan, noting that he had worked closely with the engineering teams to make the event completely online deliver. “We took some very significant technological risks [in the planning process]. It is risky because we immediately get it into production with a large number of participants. “

But Microsoft has completed a compelling, complex tech marathon of an event. With Apple’s WWDC around the corner, CEO Tim Cook and friends have set a high standard. The The iPhone maker also waives the typical $ 1,599 developer fee.

While there is great uncertainty about when we will realistically reconnect to a major event in the future, this week has shown that it is possible for participants to get a lot out of a virtual conference without all the time, travel logistics and costs, to achieve this.

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