Setting Up for TechDays Montreal

TechDays is no small undertaking: it’s a seven-city two-day conference tour with over 40 sessions featuring content from the TechEd North America 2009 conference and delivered by local and “imported” speakers (we try to get local speakers) to hundreds of developers and IT pros in each city. Montreal was the fifth stop on the tour, and I thought I’d show you some behind-the-scenes stuff that took place on Tuesday, the day before TechDays Montreal took place.

Keep in mind that what you’re seeing here is the setup for the conference’s technical content and only a small portion of what goes on to make TechDays happen. In a later entry, I’ll show you photos of that many other people who make Techdays run smoothly: the event coordinators, A/V team, benue staff, and Windows lounge volunteers.

Tuesday started with a hearty breakfast at Dunn’s, which I enjoyed with my coworkers Rick Claus, Pierre Roman, Christian Beauclair and my road trip buddy Damir Bersinic

01 dunns

With hunger satisfied, it was time to make our way to the Centre Mont-Royal to transform the place into TechDays Montreal. Here’s one of the smaller rooms, just after the A/V setup and before the chairs were rolled in:

02 Cartier 1

TechDays Montreal was sold out, so we had to provide overflow seating outside the rooms, just in case. At Techdays, we place a large monitor outside every room with a live feed to the audio and video from the presentation.

03 overflow seating

Here’s one of the larger theatres. Some of our sessions could easily pack one of these rooms.

04 large theater

It meets with Christian’s approval:

05 christian approves

We TechDays organizers aren’t just a bunch of pretty faces: we move our own gear (and remember, we need enough computers and ancillary equipment to support over 40 tech demos!). So it was off to the loading dock to get the demo machines – assuming we survive the cargo elevator ride. Here’s a photo of Pierre learning why dangling clothing and cargo elevators where you have direct exposure to the elevator shaft don’t mix:

06 maudit ascenseur

“Sixteen years at the company and I still don’t have any roadies! I wonder if Ballmer has to lug his own demo gear….”

07 christian and hand truck

“Why’d this thing get so heavy all of a sudden?”

08 why is this so heavy

The answer, of course, is Pierre:

09 pierre on cart

Conference wifi is a very expensive proposition, with many venues asking for hundreds of dollars per user. In order to keep the cost of TechDays affordable (early bird registration is under $300, which is a steal). we decided to forgo the conference wifi and provide internet kiosks instead. The kiosks were Dell laptops, which we had to initialize with clean copies of Windows 7 with both French and English settings.

To make setup simpler, we laid out the machines in a row and worked on them in assembly line fashion, each one of us performing a specific task to set up the machine. I was step 1: boot up, delete old virtual hard drive, and copy new virtual hard drive from the appropriate USB key…

12a usb keys

to various machines, starting with these ones…

10 trio of dells

…after which I moved on to these machines…

11 row of dells

…and then these machines:

12 even more machines

…and of course, there’s the matter of setting up the machines that would be used in the presentations.

13 starting setup

I had to duck out of the setup room for a little bit to record the Developer Night in Canada podcast with John Bristowe – we were doing an interview with the folks at Habanero Consulting Group:


Dell is our hardware sponsor, and they provided an assortment of computers, from the netbooks, which were used as secondary PowerPoint machines, to the copper-coloured “Dellasaurus” machines, big honking laptops with serious horsepower for sever demos:

14 machines in crates

Here’s Pierre doing some setup with Christian shoulder-surfing:

15 pierre is leeeroy jenkins

Here’s Rick, who can sometimes kill technology by just looking at it, pleased that his setup works:

16 rick claus

And finally, a photo of the last two machines to be set up: the rig for the lunchtime demos:

17 lunchroom

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.