UC & Cloud day is a free, one-of-a-kind event, designed to introduce IT professionals across the UK to the possibilities of the Microsoft environment. Similar in background to the TechEd event that used to be hosted by Microsoft, UC & Cloud day takes learning about UC solutions to the next level, by providing attendees with a powerful and intimate way to communicate with experts, and discover strategies for the future based on real-world experiences.
I caught up with Tom Arbuthnot from Modality Systems, and Adam Gent from Enghouse Interactive to find out more about what happened at this year’s conference, and what we can expect from the future, as UC Day becomes “Evolve“.
How Do You Think the Event Went this Year?
To begin with, I connected with Tom Arbuthnot from Modality systems, who I asked about the performance of the event for 2017. He was enthusiastic about the response to UC & Cloud day this year, saying:
“It’s a community conference, so for me, how well it went is defined by hearing how much people get value out of it. While keeping sponsors happy and improving footfall is important, it’s always about the personal comments you get afterward, and the feedback on how powerful the experience was for the attendees.”
I followed up by asking Tom what he considered the biggest “crowd-pulling” element of UC & Cloud Day to be, he said: “Obviously, there are plenty of really great conferences out there, but I think the important thing about ours is that it’s much more community-driven in terms of content. The sponsors don’t choose which sessions are on, and the sessions we run are real-world, not focused on sales.”
The evolution of the name of the conference is interesting to mention too, From UC Day to UC & Cloud day, to Evolve next year, the people behind the event are growing increasingly focused on helping their customers to explore all aspects of the Microsoft Stack, without restrictions.
Do You Have Any Official Support from Microsoft?
Since UC & Cloud day is highly focused on the Microsoft Stack, I was interested to find out whether the tech giant had offered any support on an official basis. Tom told me that in 2017, Microsoft became a technical sponsor for the first time, which was an exciting experience. However, while Microsoft was available to answer questions on the floor, and even host a keynote speech, they were not there to transform the feel of the conference.
UC & Cloud day remains to be a community event and something that actively avoids the “commercial” push.
“We’re lucky with our sponsors because they understand the drive of the conference. You’re not going to get a generic marketing pitch from anyone. Instead, you get real answers to your questions, and the chance to have valuable conversations with people.”
What Do You Think Evolve Will Bring Next Year?
With the upcoming change from UC & Cloud Day to Evolve next year, I was excited to find out what the people behind the conference thought would be coming next from the event. Tom said that he believed the focus would continue to be on making sure that they can cover all of the topics that are relevant to their community:
“We want people to know that we’re not just about Microsoft Exchange and Skype for Business or Teams. We also offer guidance for Azure too. We’re also thinking about looking at more developer-focused tracks, with maybe a hackathon which features knowledgeable developers walking around a room and offering guidance.”
Ultimately, for Tom, the focus continues to be on making the event a community-focused experience. “This is an event that’s built for our attendees. While we couldn’t do any of this without our sponsors, we want to make sure that the people who come to the event are getting the information and insights they need, that’s why we always encourage feedback and ask people to share their ideas on what they want to see.”
What are the Key Takeaways from This Year’s Event?
Following on from my conversation with Tom Arbuthnot, I went forward to conduct an interview with Adam Gent from Enghouse Interactive, to get a little more insight into the feelings around the conference. I started by asking Adam what the key takeaways would be for people attending this year:
“I think one of the big things for the attendees this year would be the focus on the recent Microsoft Teams Announcements. We had a session dedicated to helping people understand what some of the changes are going to be so that they can help to put the experience into perspective.”
Adam also noted that there had been more focus on Azure this year:
“Azure is always changing, but this year we introduced people more to the possibilities of Azure and the cloud, we had a cloud migration track and Azure branded track available. Interestingly, we saw that a lot of attendees wanted to attend all our sessions at the same time, which is a great sign that we’re really delivering the content that people want. Azure has gained a lot of traction this year and so has the cloud, I think what we’re trying to do now, is give a more open view of Microsoft cloud technologies for our attendees.”
Do You Also Educate People on the Challenges They Could Face with Microsoft?
Although UC & Cloud Day is heavily focused on showing people the possibilities of the Microsoft Stack, I was pleased to learn that the conference doesn’t shy away from sharing guidance on the issues that people could face with the technology:
“We’re very focused on Microsoft, but we learn how to improve the experience by looking at the issues that people face, and how we can work around them. When we host this event, we’re not just reading from a sales document – all our sessions are built on real-world experience, and that means that we can make adoption and efficiency easier for people.”
Adam noted that it would be great to host a similar event once a quarter, but it’s impossible to do that with the amount of work each conference takes. However, he did say that there are groups available for people to continue expanding their knowledge:
“We have local user groups, like UC London or Leeds, and UC in the Cloud. There’s also always the opportunity to stay up to date with Twitter, blog posts, LinkedIn, stuff like that. We have an ecosystem available for UC education, our event just helps to put a face on that once a year.”
What Are Your Predictions for the Future of Evolve?
Obviously, UC & Cloud day is looking forward to a future of growth as they rebrand their event to “Evolve”. I had already gotten some feedback from Tom about what he believed that attendees would be seeing in the future, now I wanted to know what Adam’s opinions were:
“Obviously, it’s all about giving the conference room to grow, we’re aiming for a one-day event, but in the future, that might become a two-day event, or something larger, to help expand on the information that we can offer to our attendees.”
“Of course, the main thing for us is keeping the intimacy that we’ve captured with this unique experience. None of our sessions have more than 150 people in them, and that means that everyone can always feel free to ask their questions, and have conversations with our speakers.”
In other words, while growth is important to the future of the event, UC & Cloud Day want to make sure that they can continue to offer the community-focused experience they’ve built for their attendees:
“The community is at the heart of everything we do. We simply want to pass on our knowledge, and help other people to evolve. It’s about trying to keep that focus while allowing the conference to grow at the same time.”
“We’ve always been focused on quality, and we never pick sessions for the sake of it. After all, we never want to be sponsor-focused. We’re not about selling anything. While we can’t do it without our sponsors, we’re about helping the community and educating. Evolve won’t be a sales pitch.”