I spoke at Experts Live Europe last week and this post is a report of my experience at this independently run tech conference.
I cannot claim to be a historian on Experts Live Europe (I’ll call it Experts Live after this) but it’s a brand that I’ve known of for years. Many of the MVPs (Microsoft Valuable Professionals) and community experts that I know have attended and presented at this conference for as long as it has been running. It started off as a System Center-focused event and evolved as Microsoft has done, transitioning to a cloud-focused conference covering M365 and Azure.
Previously, I never got to speak at Experts Live. When it started, I had mostly fallen off the System Center track and didn’t feel qualified to apply to speak. Later, as the conference evolved and our interests aligned, I was always booked to be on vacation abroad when the conference was running so I didn’t apply. This was a sickener because the likes of Kevin Greene and Damian Flynn raved about how good this event was for speakers and attendees.
This year, that changed and I applied to speak. I was delighted to hear that I was accepted and was looking forward to attending.
The organisation changed a little, but the central organiser, Isidora Maurer, was still at the helm. I knew that this would be a quality event.
Experts Live is a brand that has expanded and now includes local events across Europe. I’ve been lucky to speak at a couple of those over the years.
This year’s conference was hosted in Prague, a beautiful city. I’ve spoken in Prague before but it was my usual speaker experience: fly in – taxi to the hotel – speak – taxi to the airport – fly home. This time, because flights home were a little awkward, I was staying an extra night so I could experience the city a little bit.
The conference center is just outside the city centre and the hotels were just next door. Many of the speakers booked into the Corinthian Hotel, a nice place, which was a 2-minute walk across a bridge or through a train station.
I arrived at the conference center to register on the last day, about 40 minutes before I was due to speak in the second slot. I registered quickly and was told to go upstairs. I did – and the place was a ghost town. I was sure that something was wrong. Whenever you go to a tech event, there are always people in the hallways either on calls or filling time because they don’t like the current sessions. I found the speakers’ room and did my final prep. Then I went to the room I was speaking in next, and it was packed. All of the rooms were packed. Almost no one was “filling time”. I’ve never seen that and it says a lot about the schedule organisers, the sessions/speakers, and the attendees’ dedication.
Another observation – that my wife made afterward while looking at event photos on social media – there were a lot more women at this event than one will usually see at other technical events. The main organiser, Isidora, is a well-known advocate for women in IT and I suspect that her activities help to restore some levels of balance.
My session was called “Azure Firewall: The Legacy Firewall Killer“. In the session, I compare & contrast Azure Firewall with third-party NVAs, while teaching a little about Azure Firewall features and demonstrate a simple DevSecOps process using infrastructure-as-code.
I had a full room which was pretty cool and there was lots of engagement after the session – throughout the day!
I attended sessions in all but one slot, catching the end of Carsten Rachfahl’s hybrid session, Didier Van Hoye’s session on QUIC, Damian Flynn’s Azure Policy session, and Eric Berg’s session on Azure networking native versus third-party options. All were excellent, as I expected.
It has been a long time since I’ve had the opportunity to attend technical sessions – the pandemic suspended in-person events for years, I can’t focus on digital events (for several reasons), and Microsoft Ignite is a marketing/vanity event now 🙁
The after-party featured some lovely snacks and drinks with some light-hearted entertainment. It was short – understandably – because many people were leaving straight away.
Entertainment for the evening was hosted for the speakers: we gathered at 19:00 and were taken on a riverboat tour where we had a few drinks and dinner while enjoying the city views in the warm autumn evening. It was quite enjoyable. And maybe, just maybe, many of the speakers continued on in various locations afterward!
Experts Live is a very well-run event with lots of content spanning multiple expertise areas. I love that the sessions are technical – in fact, some of the speakers adjusted their content to suit the observed technical levels of the audience while at the event. In 2024, if you want to learn, then make sure you check out this conference and hopefully if I’m accepted, I’ll see you there!