Jeff's Welcome Message

Jeff Middleton IT Pro Conference 2007 was held Memorial Day weekend in May 2007 in New Orleans. Our attendance of over 160 people included 35 SMB industry leaders as presenters and discussion panellist. Naturally, it's the people attending a conference that set the tone of an event. In our case, the backbone of our attendees and speakers was the alignment from the start with the heart and soul of the SBS professional community. Adding many new faces to the familiar ones invested in SMB consulting was part of the conference agenda, and on that point we are very pleased with the outcome.

Thank you to all those who invested their time and energy to attend this conference, to both give and take away value in the efforts and investments. To all of you, I offer my very deep thanks for your commitment. The unilateral success of the conference was also with credit due to the participation and funding from 12 major sponsors in addition to the organization and underwriting from I salute all of the sponsors who accepted the offer to join in attending as peers to a conference they helped make possible with underwriting.

Of course, our main focus for gathering was to explore insights from experience with "Small Business IT Disaster Planning for Risks and Crisis Recovery". In the span of two days within a single-track conference format, we assembled a sequence of 18 session topic elements. Each session presented a blended business and technical path in conversation. Unique in the structure of the conference was engaging a moderated panel discussions of 3-4 industry recognized IT Professionals with participation from the audience in both Q&A and feedback. The outstanding participation in community leadership included more than 20 Microsoft MVPs (Most Valuable Professionals) plus another dozen tenured consultants speaking with the "voice of experience" on a range of topics critical to our theme. With only the two days of sessions, the overwhelming popularity the technical workshops on Sunday afternoon suggests we can expand an investment there the next time around.

In a unique roundtable discussion Sunday morning, attendees were provided a special opportunity for insight into what's in the Microsoft pipeline for 2008 release. After 90 minutes from the perspective view of four of the seven members of the Microsoft dev team from SBS, Cougar and Centro who were attending the conference, the cougar team extended an invitation to all attendees to participate in Cougar Beta1, yet another coup for the conference participation.

Our approach included a deliberate course to "turn down the marketing and turn up the communication" by engaging attendance from all our sponsors as peers in the sessions and social events. Our on-site exhibitor's booths staffed by StorageCraft and BackupAssist maintained a focus upon topic, presenting their respective insights on data protection and business continuity softwares from within our relaxed coffeehouse lounge area. Uniform approval from our sponsors suggests that we will continue to explore this low-key approach with vendors in conversations in the next conference year.

It's New Orleans, so when in the Big Easy during the three day weekend of social and professional networking events we shared a lot of fun, food and live music. The comments were universal that the food was outstanding across the board, the French Quarter looked great, and there's just no comparison to a typical conference when you have live music every night. Tim Laughlin's jazz ensemble got the crowd off its feet promptly on Friday night reception with traditional New Orleans jazz tempo and a second line rhythm. Saturday night showcased local restaurants for dinner on the town followed with a private-view revellers balcony overlooking a Bourbon Street storyline of "beauty and the beads". As the nightlife was flowing into the French Quarter outside, our live performance by Seattle's own Aileen Paron in our cabaret setting gave a sultry cool sound just a window away from the steamy street action. As a spectacular finale to any Crescent City weekend, our conference entertainment closed out on a riverboat cruise. Taking a page from history we enjoyed the Creole Queen paddlewheeler on a lazy Mississippi River 3-hr. review of the New Orleans skyline. The SBS Bash with a delicious dinner cruise and AB Brown Band for signature dancing music was sponsored by the SBS Product Team, placing a finale for the weekend.

Lest you think that's all there was, your recap is not yet done. The conference included 3 days of events in New Orleans, of course, plus a 5 day conference for 48 people who came on a Caribbean Cruise roundtrip from New Orleans to Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico. Our daily seminar sessions were casual but still on topic for IT Professionals as the focal point of discussion throughout the week. Computer Associates as well as BackupAssist joined our cruise environment with deliberate goals and investment to lend leadership and emphasis to community based communication and feedback.

In 7-days of activities, has offered an opportunity unlike any conference in SMB space. High marks for quality, value and entertainment are a challenge and yet that is what rolled out in one combined event for our New Orleans venue and the option to cruise for the week. What other IT conference can boast 25% of the attendees bringing spouses plus couple celebrating honeymoons, anniversaries and one live surprise engagement celebrated among all of us! Say it ain't so, but 60% of those surveyed say they will bring a spouse to IT Pro Conference 2008 because this event covered all the bases as a spectacular success... and a 95% survey response indicates most attendees likely to be back next year.

I'm most proud of my city, and for the role it played as a backdrop for serious professional discussion and the most abundant distractions, entertainment and comforts for all interests. Clearly the singular hotel and conference location with only an elevator as transportation was appreciated. Yet a walk within blocks for anything you want reminds us why New Orleans is and has been the place to explore business and fun for the most remarkable conference opportunities available.

Thank you to the Astor, to Leah's, Zapp's, CC's and Hubig's Pies for a place to relax. Thank you to Nancy, Alex, Bob and Michele….and to Aileen, Bonnie, AB, Tim and John for making it happen. Wayne, Eriq and Cal, you are deep in my humble thanks. Special thanks to Mark Cousins for sharing his perspective on living through crisis. Check out Inferno and Robert Guthrie Studio for the distinctive art work, and to the technical teams and arrangements to capture the event by Linda and Paul. It's not possible to bring together anything this scale without a team, a community group invested in the success for the sake of doing it right, and I am fortunate to have my family and friends to come together and invite you to come back to New Orleans again very soon!