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Sky City Convention Centre judged too small for its 2014 conference, Microsoft busts out

Microsoft Australia has confirmed it will radically overhaul its giant TechEd conference, Delimiter reports

The single, mega-conference format has been ditched in favour of a series of smaller events in Sydney, Melbourne and other cities.

Microsoft Oz says it will make the event more accessible — but in way it's a shame given half the reason you go to any event is networking; and on that score it's always a case of the more the merrier.

Delimiter's Renai LeMay says Microsoft's downsizing is part of an industry trend away from mega events to series of smaller, more focussed events.

Still, on social media, many Aussies have lamented the end of the annual TechEd pilgrimage, and the buzz you only get at a big event.

So what's happening on this side of the Tasman?

Microsoft NZ is ramping it up.

The feedback from TechEd 2013 was that Auckland's Sky City Convention Centre was too cramped.

That's no surprise. TechEd has been a sellout for years (not bad for an even where tickets cost between $1350 and $1900).

Last year there were around 2500 delegates; the Sky City Convention Centre's room (in its multiroom setup) allows for an audience of 1700 (the $403 million expansion under the controversial extra pokies deal will allow for audiences of around 3500; the recently-built Viaduct Events Centre has a capacity of 1200).

For TechEd 2014, Microsoft will again hold sessions at Sky, but international keynote speakers are being moved to nearby Vector Arena — which has a seated capacity of 12,000.

Microsoft has yet to name international speakers for the Sept 9 - 12 event.

But I'm guessing with its ambitious venue upgrade, it has some big names up its sleeve. 

A model to follow?
TechEd has often been cited as an event that's outgrown today's Sky City Convention Centre.

There's limited utility in using it as an argument for central government stepping in to help Sky expand, given the Microsoft conference involves lot of people travelling from elsewhere in NZ to Auckland, rather than drawing in spenders from overseas.

Still, it's interesting that the TechEd organisers have come up with an innovative solution, where perhaps the bureaucrats failed.

Could the the existing Sky City Centre + Vector Arena model be used for other mega conferences?

It's a logistical challenge to have an event spread across more than one venue. But that's the typical arrangement for big events in the US. And it could have saved a half-billion spend up on the Sky City expansion (though of course that's a nuanced situation, with the government not chipping in any cash, and Sky getting more pokies, plus a number of intangible benefits such as long term certainty over its license).

Still, food for thought.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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