The Return of The Experts Conference (TEC)

Successful TEC Event in Charleston, SC

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at Quest Software’s The Experts Conference (TEC) in Charleston, SC. TEC was last run in 2012 before Quest went through its own corporate journey through Dell and back again. In its heyday, TEC focused on Active Directory and Exchange; this time round the two tracks were Office 365 and Azure Active Directory. I spoke about how to approach the deployment of Teams within an organization. You can download a copy of the slides below.

Update September 24: Quest has posted videos of my session on their web site and YouTube.

The video of "Managing Teams Successfully" from the Quest web site
Figure 1: The video of “Managing Teams Successfully” from the Quest web site

An Independent Voice

TEC always had a reputation for top-class speakers delivering great technical information. The world has changed since 2012, but even in a cloud-dominated space, the need for independent assessment of technology and advice on best practice still exists. Finding the right conference to attend is quite a challenge.

Many technical conferences succeed for several years and then fail (IT/DEV Connections is an example). Often events run into a brick wall when standards (of presenters and what they deliver) slip and people no longer want to attend the conference. Others fail after their first run, usually because they fail to draw sufficient attendees or sponsors. And some, like the European Collaboration Summit, are user-driven and go from strength to strength (the 2020 event is great value). Great presenters and great content are the common threads running through successful conferences. It has always been the case and I can’t see this changing, even if you can watch so many videoed sessions on YouTube.

Niche Conferences

TEC is just one of a number of small conferences that tries to fill a niche. Another is the AvePoint ShiftHappens event in Washington DC last June. Vendor-organized conferences like Microsoft’s Ignite event are larger (possibly too large in the opinion of some). The task of educating people about technology through conference sessions is not helped by the wealth of information that exists on the internet. Even so, there’s still enormous value to be gained when someone competent assesses, analyzes, and interprets what’s going on in the sometimes baffling world of technology. I think this is where small conferences like TEC can succeed in drawing an audience.

The size of these conferences permits great interaction between attendees and presenters in an open and easy manner that is more difficult for a bigger conference, especially when tens of thousands of people attend. Easy access to ask questions, debate issues, and forge answers is probably the best thing about smaller events.

Both AvePoint and Quest have their own reasons for running a conference. Alongside sessions about Office 365, Azure Active Directory, and associated topics, the conference organizers have the chance to trot their stuff and show off their unique role and value within the ecosystem. I don’t have an issue with companies running conferences if the overall content is balanced and not influenced by the organizers. I think TEC succeeded in this respect.

Next TEC in Fall 2020

Originally, Quest wanted to find a better point in the yearly calendar for TEC. This year’s event was in the last week of the U.S. summer before Labor Day and seemed a little close to Ignite. But the feedback from TEC was so good that the organizers ditched their plan for 2021 and moved the date up to September 2020. I think this is a good decision as an 18-month hiatus is a stretch when you’re trying to build momentum behind a conference.

If you’re looking to add a technical conference covering Office 365 and Azure Active Directory to your calendar, consider making a note to check out TEC in mid-2020. If Quest does the same kind of job that they did for last week’s conference, it will be worthwhile.


You’ll need something to read during your travel to a conference, or to find some obscure fact to quiz a presenter about. You might just find that the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook is the right answer for both situations.

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