Collaborate Canada 2017 Toronto

Toronto was the 2nd location for the 4 city “Collaborate Canada” tour across Canada. I’m writing this nearly a week later (but the blog post date is backdated to the date of this event).

The audience was quite a bit larger than Montreal, estimated to be around 200 people in total between Dynamics GP, AX, NAV, CRM and 365 users and partners. It’s hard to say if the number was that high but the opening session sure seemed like there were way more people than the opening session in Montreal on November 14th.

Opening Session

I was actually late to the opening, due to the always-fun Toronto traffic. The location of this event was in the east end of Toronto, Kennedy & 401, which for me, coming from Cambridge, made it a 2 hour traffic adventure for what is only about 105-110km distance from my house.

While I sat in traffic, I was getting a light-hearted shout-out/mention & some GPUG love from Heather Williams in the intro part of the session. Too bad I missed it!

I got to the opening session while Nadeem Yusufaly was on stage doing the Microsoft Transformation story that another Microsoft presenter had done in Montreal. From the part I was able to listen to, it just sounded a lot more engaging than the Montreal presentation, to be honest. What I was happy to hear was a more appropriate message for the various users in the audience, even though the majority was Dynamics 365 related. Perhaps they heard some of the Montreal feedback as the message was pretty similar to what I mentioned in my last blog post, giving a shout out to the new releases coming up in the products and no mention of NAV messaging gaffes.

The second half of the Microsoft part of the presentation was by a woman whose name I didn’t catch, and a lot of it was more videos, same as what the Montreal crowd saw. From those I talked to afterwards, that was the least effective part of the presentation. It seemed like the crowd was somewhat disengaged at that point.

General Flow

The room setup and layouts around registration etc. seemed so much better situated than in Montreal but in fairness, that’s a function of the hotel space and design, not exactly something in the control of the event organizers. The Toronto hotel chosen just happened to naturally suit the reception/mingle/food area much better than the Montreal one was in this case. The rooms for the GP content (and some others) was a bit of a hike away from the big rooms where larger sessions were held, but the meals and lunch ‘n’ learns were kept in the same general area where the opening session was, no walking back to a room far away to eat.

I spoke to the Dynamics Communities folks, and they thanked me for some of my feedback and actually changed how the expo area was set up to incorporate more foot traffic that I had mentioned in the Montreal recap post, as well as where to put the lunch and learns. I’d be curious if the vendors who were at both locations felt a difference in engagement from that.

Audience Sizes

While the overall opening session seemed to have quite a few people in the room, I was kind of surprised to see smaller crowds in the GP sessions, perhaps 30 maximum if I had to guess. For the opening session with Pam Misialek, I don’t think there was that many but that was the approximate number of registered attendees for the GP side.

What shocks me is how low the attendance is, in a market with boatloads of Dynamics GP customers. Small crowds are great for the attendees, as there are lots of opportunities for meaningful conversations with other attendees or the presenters. However, in a market the size of Toronto plus the general surrounding area, of the many GTA-based GP partners I’m aware of, I would estimate most of them have anywhere from 50 to low hundreds in clients each. Obviously not every local VAR has clients that are local to the GTA and surrounding area but I could personally rhyme off over a hundred GP customers just from customers I’ve touched over the years and know to be in the area.

I actually created a poll and posted the link on the GPUG Toronto chapter forum, hoping that the “Toronto” based customers might respond. Not surprisingly, I’ve haven’t got a lot of responses and frankly, despite asking specifically for those who could have attended the Toronto location’s event, I was getting responses from people that don’t even live in Ontario. I guess I need to learn more about better poll design techniques!

Sessions

The schedule was the same as Montreal, with an opening GP session for all GP users followed by 2 breakout streams with 4 more sessions each for attendees to choose from. I happened to present 3 of the 4 time-slots today, as I picked up a third session that others were/are presenting in Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. That’s a lot of time standing up and talking!

After the session, the reception was again a nice touch and chance to mingle with some of my fellow MVPs in other product lines, and some of the attendees that I met during the sessions. It seemed that more than half of who I met probably live within an hour of me, and the majority of GP attendees came from the west side of Toronto.

After the reception, a few of us went out for sushi in a restaurant on the 14th floor of the hotel overlooking the always lovely highway 401. In fairness, it had a nice view of the entire city, but just so happened to be right beside the highway. It was a good way to unwind and wait out the bad traffic so that the trip back home wouldn’t take 2 hours!

Well, that’s it for this post… next up is Calgary and Vancouver next week! If you live in those areas and haven’t attended, there’s still time to register!

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