Now, in its 14th year, DevConnections has grown from a small conference originally focusing on Microsoft Office to a blockbuster family of co-located conferences focused primarily on Microsoft Technologies. One of the great things about DevConnections is the breadth of technologies the conference covers. For example, at the upcoming event in Orlando (March 27-30), for a single registration fee, attendees can choose to attend sessions on ASP.NET, Visual Studio .NET, WPF, WCF, Silverlight, SharePoint, and SQL Server. That doesn't even count the more IT-focused Windows and Exchange sessions. Sessions are presented by seasoned professional presenters, both from Microsoft and third-party gurus who are experts at using these technologies.
In order to present at DevConnections, speakers need to have their abstract proposals accepted and believe me that the process is quite competitive. (If you are interested in receiving the next Call for Speakers notice, please sign up at DevConnections Abstracts site.) Third party speakers are paid a small honoraria for each talk they deliver, get to attend the conference for free, and the conference picks up their travel expenses. This process works great and produces top-notch content delivered by amazing speakers, still there is room for another type of speaking at DevConnections -- Open Spaces.
If you are not familiar with Open Spaces, it's a spontaneous organic meeting of minds where anyone can get up and talk on pretty much any topic. There's not a lot of rules and structure except that everyone who attends (both speaking and non-speaking attendees) gets to help decide on what talks will be heard. Speaking proposals can be made in advance by adding session proposals to the DevConnections Open Spaces Wiki, but they are not required to be made in advance. That would go against the spontaneous, organic nature of an Open Spaces event. The Open Spaces facilitator (probably me) will organize the session proposals on a whiteboard during the first 30 minutes of the event and we all quickly vote. Then we spend the next 90 minutes hearing lots of great Open Spaces sessions. We'll likely end up with twelve 30 minute sessions or eight 45 minute sessions, depending on the number of proposals and how fast we can vote. Our goal will be to have everyone with a reasonable idea for a session have a chance to present that session (unless we have way too many proposals). Speakers do not have to have any prior speaking experience; all you need to speak is an idea for a session and the willingness to lead or facilitate that session.
If you are interested in learning more about Open Spaces, in general, also know as Open Space Technology, you might want to check out this Wikipedia article on the subject. DevConnections Open Spaces is loosely-based on the OST concept due primarily to the compressed amount of time we have (many OST events last several days), but it generally follows in the spirit of OST.
One great thing about Open Spaces is that the talks can range from very professional cutting-edge sessions with slides and/or demos much like the "regular" DevConnections sessions, to panel discussions, audience brainstorming, Q&A sessions, or pretty much anything else that works for those in the room.
If you'd like to present at DevConnections Open Spaces, please visit the DevConnections Open Spaces Wiki where you can propose a talk in advance. Or just show up at 7:30 PM on Tuesday, March 29 at DevConnections. Of course, even if you don't plan to speak, please join us for what will be lively and engaging time. Oh, and thanks to the Microsoft MVP Program, we will be serving food and drink (most likely beer and pizza) there for free.