Microsoft Rewrote the "Rules" of Conference Sponsorship

Did you even notice?

Microsoft (as this year’s diamond sponsor) did not have any scheduled time on stage. By this action, they have set the bar incredibly high for conferences the world over. No longer need conference coordinators be pressured by pay-for-play politics – and no longer need top conference sponsors fall victim to the misconception that speaking time is implied.

Yahoo! and Ask’s direct involvement in the Gnomedex discussion was completely independent of their sponsorship commitment; Susan Mernit and Jeremy Zawodny were already on my “potentials” list, and the Bloglines team helped me prove that a vendor could remain neutral and help produce an open discussion (which even competing vendors and casual users enjoyed). MindJet was our live transcriptionist, a position that was greatly needed and appreciated. Even so, I can’t deny that these participants also work for companies who sponsored our event. We had countless sponsors (GoDaddy, AMD, WhatCounts, CacheNetworks, PRWeb, WaggEd, WeatherBug, WetPaint, TopTenSources, Snapstream, etc.) who enhanced Gnomedex through nothing more than their financial support. But a leading sponsor not receiving prime time in the content arena? UNHEARD OF… until now.

Microsoft is to be congratulated by this move – and applauded by all. Their name was there, their teams were listening. They will always be associated with Gnomedex 6.0 and its varied successes. They recognized that smart conferences cater to attendees through their support – not the other way around. Conferences that don’t pay attention to their users deserve to die – and the users who continue to support those conferences need to wake up and realize that they (the users themelves) are in control.

Microsoft, we can’t thank you enough – and I really hope that others realize just how important (and pivotal) this was. It was the smartest thing you could ever do for us, your community of technology enthusiasts. Sean Carver, Kevin Briody, John Porcaro, Jeff Sandquist, Sean Alexander, Aaron Coldiron, Joe Friend, and many others inside the company really “get it.” You have represented your company well – both at the conference and your EMP party, giving everyone memories to last a lifetime.

This is the type of respectful behavior users and influencers appreciate. This is the type of “good will” you generate when you don’t force yourselves onto a community. This is a warning shot across the bow of all other conferences: the rules just changed, and Microsoft changed them. This is bigger than Windows Vista and Microsoft Office combined.