What’s in it for you? Roundtable contributors get real about the benefits of attending.

In September, a group of 16 Microsoft event alums joined us in Chicago to share their experiences and suggestions. We asked them what they saw as the top benefit(s) of attending, based on their experience at one or more of the six legacy events that will come together in May for Microsoft Ignite 2015.

Here's what they had to say:

To be a better geek; to share problems with others

"I'd always wanted to go to TechEd. I started creating relationships and getting involved in the Krewe. When I got to the event, it was like we already knew each other. The friends I made—the caliber of the individuals—was just incredible. I learned that these guys were having the same problems I was experiencing back home. It was not just me. Sharing their experiences made me a better geek." – Harjit Dhaliwal, TechEd Alumni, @hoorge

"For me it's like going to Disneyland. It's the week I look forward to all year. I've been going since 2003. At first you just go for the sessions, then meeting people changed everything for me. Seeing people you know online. I wasn't going to the 400-level sessions, but being around people who do... it's an amazing experience." – Scott Ladewig, MEC, MMS, and TechEd Alumni, @Ladewig

Teambuilding; getting colleagues together who work remotely

"Most of our team is remote. Being able to meet people you don't know. Teambuilding, getting folks together who don't usually see each other, and walking away with a better sense of community. It's the networking and community you get out of it." – Tom Pacyk, Lync Conference Alumni, @tompacyk

"Working remotely, I'm not always as engaged with the people I work with. Being there as an attendee is so engaging. There's everybody, all in one place." – Jeff Guillet, MEC Alumni, @expta

"I work remotely—my team is 800 miles from me. Coming to TechEd is a real way for me to connect with what people are doing" – Joe Kelly, TechEd Alumni, @_JoeKelly_

Connecting with the community and building relationships

"Building relationships is one of the main reasons I attend the conference. To connect 1:1 and understand how our community is experiencing problems in IT. We can then approach the community in a much more holistic way. Connect with our other partners, connect with Microsoft and learn from the community. It's a huge value to us." – Nick Lagalante, MMS and TechEd Alumni, @NickLagalante

"It gives us the opportunity to meet new faces. At the end of the day, what I want to do is meet people and generate leads." –Jennifer Michelle, Project Conference Alumni, @SenseiPPM

"The community is one of the biggest benefits. It's my opportunity to see my close friends within the community I've built." – Michael Bender, TechEd Alumni, @MichaelBender

"We have this organic community in SharePoint. Being at the event, anyone can just jump in and be part of the conversation." – Laura Rogers, SharePoint Conference Alumni, @WonderLaura

"For me, it's a little different because I've been an event speaker, but I've been going as an attendee for ten years. It's all about community. Building relationships with the people I talk to on the phone. It's not death by PowerPoint. You're sitting up there having a conversation with somebody." – Jeff Guillet, MEC Alumni, @expta

Hearing people talk about problems; having a conversation

"Customer evidence. Nothing matches if you can hear a customer talk about what works and what doesn't work. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the pain points." – Dux Raymond Sy, SharePoint Alumni and Project Conference Alumni, @meetdux

"Sitting in sessions, hearing from customers... getting those data points is really valuable. That was exactly what I needed to get out of it. Hearing people talk about their problems and making all of these excellent contacts." – Joe Kelly, TechEd Alumni, @_JoeKelly__

"I've enjoyed events as a speaker getting to share my ideas. I love explaining to people, talking about the nuances and solving problems. It's all about user adoption and helping people understand their problems." – Laura Rogers, SharePoint Alumni, @WonderLaura

Interacting with peers

"The key thing for me is the networking and open dialog that can easily be had with anyone there. Easy access to my peers and product group. We powwow and can then walk to sessions together. Interacting with your peers and socializing is the biggest benefit." – Jason Sherry, MEC Alumni, @JasonSherry

"You start meeting people and making friends, then you find out they have the same problems and issues and you start figuring out how to solve those things. You go to learn about what's new from Microsoft, and you stay for the community." – Naomi Moneypenny, SharePoint Conference Alumni, @nmoneypenny

See the technologies, play with them, and help others with them

"There are a lot of smaller events during the year, but this is the opportunity to pull all the pieces together. It's that one opportunity during the year to see the technologies, play with them, and help others with them. Keeping current is vital as an educator. I hardly attend any sessions live, but I go to the instructor-led sessions." Ed Liberman, MMS and TechEd Alumni, @Pluralsight_ED

Build my brand and professional growth

"I tried to go to as many sessions as I could. There were a lot of things that benefited me. I came away with more skills—more things in my wheelhouse." – Heather Fitzpatrick, TechEd Alumni, @hfitz11

"I've been as an attendee and a speaker. Chatting with the experts...it's so organic. I can go on stage and show people something new and exciting. I can hone my skills as a speaker—build my brand better, and my professional growth." – Fabian Williams, SharePoint Conference Alumni, @fabianwilliams

"It's probably the most important week of my year. It's my opportunity to learn, to grow. While I don't go to a lot of sessions onsite, I can consume sessions afterward." – Michael Bender, TechEd Alumni, @MichaelBender

Talk with the people who write the code.

"The roadmaps, the overview, the cool stuff. The connection—being able to actually talk to the people who write the code." – Naomi Moneypenny, SharePoint Conference Alumni, @nmoneypenny

"Access to the super deep technical stuff. If I have a problem, the solution is at TechEd. I really like the technical bits because that's what I do." – Todd Klindt, SharePoint Conference and TechEd Alumni, @ToddKlindt

You heard it. Now it's time to experience it. Microsoft Ignite is May 4–8 in Chicago at McCormick Place. Register today.

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