I just finished attending and speaking at the Kentico Connection conference in Orlando, FL. The annual conference once again showed that it is the premier event for Kentico developers, partners, and end clients. Just like past editions of the event, the conference was broken up into three tracks.
The Developer track focused on Kentico best practices and product improvements slated in Kentico 9. Next, there was a Marketing track which showcased customer success stories and real world marketing examples illustrated by some truly great Kentico solution partners. The last track was new this year, the Hands-on track. This new track was a welcome addition to the event and it allowed end clients, marketers and developers get their hands dirty with Kentico.
Throughout the conference, I wished I could be in two places at once because of the quality of each session was pretty high. I know I say this year after year, but it is a fact. The connection event truly is one of my favorite events of the year because there is so much to see and so many like-minded people to network with. This year BizStream was also well represented by myself and Bizstream's founder Mark Schmidt. We were happy to be a lanyard sponsor for the event.
The Pre Conference Social Event
All work and no play can make for a dull conference experience. This year Kentico wisely expanded the event to include a fun set of activities for attendees. The social activities started off at a local golf course near SeaWorld Orlando. I can tell you this I have golfed since I was 11 years old, and this course was probably one of the top 3 courses I have ever played on. It was in fantastic shape and had some absolutely stunning landscape. I ended up playing with @sdunn_dev, and two Kentico product team members. Let's just say that our foursome didn't exactly tear up the leaderboards in terms of scoring, but we had a great time.
After the 8th hole of golf was finished (yes only 8), dinner at the course was provided. It was a nice arrangement of food and drink and provided a convenient location for great conversations and some networking with the other golfers. As dinner concluded we moved into the rest of the evening which included more drinks and a few games of poker. Don't worry the game was played for fun only, although I sure wish I could have had the chance to actually take @bryan_soltis's money.
I really like the fact that Kentico is doing its best to make the conference a bit more of an experience to build the community aspect of being a Kentico partner, developer, or customer.
Day 1 - Getting Warmed Up (...Literally it was Hot)
Kentico’s Founder, Petr Palas, kicked off the event with an opening keynote that set the tone for the event. An additional keynote speaker, Daniel Sieberg, Google, then went on to talk about Digital Transformation and what digital marketers really needed to start looking out for in terms of future digital marketing trends.
The keynote also included a session on Kentico's new content authoring tool, Kentico Draft. I have actually seen this tool in action and can say that if you need to have content created for your next Kentico website you might want to check it out and see if it is a good fit. The tool will allow you to start working on your content on day 1 of a project without having to worry about the CMS being stood up first (which you should be doing anyways). Then once your project is ready you can simply import your content right into your Kentico site with a simple to use Kentico module.
After the opening keynote the audience was introduced to a few new faces at Kentico in the Meet the People Behind the Product session. The fact that key Kentico product owners travel to the event is one of my favorite things about Kentico Connection. It gives each attendee the chance to put a face to the people behind the product as well as choose who to schedule individual 1-on-1 sessions with any of them throughout the conference. In my opinion having direct access to the e-commerce product owner and ask him questions on best practices is of huge value to a Kentico partner or developer.
After meeting the Kentico resources, Kentico announced new changes and additions to the Kentico Technology Partner program. The program is meant to allow for products or services that enhance Kentico functionality. One of those additions was actually a product that my own company has been working on Compare for Kentico. I was excited to get up on stage and give the audience a quick run through of how we feel this tool will make developers more efficient when they go to deploy their changes from one Kentico environment to another.
After a quick break, the audience broke out into the 3 tracks and attended the main sessions. It caught quite a few sessions during this part of the day. I think my favorite developer track session of day 1 was Don't Keep Your Package to Yourself by Marek Fesar. Marek showed us how Kentico 9 has upped its game in terms of deploying custom modules from one instance to another. He showed some excellent best practices that all Kentico developers should know about.
I also had time to catch Bryan Soltis give a session on the Sky's the Limit with Kentico in the Cloud. As usual Bryan's talk gave great insight into the various cloud options that you can use to deploy Kentico. My favorite part was where he said that the Microsoft Azure Web Apps were one of the preferred approaches to utilizing Kentico in Azure. This is one of my favorite points from his session because I totally agree with. He even mentioned the Amazon AWS was a pretty good cloud environment for Kentico as well.
Again there were a ton more sessions to be had during this time, but I could not attend them all. In talking to the other attendees, all of the feedback was that they were all pretty well received.
Day 1 - Expert Panel
For the last session of day 1 all of the break rooms were combined back into the main hall for an expert panel. I was very honored to be a part of that panel. Myself, fellow Kentico MVP, Brenden Kahren, Bryan Soltis, Kentico Technical Evangelist, and Miro Remias, Kentico Consulting Services Manager (and all around Kentico all-star). The audience asked more than just a few tough questions to us all. I think we handled them pretty well though. The best question though was what would be the top new feature we would like to see in Kentico 10. That is a great question isn't it?
Day 1 - Evening Social Event
When it comes to a social event, Kentico definitely knows how to do it right. The event was at Fogo de Chao, a Brazilian steakhouse. This was my first time at such a place, and I can tell you that I am now a fan of Brazilian beer and finely cooked meat. The picture below was the best I had, but does not do justice to representing how nice of a networking event it was.
Day 2 - More Kentico Learning
The second day of the conference focused again around more sessions for the attendees. This time I split my time between the developer and marketing tracks again.
From the developer track standpoint, I was happy to see Brenden in action during his Transitioning from 8 to 9 – What Developers Need to Know session. Breden has already been beta testing the Kentico 8 to Kentico 9 upgrade and gave his opinion that the upgrade process will be simpler in Kentico 9 when compared to upgrading from Kentico 7 to Kentico 8. That is definitely good news for sure.
On the marketing side I was able to attend two great sessions on utilizing Kentico's digital marketing capabilities. The first one was given by Jim MacDonald on Leveraging the Power of Kentico EMS, and the second was Using Kentico EMS to Optimize the B2B Sales Process by James Williamson. Both Jim and James gave fantastic examples of how Kentico can be used to perform advanced digital marketing techniques like content personalization, geolocation, marketing automation, and lead scoring. I really enjoyed these presentations of how to utilize Kentico from a marketer's standpoint.
Day 2 - My Session on Growth Hacking with Kentico and Closing Keynote
And yes, finally, at the end of the second day I gave my session on Growth Hacking with Kentico. I had a really good time giving the session even if it wasn't totally technical.
The slides from my presentation are embeded below.
After my session concluded the whole audience was brought together one last time for the closing keynote. This year Karol Jarkovsky, Director of Product, gave the session. He pointed out where Kentico things the digital marketing landscape is going, the concept of API first design and development, and promised us the release version of Kentico 9.0 on November, 24th, 2015.
Most people want to know one thing about attending conferences; Was the time I spent on this worth it? I would answer that question for Kentico Connection Orlando 2015 very simply with Yes. This blog post may seem like a long recap, but it doesn't even come close to conveying all of the other value that I feel I have received from the time I have spent talking with like-minded Kentico partners, developers, and end clients. See you all there next year!