A Brief MVP Summit History

April 26, 2019
Microsoft

Since I seem to be on an MVP history jaunt, I’ve decided to share some thoughts on the venerable MVP Summit.

The MVP Summit is a Microsoft sponsored event that brings MVPs to the main Microsoft Campus in Redmond, WA.; its primary mission is training, feedback, community building and social networking.  In its current form, its held annually and runs from Sunday through the following Friday. It is attended by well over 1500 MVPs from over 100 countries.  If you read my previous article on the 2019Summit, the format I described has been in place since 2010.  

Early Summits

In the 22 years I’ve been an MVP, the Summit has seen many changes.  I can’t speak to what it was like before my entry into the program in 1996, however, my first Summit was in1997 and the format was very different then. The first few summits before the program was expanded were by invitation Only.  Out of respect for others, no one talked about them until WELL after they were over.  Microsoft paid for everything in those days including the air fare.  Only those deemed to be top MVPs were invited, usually 100 or so out of a field of250-300; the rest sat at home.  They probably had a hunch when it was occurring as those folks who were invited went silent for a week, but it wasn’t t talked about until weeks later.  This is an excerpt from my first invitation:

“Paid-event - (travel-hotel-meals)is by invitation only.  We select top MVP program contributors who have supported their peers during the last year and invite them to be a part of this important recognition. As one of the top contributors to Microsoft MVP program, you are hereby invited to join your peers for the MVP Summit - 1997.” 

Summits now are on a yearly cadence; back then, it was on-the order of 18 months and it ran for three days, not four (or five or six days as it is now, if you elect to pay out of pocket for the last two days)  As such, my first Summit was in 1997, the second was in 1999.  This second Summit was a pivotal point in the program because it took place September 22-24, 1999 and Black Thursday, the day the MVP Program was cancelled, was one month later, October 21.  Can you imagine what all this felt like?  We had just returned from a wonderful gathering where we were praised and suddenly, we were on the outside looking in.  NO FUN!!  As I previously documented, this cancellation lasted all of four days when Microsoft bowed to the overwhelming response from both MVPs and Microsoft customers decrying the cancellation and re-instated the program.

Expansion!

With program re-instatement came the big expansion.  Summits were now open to all MVPs; Microsoft would still pay for the hotels, food, and transportation between the Campus and hotels, but getting to and from Seattle/Bellevue was now on the MVP’s nickel.  The next (2001) Summit was the last year we stayed in Bellevue.  In 2003, Seattle became Summit Ground Zero and we moved from Bellevue to downtown Seattle hotels.  The format changed as well.  Instead of two or three days, we now had four days.  The first two days were keynotes from top executives – Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Steve Sinofsky, Sean O'Driscoll, and Nestor Portillo, to name just a few.  These keynotes often included video “Ice Breakers” like this one:

I'm a Microsoft MVP and I feel great!

A Steve Ballmer Keynote went something like this:

Steve Ballmer Going Crazy on Stage

Probably the most impressive of these keynotes, for me, was in2003 when Bill Gates demonstrated an XP Tablet Edition convertible (I found this YouTube video of a similar presentation he gave).  As a television engineer, the Tablet PC combined with OneNote opened a whole new world, but that’s another story.  Days three and four saw us out at the Campus attending sessions.  As an aside, this was very entertaining for Hal, the Desert Rat because it required a bus trip over the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge twice a day. The Summit format stayed like this for the next seven years and became, for the most part, a yearly event instead of the18 months cadence we had.  In 2010, we moved back to Bellevue and the two days of keynotes were dropped in favor of two additional days of sessions.  This is essentially the current Summit format.

That’s all I have for today, but PLEASE say tuned, there’s more to come.  In my next few articles, I’m going to tell you about my first Summit in 1997, the second one in 1999, and how it led to my one MVP invention, the MVP Pocket Protector.  I also invite you to have a stroll through the MVP Museum where you’ll find a treasure trove of past MVP memorabilia.

Hal Hostetler
I am both a Certified Professional Broadcast Engineer, an IT Professional and now a published Author.

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