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Technical Conferences at 2X Speed

I go to a few conferences each year. Most of them I’m speaking at which causes some interesting dynamics. The first dynamic is I invariably am preparing for the sessions before I deliver them. I’m not saying that I’m not prepared for my sessions – just that I always do a dry run within 24 hours of my session to make sure that all my demos work. (Presenters will tell you that updates love to break demos.)

Add to that I’m generally spending a ton of time in discussions with my fellow speakers, MVPs, notables, and just answering questions. The net effect is that I really don’t have much time to go to sessions while I’m at a conference. Yet, one of the common questions I get is “Have you seen any good sessions?” The problem is the truth is no… because I haven’t seen any sessions. I hesitate to stop at no lest someone get the wrong impression.

In all honesty, the other problem with going to sessions is that I have to be keenly interested in the topic. I’ve got so many things I’m trying to cram in my head I try not to put things in that I don’t have to know. Of course, this means that there are only a handful of sessions that may relate to the kinds of things I need to learn about today.

Sometimes, like now, I get something new appear on my radar that I really need to learn more about. I’ve got some WCF REST web service stuff that I need to know and some Silverlight stuff I need to know. So what did I do? I went back to the conference videos for conferences I’ve attended (like TechEd) and a few that I didn’t make it to, like Mix. Between the two I found tons of content that relates to these topics. ARG. How am I going to get through all of that? Well, I’ll just change the way that time flows – for the videos.

So I start the video up In Windows Media Player, right click then hit Enhancements and finally Play Speed Settings. I then slide the play speed to 2.0 and watch the session at 2X speed. I find I can keep up with the presenter (barely) at 2x. The end result is that I can make it through 2 sessions in the time it would take to watch on. I get a little bit of an advantage on my time.

If your version of Windows Media Player doesn’t have the enhancements menu, you can’t get to 2x play speed – you can, however, get to 1.4x play speed by pressing Ctrl-G after you’ve started playing the media. Still a pretty good investment on your time.

I find that this technique is even better than time shifting television with a DVR.

WARNING: Don’t try to do this for too long. You’ll come out talking to your family like an auctioneer.