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Bryan Roper: The piano man who upped Microsoft's new swag

The Windows 10 Devices event at New York City this week was one of the finest Microsoft events in recent times. Not just the devices that were launched, the demos and the presenters too got a big thumbs up from most people – including the ones on the other side of the fence.

While Panos Panay, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft was the star of the overall presentation, a brief appearance by Bryan Roper for a demo earned several fans. It's not typical to do a stage appearance in a fedora hat with a uniquely sculpted beard and leave the audience with a pretty neat catchphrase – "I can be productive like a boss wherever I am now."

For years, Microsoft has touted productivity as a key driver for some products, but no one had put it that way. Like many of Windows enthusiasts, we at Windows Central found it so good that we created t-shirts of the same – the fedora hat not missing.

Born and raised in Tampa, Florida, Brian started as a Web designer, earning an associate's degree in interactive media development before his peers had even earned their high school diplomas. He started making money doing freelance design and, around the same time, was teaching himself to play the piano and guitar and sneaking into a blues bar at the end of his street. From freelance Web designing to becoming a musician and a cruise ship veteran, to finally landing a job at Microsoft is a fascinating tale that could well be the screenplay of a movie.

Roper got back to school at the University of Tampa pursuing a degree in music, writing dark classical pieces, and playing blues gigs around town. He paid the bills with freelance Web design and a job at a sports bar. Shortly after earning his music degree, he met a bass player who invited Roper to play keyboard on his cruise ship rock 'n' roll band named The Dirt Poets.

On the cruise ship, he watched the lead singer of the band intently – how the guy warmed up a room, how he got people dancing, how he cooled the room down again. Before long, Bryan had mastered just about any song people could throw at him as well as the subtle science of crowd psychology, which he calls the piano lounge edition. He believes that there's a mathematics to the whole thing, a series of 'if x, then x' equations designed to get people in the seats, ordering drinks, having fun and tipping well.

"That was a pivotal point. There's no better place to learn about consumers than on a cruise ship."

While on a gig for Holland America, a friend told him about the Holland America Digital Workshop Program, which offered similar benefits as being a cruise musician. So Roper left the frenetic energy of the piano to become a Microsoft-trained 'techspert' teaching cruisers how to use Windows computers. There, Roper learned how to work a very different room. One day, Lisa Sikora, Microsoft's director of partnerships and experiential marketing, discovered Roper. She was managing the Digital Workshop Program at the time and was on the ship to make sure everything was going well. She attended several of Roper's classes and was wowed by his ability to connect with people. The two kept in touch for about a year, and eventually Roper took a job as a lead trainer, teaching the people who would be teaching Microsoft technology.

Bryan Roper has been with Microsoft for about four years and has trained thousands of Microsoft brand ambassadors, the people who go on to staff Microsoft Retail and pop-up stores, and holiday and launch experiences. He's 'secret shopped' his way across the country, driving 5,000 miles and visiting 60 retailers posing as a customer while taking notes on how to improve the Microsoft experience in large tech stores.

Roper has honed his skill from years of playing for the toughest of crowds at Florida blues clubs and from years of presiding over a cruise ship piano lounge packed with rowdy vacationers. His je ne sais quoi is his ability to work up an audience like he did the other day on the stage at NYC.

Knowing what you know now, what do you think of Bryan Roper? We hope to see more of him at future Microsoft events.

Source: Microsoft{.nofollow}

109 Comments
  • I think he was AWESOME! I would love to see him on stage again.
  • Yeah he's a great spokesperson
  • His twitter followers have more than doubled in a few days. EDIT: And he tweets a lot more than he used to.  
  • He's showed up at build before presenting...stuff... I recognize him anyway...hehe. But yeah, he was kind of fun at this event. Everything was kind of serious and then he stepped in. He also seemed to genuinely love what he showed, which was great.
  • So what does that mean for Joe Belfiore presenting and demoing new Microsoft tech? Will we ever see him again on the stage?
  • Yeah I was wondering the same thing - Belfiore was curiously absent
  • The reason Joe Belfiore was absent 'cause it was a Device event. He would be there when they officially announces W10M.
  • Panos panya was great love him up there. Want to see him more Cool Dude :)
  • I have high with Panoy.
  • Maybe Windows Central could start by spelling his name right consistently.
  • Yeah He's Slick. Miles better than any presentation from google or apple in my oppinion and I love watching those too. He looks genuinely excited while explaining the stuff to you while coming across completely Jovial. Not sure if it was the excitment I was feeling from the continuum demo but his presentation of it was spot on! I don't even use windows phone but That whole thing blew my mind.  
  • He did a pretty good job. But since I'm a 23 year old male, I'm obliged to ask: what about that brunette that presented the Band 2? I'd like to know more about her.
  • This. You my man.
  • +1
  • I know, right?! =p
  • Was she so beautiful?
  • She looks like the Geek you'd want to fuck. Big geeky glasses, but still fuckable. : G.I.L.F. Geek I'd Like to Fuck
  • Mind your language dude.
  • Haha
    At first I was like. She's alright. She's "office hot". But between those glasses, her hair and slender frame... I came around. then I remembered I had a girlfriend
  • Had?
  • Grammatically he is correct. If you start a statement (technically paragraph, even groups of paragraphs) in one tense you have to stay in that tense. So yes 'he remembered that he had a girlfriend' Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Same here. Didn't see what the big deal was at first. Took about 5 minutes to get in.
  • Lindsey, she's such a MILF!
  • Dude, she's a "GILF" -Geek I'd Like to Fuck-
  • GILF, that would only be misleading. If you know how ambiguous that "G" is.
  • You mean the woman with glasses as big as her face? Yeah, can't wait for that idiotic trend to end.
  • ++
  • Ya, the the fit geeky chick training for a marathon...I'm in.
  • Yeah. Trying way too hard to be hipster-geek
  • Amen to that -can't stand it either...
  • His presentation was amazing, totally unexpected how much he livened up the room. He didn't jabber away about the tech specs of Continuum, he showed everyone what exactly you can do with it. It was pretty remarkable, to say the least.
  • Agreed, the guy was very engaging. My attention never waned so that's a testament to his presentation ability. My attention span is short as hell and I never found myself losing interest in what he was presenting.
  • Am I the only sane person here. He was terrible. Panos steeped it up though... Usually he sounds desperate/condescending.
  • Everyone has their own tastes
  • Add an "in" to the beginning of "sane" and I'll give that a yes.
  • Thank you, I hated that guy. He couldn't sell shit to me. Also I don't get the hype about the presentation, it was one of the most boring ones I have seen in years. WindowsCentral seems just to swallow anything that comes from Microsoft. And that said by a Microsoft fanboy.
  • If I worked for Windows central I'd be flattered by your comment. After all, they're Microsoft enthusiasts!
  • I can think of probably a dozen press events I've been to this year that were terribly dull and boring compared to Tuesday. I saw Roper at IFA, he gets you excited. Why wouldn't Microsoft want that?
  • @Richard Devine, sounds like a healthy dose of Time team is in order for some these peeps :P.
  • Troll, don't call yourself Microsoft fanboy. You are paid troll, your comment proves it. Not only wc, even 95% of wc readers are agree with this is the best Microsoft and tech event so far. Crapple and scroogle events are boring and Dumb like you.
  • Can I have the link? 95%?
  • Look at you. You think that 95% have the same opinion as you and if someone from the other 5% pops out he's automatically paid and a troll. So genius, much detective, wow.
    I agree with the Crapple and Scroogle part tho. Their events are never worth the time.
  • Even Engadget and the Verve thought it was brilliant. You're clearly part of the minority of old Microsoft techno babble event lovers.
  • I brother likes the verve pipes.
  • I agree. Panos' presentation was way more enticing for me. The intensity with which he described the surface was awesome, and well suited for that device.
  • The verge and several other sites seem to be impressed as well.
  • I'm not the biggest fan of Microsoft but they hit it out of the park with their event and Roper and Panay were awesome. They should be at every Microsoft event from now on. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Yes, thank you. While I like what Bryan has to say, I have not found his manner of presentation at all appealing. I feel his approach is more "infomercial pitch man" than "cool tech presenter" - It just rubs me the wrong way. I'm not just trying to be negative about him, I don't mind the guy, his achievements are admirable - I wouldn't mind having followed a similar path, but I just don't find him to be an appealing speaker. Panos on the other hand, owned that stage - he oozed passion for the products.
  • Well you get the best of both worlds. We all know Panos is awesome at whatever they throw at him.
  • infomercial pitchman can be very effective. that's why they use them to sell products.
  • Just adds more fuel to the fire that there will be a Surface phone. MS didn't want to have brand confusion for when they ultimately launch the Surface Phone.
  • I believe that. Panos Panay is going to be the designer.
  • I almost turned off the broadcast because of him. He was so freaking annoying. Panos almost lost me at first too. It felt like he had way to much coffee before the presentation. He seemed to chill out a little after Bryan's segment tho, and I really enjoyed Panos after that.
  • if your opinion is different from everyone else, maybe it's you who's insane. The guy was quirky but fun to watch. The terrible one was Terry Meyerson. He was very dull up until the others got on stage. 
  • productive like a boss = max cringe levels reached. 
  • Everyone has a phrase, it may or may not resonate with you. Just like marmite or vegmite.
  • He swaggin' I read his profile on the Microsoft Stories blog...cool stuff. =p
  • Nice I thought he was Latin!
  • I still want a shirt that has that refridgerator/toaster on it they showed in the event and has a #Surface on it =)
  • He was fun.  Made what could be a boring presentation interesting.  Did a great job! I think having a mix of characters was the best part though.  And enthusiasm.
  • I loved what he did. I cant stand stuffy presenters.
  • I was like wtf, a comedian? I enjoyed it but it felt weird somehow. But maybe that was a good thing. I think this can only succeed once like it did now. If this comedy show gets repeated at the next event it will be too predictable and dull. So Microsoft has a difficult job to impress the next event hard to top this.
  • Well, in this day and age the younger generation can hardly keep focus or concentration. If they find something dull, they switch off or start forwarding a movie or start whinging or fall asleep. So this change is good.
  • i liked his presentation but to me it seemed rushed
  • I thought he was good, done the best at a 'bad' situation. More please!
  • Bryan's story plays out like he calls it, Like a Boss.
  • I hope to see him in future presentations he was awesome
  • I've seen Bryan presenting at Microsoft WPC 2015 and he was as enthusiastic and funny as at #Windows10devices event at NYC. So I definitely vouch for him
  • Loved that guy. He was good!
  • I want Panos Panay and Bryan Roper in every MS event. Panos Panay attitude and his enthusiasm is awesome.
  • To me he came across like a snake oil salesman. But then Panos, imho, always seems like he's got a big chip on his shoulder. He did tone it down a bit this time but it was still there. Btw, I get tired of the way apple events are done, too. I don't need to be wowed with useless data. Show me what it is and what it does. I really don't care how hard it was to make.
  • Honestly I felt like he belonged on a cruise ship. Fedoras are not cool. Sorry
  • So he like secret agent at Microsoft
  • Panos was great for presence, Bryan had an edge and flair...loved his New Orleans style accent...I agree, I watched it live on my XB1 and it was the best MSFT presentation I've ever seen...polished, smooth and lots of wow...
  • Like a boss
  • I'm a get me one of those T's.
  • It had me hooked.
  • Where is joe belfiore :(
  • Busy working away, his got his work cut out. Just like the members in the team.
  • The first time I saw Brian Roper do a demo, I thought does this guy know how to captivate and engage the crowd. Congrats to him for his accomplishments, pretty inspiring imo.
  • THIS IS MAH PHONE
  • I think Brian needs to visit some Verizon stores....
  • Guess it's over for Joe Bilfurry.
  • I liked his energy, but I'm not really into the whole white guy trying to talk ghetto thing. To each their own.
  • What is "whe whole White guy trying to talk ghetto?" You do realize that Whites grow up, in places where EVERYONE talks like Roper does, dont you. That was a pretty entitled/racist comment. You'd be lost in Louisiana, New York, or Chicago... It's called vernacular. So obtuse.
  • I loved the demo. Probably more for his style more than equipment. After reading his bio, no wonder. This man is another reason I have faith that Microsoft really does have a plan. And it's going to be timed very deliberately in the style of "oh, and another thing..."
    If they have this man in charge of training store personnel, not so much in terms of the technology but the attitude they'll be on the right track. No arrogance no condescending, just " here, let me shoe you what this baby will do. You can do it too, watch".
    Sales training is what's been lacking in phone stores forever, you have to have people who know people. Not just the specials, or what the boss told me to push this week.
    This is the one part of the plan that Microsoft knows has to happen. And it looks like they have the right man to head it up.
    How do I know? Been there, I've done it. It works!
  • Loved his part of the briefing and I'm considering buying one of those shirts ;-D
  • He wasn't the only one panos made it matter though so both of them made it awesome for sure but it needs those two or more nothing less!
  • Loved his presentation.  
  • When I first saw this dude on stage, I thought "what's with the hat" thinking it might have been something to make sure Windows Hello properly recognised him. As his presentation went on, I thought this dude looks like some muso who's worked a few Cuban bars in Miami. I was partially right.
    Anyway, this guy killed it. Panos was as cool as a cucumber on stage. They both nailed their presentations. Panos is definitely passionate shoot the new kit coming out of Redmond.
  • I can be productive like a boss...!! Wish I could hear more of these tag lines from this guy in future...
  • The whole presentation is awesome and he is the best part of it.
  • He's THE BOSS!
  • He's a Tampa native? This guy just became my hero.
  • He's the boss!
  • I like the guy. I liked all the presenters, with the exception of the Band 2. She wasn't bad, but with all else being so good, yeah.
  • Smart guy with a skill set which is in very high demand. It would not suprise me if some high tech company wil lure him away from MSFT for a lot of money. Putting him front and centre like they did was good for the event, but may have been what will make him leave MSFT not too long from now. Brian may want to take some time to try and make Terry Meyerson be more at home on the same stage who, alongside powerhouse presenters like Panos and Bryan, looks even weaker than he is.      
  • I guessed he was a musician.
  • Did Joe Belfiore retire or he's been appointed for a new role in the firm ?
  • At first I was quite a bit, well, surprised when Brian came on stage. His entire appearance just didn't seem to fit in. After the event ended though, I realized that part of it being exceptional was because of Brian shaking it up a bit. Panos gave a great presentation, don't get me wrong, but it was good to see the seriousness and some plain fun stuff work in tandem.
  • As they say in the hood, "He da man!... Who da man?
  • Who's "they"? And in what "hood"?
  • It sure beats the overly-scripted generic corporate speeches they usually give - like Terry Myerson did
  • He was awesome at WPC 2015 too. MSFT Corp Execs better get some tips from him ;)
  • Panay and Roper killed it! Amazing products, great event.
  • I thought he was embarrassing to watch but good for him for enjoying whatever he did.
  • Bryan Roper and Joe Bellfiore should ALWAYS be included in demonstrations and presentations where it makes sense.
  • That's a trilby hat, not a fedora. A fedora has a wider brim and is not turned up at the back.
  • He's a very good presenter, but Panos Panay, he's a combination of amazing presenter, genius designer, and profound leadership...I think Microsoft has found a much better Steve Jobs; i.e. Panos Panay = Steve Jobs (amazing presenter and profound leadership) + Jony Ive (genius designer, except he actually designs great bang-for-buck premium devices), IMO. Combine that with the extraordinary leadership, presenter, and visionary in Satya Nadela, Microsoft is seriously on a role, and I'm really liking the direction they're heading in under Satya Nadela's leadership. Not missing any piece of that immature meh presenter named ballmer...