Should SharePoint Speakers' Content Increase in Value from Free Community Events to Larger Conferences?
The evolution of SharePoint has taken root in many key phases. As a development platform, we are witnessing the growth and usage of many custom applications via the CodePlex community and solution providers. Organizations are harnessing the power of SharePoint to manage business processes and leverage data to improve their overall bottom line. SharePoint professionals have moved beyond regional presence and have become internationally known and respected for their talents, including a new crop of talented professionals that have leveraged the explosion of SharePoint Saturday events and Social Media to become household names.
There are well over 100 quality SharePoint events held each calendar year, ranging from Lunch and Learn brownbag sessions, User Groups, Code Camps, SharePoint Saturdays, and SharePoint Conferences such as SPTechCon, TechEd, Best Practices Conference, The Experts Conference, SharePoint Conference, and many more.
The question is:
Do speakers have an unwritten obligation to increase the value of their sessions delivered from a free event ranging to a conference where the audience is paying top dollar to attend?
Select SharePoint Saturday events are now taking on the feel of a conference based on quality of speakers and topics, Is it fair for an attendee to have an unwritten expectation level when attending community events?
The majority of SharePoint professionals who volunteer to speak at community events and conferences are doing this on their own personal time. This means in addition to billable client work, meetings, and company requirements, they are putting together slides and demos to add value to the community.
In many cases, billable work leaves minimal time to work on slides, so speakers tend to deliver slides that are “good enough” and leverage their years of real-world experience to answer questions throughout the session.
On the other end of the SharePoint Speaker spectrum, there are independent consultants who take the time to prepare slides and supporting materials such as whitepapers and webcasts because speaking and community is a portion of their marketing strategy.
In theory, a technical demonstration is a proof of concept of an area of understanding that provides an added dimension to the content being presented.
Is it an unfair expectation for session attendees to expect a demonstration to work as proposed? We all know and understand that virtual machines can fail, and SharePoint can provide an error that is not fixable during the presentation time alloted.
Does the audience have the right to expect a backup to the demo in the form of:
*screenshots of the solution that the speaker is demonstrating
*recorded screen capture of the solution functioning as proposed
Virtual Machines/Demo Environments
If your virtual machine hasn’t crashed, hiccupped, blue screened, or simply failed to start, you have more speaking to do
Let’s face it, there is an element of Murphy’s Law that applies to using Virtual Machines when delivering presentations. One solid strategy is to screen capture the actual demo under ideal conditions and playback the demo during your presentation.
If you upload your presentation to a video sharing site, you can embed this presentation
into zooming presentation editor Prezi and of course, the tried and true method of PowerPoint.
Solid testing up to 30-45 minutes prior to beginning the session is another method to get the most of the virtual demo environment. Another point-of-consideration is your demo environment itself. For my SharePoint 2010 demos, I’ve switched from Sun VirtualBox to CloudShare, which allows me access to a fully configured on-demand SharePoint 2010 environment accessible via the cloud or VM (as a backup) using their Fast Upload technology. For me, it provides me more time to focus on the details of making the demo better instead of actually building the demo environment.
The slideshow is the staple of SharePoint presentations across the board. When discussing increasing value of slides, making slides available for on-demand viewing after the conference has quickly become the de facto standard.
Here are a few other ways:
* List reference material and helpful SharePoint blogs that helped you ramp up to deliver the presentation
* Create a Slide Augmentation Document. This is a document where you expand your views from the bulleted list that dominate most slidedecks into a paragraph or two containing your views on that particular slide or concept.
* Post your slides online. There are a number of proven ways to do this. SlideShare is a go-to location for many SharePoint conferences and professionals who want to share their work. SlideShare’s most under-utilized feature is video. Record your slide and upload your slide including your voice as audio to provide a narrative explanation with your presentation. Your personal blog may be another location to link your slides accompanied with your thoughts on speaking at the conference. Scribd.com is another great location to host documents.
One SharePoint Speaker’s Approach
I posed this question to Fabian Williams during a recent SharePoint luncheon with the DC Metro SharePoint community and he mentioned that during his sessions if a proposed technical demo does not go as planned, he switches into “Troubleshooting Mode”. The value of Troubleshooting Mode is this portion of the presentation delivers real-world scenarios for attendees who would deploy the solution that Fabian is proposing.
If you are a speaker, what are your thoughts on ways to increase value or do you feel it is necessary to increase value at all?
For conference attendees, are you satisfied with the sessions you are attending? If not, what can be added or improved to bring the level up to where you feel it needs to be?
Written by: Shadeed Eleazer
Photo Credit: Stijnbokhove under the Creative Commons License.
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