Have We Seen The End of Local SharePoint Events?
The question is simple: When was the last time you attended a SharePoint community event or conference where 3/4th of the speakers were local and based in that area?
Many SharePoint professionals who have gone on to become internationally known and respected, author numerous books, and influence the next generation of SharePoint talent can cite their involvement with their local Code Camp, User Group, Special Interest Group, or company Lunch and Learn session as the breeding ground for their confidence and newfound public speaking ability. The growth and continued operation of regional events and organizations are the heartbeat of the SharePoint community.
In attending quite a few SharePoint Saturdays,Code Camp and other community events over the past 2-3 years, I’m noticing a trend as the SharePoint industry continues to grow and expand that is impacting regional events. Let’s take a look at the growth of SharePoint Saturday and how it trickled down to other aspects of the community.
The primary impact of SharePoint Saturday was that it leveraged Social Media and the User Group community to establish a legitamite speaker’s circuit for regional SharePoint professionals to cut their teeth by delivering sessions and through consistent presence at events, gain exposure on a nationwide level, thus increasing their credibility and value as a SharePoint pro/expert/specialist.
Prior to the explosion of SharePoint Saturday events, there existed two types of speakers which I’ll label as The Mega Conference Speaker and The Regional Code Camp Speaker.
The Mega Conference Speaker can best be characterized and described as a SharePoint thought leader in their given discipline who has enjoyed years of notoriety as a top tier SharePoint expert and authored the books/blog posts that provided the entire SharePoint industry direction on how a particular feature is to be understood and best practices for utilization. A large number of Mega Conference Speakers have earned the MVP designation at one point in their careers or have maintained it throughout for continous value given to the community. If the Mega Conference Speaker attended your event, an instant boost of credibility was given to the overall Speaker’s lineup and organizers can count on standing-room only in their sessions.
The Regional Code Camp Speaker was a knowledgeable SharePoint professional .
It is interesting to note that prior to the release of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, many Regional Code Camp Speakers were working as IT professionals in other disciplines ranging from Network Administrator, .PHP/.Net Development, Project Management, Business Analyst, Graphics Design and converted into a career in SharePoint after their company implemented SharePoint in one of many deployment scenarios. The learning curve was steep for MOSS 2007, so they joined their local SharePoint User Group to connect with like-minded SharePoint professionals to ask questions and find answers. Soon after, they started delivering technical presentations at the local SUGs and Code Camp throughout their region and the Speakers on the higher end of this spectrum started to travel outside of their region and delivered sessions at Code Camps in other cities and states.
SharePoint Saturday: Not Your Typical Community Event
From the very first SharePoint Saturday event held in Virginia Beach, it was obvious that this wasn’t your typical SharePoint event as speakers traveled from far and wide to attend and be a witness to the start of something magical. SharePoint Saturday also provided a format where over 20 speakers can be featured within a one-day conference. This lead to other SharePoint Saturday event organizers attemping their hand at hosting events in their cities but the key catalyst was the SharePoint communities’ usage of Social Networking that enabled community organizers to:
- Spread the word in real-time about upcoming events to a concentrated group of SharePoint professionals
- Expand their available Speaker pool from 1-3 neighboring states to the entire US (and now global) depending on the event’s performance track record
Has Nationwide Focus and Demand Impacted Regional Events?
Let’s be honest. Organizers put a lot of time and effort into events that they host. It is very hard to say ‘no’ to an accomplished author/speaker/expert if they are willing to foot the cost to attend and speak at an event that an Organizer is hosting. The reality is certain names entice people to attend and spread the word which leads to greater chances of a successful event.
This has lead to many community/regional events taking on the look, feel, and approach of a mega-conference. Many of our speaker lineups are featuring SharePoint pros from all around the US, and this also trickles down to the smaller SharePoint markets, who would typically have to shell out thousands of dollars to attend a paid conference to enjoy such star-studded lineups. In the effort to plan the best event for the attendees, many new Speakers that are based locally may have fallen by the wayside.
The tough questions are:
- Does the focus on gaining the best speakers from a nationwide pool impact the grooming and development of a new crop of speakers?
- Have we as an industry lost focus on what community events are intended to be?
Here’s a comment from a previous post on SharePoint Careers from Mark Miller of End User SharePoint that highlights the issue concerning local events:
“A problem now occurring is that SharePoint Saturday and other regional events, originally created to allow locals to participate as speakers and gain recognition in their local area, is being overridden by the chance to hear nationally recognized speakers at these free events.”
“My concern is not so much with top quality presentations, but that a majority of the slots remain available for locals who want to present new ideas and aren’t known on the speaking circuit.”
Are there Any Good Examples?
SharePoint Saturday DC: Federal provided a solid blueprint on how to host an event with a regional focus on local topics and/or speakers. It was the first SharePoint Saturday event with a focused theme throughout. The challenge for other Organizers in other regions is to find the topics that the attendees in their given region would support.
What are Event organizers doing to promote new speakers?
Are there designated slots available for each event to include new SharePoint community speakers?
Are local events a thing of the past as the SharePoint community expands globally?
Submit your Viewpoint on the topic.
Written by: Shadeed Eleazer
Photo credit: G Mcfly under Creative Commons License
- SharePoint Saturday Speaker Submission Guidelines
- Should SharePoint Speakers' Content Increase in Value from Free Community Events to Larger Conferences?
- SharePoint Saturday DC (2012) Recap
- SharePoint Saturday for Newbies
- 5 Ways to Supercharge Your Career in SharePoint for 2011
618 total views, 1 today