Monday, November 14, 2011

Why absolutely everyone should attend a SharePoint Saturday – My Top Five Reasons

I love SharePoint.  I love it so much that I actually spend my weekends flying around to different SharePoint events just because I love learning more about what it can do and what it can offer our clients. This weekend I returned from SharePoint Denver and I was compelled to share my top five reasons why everyone that has ever heard of SharePoint should attend an event. 

What is SharePoint Saturday?  It is a one day FREE mini-conference that includes awesome sessions about SharePoint.  These sessions are targeted towards new users, current users of all skill levels, developers, decision makers and anyone else that has even heard the word “SharePoint”.  There are usually four or five 50 or 75 minute sessions running at the same time for different target audiences on all kinds of subjects, such as BI, jquery, Search, Designer, content management, governance, best practices, use cases, etc. etc. etc.  These sessions are led by Microsoft MVP’s, consultants, community experts, developers, architects and end-users that have something really cool to share.  Many of these speakers are the SAME speakers that you will pay $1000 or more to see at the big conferences (which are worth every penny, by the way)!   These awesome individuals donate their time to these events out of love for SharePoint and the community.  Plus you usually get some pretty cool swag (shirts, bags, usb drives, etc).

Free?  So what’s the catch?   It’s impossible to get something for nothing…right?  Wrong!  That’s just the point…there is no catch.  SharePoint Saturdays are run by volunteers, the speakers are volunteers and the sponsors take care of everything.  You are not forced to buy anything, listen to a sales pitch or even visit the sponsor booths…though, I highly recommend doing so since they have great information and some pretty cool swag.   There are always really great giveaways that you are eligible for or can sign up for at the booths.  Each of the six SharePoint Saturdays I have attended have given away at least one xbox with Kinnect (I won one in DC J).  The only cost or requirement is your Saturday time.

OK, so now to my point…here are my top 5 reasons everyone should attend a SharePoint Saturday:

Awesome Sponsors:  The sponsors of SharePoint Saturday are vendors that offer products and/or services revolving around SharePoint.  It’s amazing what you can learn about the capabilities of SharePoint that you never knew were possible until you talk to these guys.  You will find ways to make your SharePoint solution better and usually end up saving money for your company in time/development/productivity.  They may be SharePoint extensions, hosting services, training and more.   Many of these companies were created because someone has felt your pain points before and created a solution for it.  Sponsors pay for the entire cost of the conference, which I find amazing.   I make a point of visiting each new sponsor I come across to learn about what they offer and determine if it might be something our company or a client might need. 

Knowledge is Power!  I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a lot of time to search and find all the latest and greatest best practices and techniques about every aspect of SharePoint.  I mean…SharePoint is HUGE.    Even though I have been a SharePoint Power User for 10 years, I still find new things every day.  SharePoint Saturday is a great way to get a “taste” of a lot of information about a lot of different subjects. You won’t walk out of every session as an expert on every subject, but hopefully you’ll learn something new that you can then make an effort to learn more about.  Why re-invent the wheel or have major/minor issues if someone is willing to let you learn from their triumphs and mistakes?  The truth is that there is so much that SharePoint can do that that you may not know about….you just don’t know what you don’t know.  And if you discover something that you want to learn more about, you’ll be at the right place to find the best training vendor or blog to meet your needs (either as a sponsor or ask a community member) that targets what you need.

Presenters:  I cannot sing the praises of the presenters enough!  In general they are extremely friendly, smart, witty and fun people who are passionate about what they do.   I absolutely love meeting and conversing with as many of the presenters that I can.  I will honestly say I haven’t met a presenter I didn’t like…and between SPTechCon 2011 and 6 SharePoint Saturdays this year, I have met a lot!  This is the most friendly, fun and smart group of people I have had the pleasure to be around.  

Community:   By attending these sessions you become a part of an awesome community.  If you embrace it, it will enhance your SharePoint Experience.  I have had some great idea-exchanging conversations with other attendees who experience similar pain points we all have.  There are so many ways to accomplish the same thing in SharePoint and so many people have done so much.  This is a tight-knit community and if you are looking for an expert in a certain area, someone in the community will be able to point you in the right direction.

Free Stuff:  On top of the all the free training you’ll get, you get lots of swag (and good swag too!) plus breakfast, plus lunch, plus the chance to win really great prizes (valued from $25 up to $400+).  This all adds up to one great time!  Additionally, you may even get a free beer (or soda if you’re under 21 or not a drinker).   No, not at the conference, but at SharePint, which is a very social event where the speakers and attendees congregate to partake in lively discussions and raise a glass to the community at the end of the day. And don’t be shy at these things…people are there because they WANT to connect with other SharePoint people. 

I hope you will find the next SharePoint Saturday near you at and sign up today.  Check the site often, new dates and locations are announced all the time, or make it easy and sign up for the newsletter.  The more users that are educated on how to use this powerful tool, the more SharePoint will blossom, which will increase demand for more products and services to make people’s lives easier and we all win.