Monday, June 6, 2011

Thoughts from the best SPTechCon yet

I’m on the Amtrak just outside of Old Saybrook, Ct., with some time to reflect on what many folks were saying was the best SPTechCon yet.

With a new location in downtown Boston at Copley Square, SPTechCon played host to about 950 people, including some 50 third-party partners and about 40 of the most knowledgeable people in SharePoint to present the technical sessions and workshops. Some snapshots: Joel Oleson looking ready to go even as he eases into “retirement”; sharing a pizza (commandeered by the SPTechCon staff) with Andrew Connell, Geoff Varosky, Mark Rackley and Christina Wheeler at about 2 in the morning; Eric Shupps and Rob Bogue jumping in to fill a last-minute hole in the program; Mark Miller taking the “most talked-about presentation” award at the Lightning Talks; the crew (Shane, Nicola, Todd, Laura, Jennifer, Randy, John) from SharePoint911 seemingly everywhere, dishing out advice, leading sessions and engaging the attendees... And that’s just for starters.

There were outstanding keynotes by Microsoft’s Christian Finn and Dux Raymond Sy, who talked about the business value of SharePoint. Finn invited the Boston Red Sox to talk about how they use SharePoint to control invoicing, player correspondence, ticket accommodations and a lot more; then Steve Crowley of the Red Sox gave away a pair of tickets to Friday night’s game at Fenway Park. (Some of the SPTechCon team went too, and saw the home team rally from a 4-0 first-inning deficit to turn back the pesky A’s of Oakland. Sat two rows behind a band of bloody wankers from across the pond, who sang throughout the entire game and threw off their shirts at the most routine of plays!)

People had a lot of fun with Horse’s End, a fake rock band from the twisted minds of Christian Buckley and Varosky (their very funny "VH1: Behind the Music” spoof must be watched). And they had fun at the SPTechCon After-Party on Thursday night, co-hosted by Microsoft, Axceler and Jornata.

We ran two focus groups to get feedback from attendees as to what they like and don’t like about SPTechCon, to continue to work to make it a better experience. We’ll work to bring some of their suggestions—a more flexible, customizable mobile app, and more detailed class descriptions, to name but two—to fruition.

There were giveaways galore; I liked the foam Boston lobsters from KMA and the orange rubber ducks from Idera on the exhibit hall floor… not to mention the roughly $10,000 worth of software Microsoft gave away during a launch event for two new solutions for SharePoint and Microsoft Project Server. A big thanks to Christophe Fiessinger from the Microsoft Project team for making this happen.

We also gave away hundreds of books at signings throughout the event, as the speakers got a taste of celebrity, watching people queue up to meet them and get a signed copy of their books.

I’m sure when we go through the forms we’ll be told what we could have done better, but one thing I heard at the focus group stuck with me. When I asked people what they didn’t like about SPTechCon, they all qualified their answer by first saying they thought the event was great and they got a lot of great information to take back to their jobs.

-- Dave