The beginning of June signifies many things: The weather is finally getting nice, the end of school is near, summer vacations are being finalized, and SPTechCon is right around the corner. Before you know it, the calendar will say July 15, and the second and final installment of the 2012 BZ Media SharePoint conferences will be upon us.
Though some of you may be wondering why this article is coming out now and not a week before the show as in previous years, the answer is simple: planning ahead. When you begin a SharePoint project, it’s all about planning information and data, functionality and usability—and a conference is truly no different. Beginning your planning now will allow you to collaborate with your teams in order to make the conference more beneficial to the company overall.
I’m going to make the general assumption that most of you will “plan” in the following way: opening up the SPTechCon website, or brochure, scanning down the list of sessions, and checking off the one that interests you most, exactly the same way that I did my research when I attended my first SPTechCon. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there are some steps you can take to plan for a great experience:
1. Sit down with your team (or boss) and, based on where you are in your project, plan out what your goals are for the conference. Remember that you are likely attending the conference on behalf of many in your organization, so be open to attending a session that may not be your favorite. Perhaps you implemented SharePoint 2010 last year and you are only interested in some hands-on training. Others may be midway through their project and interested in the business tracks, which feature consulting-level sessions and workshops. Be realistic and holistic in your approach to the sessions. Know where you are in your project and be sure to attend the sessions that you get the most value from, whether that’s going to be an overview, intermediate or advanced session. Attending an advanced-level course may not be best if you are only starting out on your SharePoint path.
2. Create a OneNote notebook and publish it to your SharePoint site, then share the details with your team members before you leave for the conference. You may want to test this out before you go to make sure everyone knows how to access the information. This will allow others back at the office to view your notes, thoughts and comments during the show, provided you’re committed to updating it at each session you attend. We have used this tactic in the past, and it’s a great tool for people back in the office to stay connected.
3. Print cards! I can’t stress this enough; it may seem like a little thing, but communication is obviously very important at a conference. Many of the speakers and vendors on the trade-show floor will collect cards for draws to win great prizes, so make sure you order some new cards if you’re out. You will also want to connect with other attendees you meet while in Boston.
4. Each of the speakers has spent time creating the content that you will learn from at the conference, and we are all looking forward to sharing our expertise. Feel free to contact any of us if you are looking for some information ahead of the conference. Asking your question ahead of time may aid in your session selection or open your mind to something you weren’t previously aware of. Most of us have easy-to-find blogs, and contact information is ready and waiting.
5. Following the speakers is another great way to prepare for the conference. The SPTechCon site has the addresses for most speakers. This provides a unique opportunity to see what’s being planned and what the speakers are talking about leading up to the show. For example, most speakers are currently talking about various discount codes that are available, as well as some ideas and topics for their sessions.
Finally, prepare to have a great time in Boston. There are many social activities, parties and events for all attendees to take part in. The conference is also right in the heart of downtown Boston, so be sure to do some research on the location and the great restaurants and attractions that are within walking distance. See you in Boston!
Eric is the EVP of Systems Integration for Concatenate, a software firm focused on maximizing SharePoint through product innovation and systems integration based in Toronto. You can reach Eric by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @rizinsights. Read his other SharePoint thoughts on his blog at www.ericriz.com.