(Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it originally appeared in a February 2012 newsletter)

The SharePoint community is known to be the most exciting and vibrant in the Microsoft space, with grassroots conferences seemingly weekly and a number of major conferences throughout the calendar year. BZ Media, the producer of SPTechCon, produces two of those major conferences annually.

SPTechCon San Francisco takes place March 3-6, and features more than 20 Microsoft MVPs, Certified Masters and experts who are currently gearing up to share their knowledge with readers just like you! If you have never attended a SharePoint conference, you need to. These are great opportunities to speak with the best and brightest in the SharePoint community, including authors, speakers and industry vendors, who build out the tools to extend SharePoint’s capabilities as a platform for business. You can pick up some pretty cool swag too. For those already registered, here are some tips to maximize your conference experience. or those not registered, this is the last week to save $500 off your registration.

Plan ahead: Work out your goals for the conference and find out what you want to learn, whom you want to meet, and how you want to connect with people. Knowing your goals for the conference before you get to your first session is very important; it will help you navigate the venue, and ensure you’re in the right place at the right time. Each timeslot features many different topics and presentations, so make sure that you’re attending the session that interests you most, and don’t be afraid to get up and switch talks if you don’t feel like the topic is for you. There will be many others available to choose from.

Expert access: You will have a chance to meet personally with many of the expert speakers featured at the conference, so be sure to come to the event with your toughest questions.
Follow your track: If you are attending the conference with colleagues, speak to your team and be sure that each track is appropriately represented. Once in your session, take notes and record the questions being asked in the room. When you’re online, upload the information to your team SharePoint site (which I’m sure you’ve created for the conference), giving your team and business access to your newly created SPTechCon library. If you are attending alone, follow the track that is best suited to your role and interests.

Plan to roam: The trade-show floor is a not-to-be-missed venue, and a great way to see the latest and greatest products and services in the community. With 50+ exhibitors this year, the floor should certainly be visited many times throughout the conference.

Attend the keynotes: The keynotes are a great way to hear and learn about all things SharePoint. If you missed the SharePoint Conference in November, this is your chance to hear from Microsoft about this critical time for SharePoint, as 2013 introduces a whole new paradigm for business and document management, and collaboration.

Collaborate and share: SharePoint is all about collaborating, and SPTechCon gives attendees a great opportunity to connect with others in the community. The schedule and venue setup have been created to maximize the time people have to connect. Make sure you meet new people, peers and the speakers; you never know what information can be shared or learned through a simple conversation. If you have specific questions that you want answered, approach your speaker and set up a time to chat; we would be happy to set some time aside. Also, don’t forget to add the speakers on Twitter, as most will be tweeting live and updating during the show (handles available on www.sptechcon.com).

See you in San Francisco!

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 ericr@concatenateinc.com or on Twitter at @rizinsights. Read his other SharePoint thoughts on his blog at www.ericriz.com.