“Which SharePoint Conference should I attend?”. I get this question so many times that I thought this definitely deserves a blog post. As part of my job, I continue to visit and present at numerous conferences every year. While I don’t think that this makes me an expert at SharePoint conferences, I do have a perspective that I can share with folks who are looking to evaluate the choices out there.
Why should you attend a SharePoint Conference?
These days, training and travel budgets are limited. You truly have to convince yourself (and your boss) that it’s going to be worth the time and money to attend a conference. If your company is focused on SharePoint or is evaluating SharePoint as a critical component of your business, it will definitely serve you well to look into attending a conference with SharePoint content.
Please do not substitute training with attending a conference. Conferences are great for getting a feel for variety of subjects in a short two to three day period with bite sized sessions (60-75 minutes each). However, when you are ready to dive into a subject, it’s always good to get some real hands on experience either training on your own with books and video tutorials or by attending a focused training session. It’s hard to beat these modes of learning.
Which SharePoint related Conferences provide the biggest bang for the buck?
I have listed below several conferences and some subjective information about each conference. Hope this helps you when you are deciding on which SharePoint conference to attend. Also, I have embedded an interactive list below and would love to see you vote on which conferences you prefer and have attended.
Some biased thoughts regarding each conference:
If you can only attend one SharePoint conference, this is the one you want to attend. It is hosted by Microsoft and usually draws thousands of people to it. The presenters are people from SharePoint product group, experts and SharePoint MVPs who have been working with the product for many many years.
SharePoint Connections always provides a variety of tracks for all types of audiences – IT Pro, Developer, Business User. The presenters at this conference are also Microsoft folks and SharePoint experts in the field. It is held twice a year in the United States (once in Vegas and the other time in Orlando) and has very direct and focused content for SharePoint.
The SPTechCon is held twice a year in the United States. Usually, the venues are in Boston and San Francisco. Audiences catered are IT Pro, Developers and Business Users. The presenters at this conference are primarily experts in the SharePoint field. A great overall conference to attend for all SharePoint audiences.
SharePoint Fest is held twice a year usually. The best thing I like about this conference is the focus on the local audience. Whether it’s held in Denver, DC or Chicago (the usual locations I have seen), it provides the best value to the local audience who is not satisfied completely with SharePoint Saturdays and user groups. Because Fest attracts a good number of top speakers and there is no travel involved for the local folks, I would recommend looking to see when it comes to your town and sign up for it.
SharePoint Evolutions is the premier SharePoint conference in UK. This conference is presented by the folks at Combined Knowledge. The comments from all presenters regarding this conference is always very positive. They don’t hold back when it comes to spending what’s needed to make it a quality conference.
This conference is usually held twice a year: Netherlands and Germany. A well organized conference by the folks who have lots of experience putting on conferences in other parts of the world. Definitely the one to attend in Europe.
Share conference is one of its kind. Its sole focus is on the business users of SharePoint (not IT or Dev). The presenters are also generally from the business community with real world experience that they share in the sessions with the attendees.
It’s been a few years since the Toronto Summit has been taking place. Great group of guys in charge of it. Wonderful conference in a great city.
The main charter of the Best Practices Conference is to have presentations that focus on the best practices for doing things in SharePoint. Not just ‘How To’, but ‘How Best To’ and also ‘What Not To’ do. The presenters at this conference are SharePoint experts. This conference is usually held twice a year – once in DC and the other in San Diego.
This event is one of the biggest that Microsoft arranges every year. It covers all different Microsoft technologies. Members of the product team from all different technologies are represented here. It is not, however, heavy on SharePoint sessions especially since Microsoft now produces the SharePoint Conference as well.
This is a free event that takes place around the world now. The basic premise of this event is to have a local event for the community that is free to attend. Many presenters are usually local as well. In addition, some presenters travel great distances on their own dime to present at these conferences.
SharePoint User Groups
Definitely check out and find the SharePoint User Group in your city. There are many good ones out there. A charter for a well run SharePoint User Group is to serve the users (usually for free) with monthly or bi-monthly events focused on all aspects of SharePoint. Usually, there are a couple of presentations at each meeting with lots of interaction with the audience.
Caution: Over time, some SharePoint user groups have been taken over by local training or consulting companies unfortunately. The focus for these have shifted to serve more as a lead generation for these companies rather than a true SharePoint community gathering. Check out the user group’s site for these signs before visiting.
SharePoint Virtual Conferences
In addition to in-person SharePoint conferences, there are also virtual SharePoint conferences and presentations held year round. There are too many to mention here. However, doing a simple search on ‘SharePoint virtual conference’ brings up several of them. More often than not, these are hosted by either SharePoint training or consulting companies. Also, various in-person conference organizers host the virtual conferences as well.