3 Major Lessons Learned from SharePoint Saturday The Conference #SPSTCDC

I can’t thank everyone enough for being a part of the 1st SharePoint Saturday The Conference held in DC (SPSTCDC). It was a phenomenal experience having over 2000 people registered and participate in this 3-day community organized event.
I can’t thank everyone enough for being a part of the 1st SharePoint Saturday The Conference held in DC (SPSTCDC). It was a phenomenal experience having over 2000 people registered and participate in this 3-day community organized event.

Marcy Kellar’s tweet today summed up the event nicely:

“I feel like we are leaving camp. We made some great new friends, bonded with old ones, and had a blast. I’m going to miss you all”

As I reflect on the last 3 days, apart from the kudos and great success folks have been raving about, I realize that there are certain things that we can improve in the future. Here are my 3 major lessons learned:

1. Focus on our core business and expertise

As you know, SPSTCDC is a non-profit event and organized by volunteers. This means that on top of everyone’s day job, we did our best in putting the event together after work, during weekends and at times, took off work to focus on SPSTCDC.

We divided responsibilities amongst the 13 core volunteers to cover sponsor outreach, logistical coordination, marketing, communications and other miscellaneous activities.

Even if we had prior experience in organizing 1-day SharePoint Saturday events, we underestimated the exponential amount of effort required to organize a 3-day event like this. As a result, there were some miscommunication issues, logistical inconsistencies and unmet expectations that was experienced by sponsors, speakers and attendees.

In the future, I suggest we focus on what we do best: establish the event framework, develop the high level plan, engage sponsors and reach out to speakers. For the actual execution of the plan, I suggest that we work with event management companies who are experts in organizing and managing multi-day events.

2. SPSTCDC has a higher perceived value

Just like how a traditional 1-day SharePoint Saturday event is ran, we first figured out what the estimated cost of the conference would be (ie venue, food, swags, misc expenses). If you’re wondering what the price tag of the entire event was, it’s about $310k.

Since this is a non-profit event, we divided up the estimated cost into sponsorship packages that would pretty much pay for the event. As for the attendee fees, the intent was for this revenue to go directly to the SharePoint Saturday funds to support other future SPS events that aren’t able to raise enough funds to run their event.

Since a number of sponsorship slots weren’t filled and some sponsors backed out without notifying us, all the revenues that came in including attendee registrations pretty much covered the event. Our goal of raising funds for future SPS events didn’t come into fruition. Any financial support you can provide to future SharePoint Saturday events will be very much appreciated – you can donate here.

In the future, I suggest that a bigger budget be allocated. Not only would this cover the event expenses including hiring an events management company, it can help raise funds for future events.

Additionally, for a 3-day event like this, I would suggest that we charge more for attendee registration. I had gotten numerous feedback from attendees that they would’ve paid much more for this event.

3. Do not underestimate the power of the SharePoint community

It was really a humbling experience for me to see everyone involved went above and beyond to make this event the best as it can be:

• There were over 60 sponsors that supported the event – without them, SPSTCDC wouldn’t have been possible
• There were over 250 sessions presented by 190 speakers. Renowned thought leaders from around the world who paid their own way to present at SPSTCDC. They genuinely wanted to give back to the community and share their knowledge
• Microsoft folks from the Developer & Platform Evangelism team, Project team, Visio team, US Public Sector and other local representatives supported the event by presenting in various sessions sharing the latest and greatest from their respective technology
• Most of all, over 150 volunteers gave up their time during the 3 days. From bag stuffing to attendee registration to directing people to session rooms – the SPSTCDC volunteers were instrumental in providing the best experience to those attending
• Media coverage of the event by ZDNet, CMSWire, Windows Weekly, IDG and Bamboo Nation provided amazing exposure to what was once a Saturday only event to a internationally recognized community initiative
• Impressive talent was showcased during SharePoint Got Talent – check out the performances caught on video

In the future, I suggest for the organizing committee to involve the community more in the early phases for ideas and suggestions on how to shape a multi-day event like this.

To those who weren’t able to attend, make sure you check out the twitter stream and see what you’ve missed.

Again, a heartfelt thanks to all who made this a very memorable event. Let me know what you think! Feel free to post your comments/questions below.

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