SharePoint Saturday Twin Cities 2017

I am so happy to announce I will once again be speaking at SharePoint Saturday Twin Cities! #SPSTC is on May 6th and will once again be held at Normandale Community College.

You can find out more information about the event on their website.

Oh, and Jeff Teper will be there too!

SharePoint Friday Cincinnati 2016

ShareFriday Cincinnati

I will be speaking in Cincinnati, OH again and this time I will be presenting two sessions at SharePoint Friday (#ShareFriday). The first session is titled “Business Intelligence Using SharePoint and Power BI” and in it we will discuss the SharePoint BI story.

The second session titled “Microsoft Flow: The successor to SharePoint Designer Workflows” will be an introduction to the new Flow product. I will also have workflow examples and I will be doing an interactive demo with the audience.

You can register to attend (FREE) here: SharePoint Friday Cincinnati

[UPDATE]

My slides for the two presentations can be downloaded using the links below.
Business Intelligence Using SharePoint and Power BI ShareFriday Cincy 2016
Microsoft Flow the Successor to SharePoint Designer Workflows ShareFriday 2016

My first session went really well – the group had great questions and the discussion was a lot of fun!

My second session was great as well – wow two great session groups that were engaged and wanting to learn!

SharePoint Saturday Charlotte 2016

SPS Charlotte 2016I am very pleased to announce I will be at SPS Charlotte on September 17th to lead a session titled Business Intelligence Using SharePoint and Power BI.

We will be talking about delivering a business intelligence solution using SharePoint, Power BI, and throwing in some Microsoft Flow!

UPDATE: I am leading a second session titled Building SharePoint Solutions with Out of the Box Features and No Code.

You can register to attend by going to the SPS Charlotte website. If you do attend, please stop by and say hi!

[This post will be updated after the event]

Here are the slides for my presentations:
Business Intelligence Using SharePoint and Power BI
Building SharePoint Solutions with Out of the Box Features and No Code

 

SharePoint Saturday Nashville 2016

I will be presenting at #SPSNashville on May 14th on the topic Business Intelligence with SharePoint & Power BI. I will show how to create BI solutions using SharePoint, Excel, Power BI, and a new Microsoft tool Flow.

Join us! SPSNashville.org

[UPDATE]
I had a great time presenting at SharePoint Saturday Nashville. I had a great group of attendees and we discussed SharePoint list interaction with Excel, Power BI, and Microsoft Flow. I am not posting my slides because I didn’t really show content on slides – I used demonstrations the majority of the time to show the power of the tools.


We walked through creating a BI solution that included a SharePoint helpdesk site – one solution used Excel and Power Pivot to build dashboards, the second used Power BI to display and manipulate the helpdesk data, and lastly we used Microsoft Flow to improve the functionality of the solution by pulling in even more content.


The rest of the day was fun and filled with some awesome content from other speakers, delicious hot lunch from Just Love Coffee, and snacks with the sponsors.

SPSNashville 2016 Attendees
SPSNashville 2016 Attendees

The last session of the day was a question and answer time with Microsoft CVP Jeff Teper.

There were a lot of great questions and Jeff was genuinely excited to see all the SharePoint professionals giving up their Saturday to learn and build community. A few bits of information I noted that Jeff shared:

  • There will not be another SharePoint-branded conference put on by Microsoft anytime soon. Microsoft’s Ignite conference will be the focus and they are attempting to put more focus on SharePoint at the conference.
  • Approximately 300,000 Android users start using OneDrive every day
  • Jeff acknowledged some missteps and wants to fix them – the first being that navigation will be coming back to the new document library look in SharePoint
  • Microsoft knows it did not handle correctly the delivery of the message around how the newly announced SharePoint Framework effects existing developed add-ins. This will be fixed in the weeks ahead.
SPSNashville 2016 Jeff Teper
SPSNashville 2016 Jeff Teper

The day ended with a lot of giveaways – we counted over 20! We also announced that attendance was up 79% over last year!

SPS Twin Cities 2016

On April 23rd 2016, I will be speaking at the Spring installment of SharePoint Saturday Twin Cities. There is a great line-up of speakers (too many to name here) and sponsors, so please check out the site for details: SPSTC.

I will presenting a session titled “Future-proof SharePoint Solutions” – I am looking forward to showing off demos of SharePoint Server 2016, SPDocKit, and others. If you are at SPSTC, please come by and say hello.

[UPDATE]

The day before I was to travel to Minneapolis, April 21st, the musical artist Prince died at his home in the Minneapolis area. The people of Minnesota and specifically the Minneapolis area seemed to love their hometown superstar and the weekend did have an undertone of morning the Purple One.

My slides from my presentation can be found here: Future-proof SharePoint Solutions – Building SharePoint Solutions with Out of the Box Features and No Code

Friday night was a great time of food and fellowship – catching up with old friends and ones that I had made at the previous SPSTC.

The morning of the event, I arrived to great buzz that is the SharePoint community in Twin Cities – people were ready to learn and with a little help from donuts and coffee, we were ready to teach and learn right along with them!


I attended several sessions, but I wanted to highlight the great session Michelle Gilbert and Alexis Bell gave. “Creating a Buzz: Putting on an Office 365 Awareness Fair”. They did an excellent job walking through why and how you should be promoting and communicating your transition or implementation of Office 365. They shared their current and recent past experiences with evalgelizing and socializing the whole Office 365 transition and I highly recommend attending their session if you have the opportunity!


My session was last in the day and I was excited to engage attendees on how we can use out of the box SharePoint functionality to create meaningful solutions for our user communities. There was a great buzz in the room and conversation to go with it – I really enjoyed my time with them in the session.


I was able to eat lunch with Stacy and Heidi – and make Todd Klindt jealous, so it was all around a fantastic day 🙂


A special thank you goes to the volunteers and organizers of SPSTC – you did a fantastic job! You have a well-run event and the attendees received some high-quality traning and networking time with some great speakers.

Organizing a SharePoint Saturday – Promotional materials

All the posts in the Organizing a SharePoint Saturday series:
Organizing a SharePoint Saturday – My Experience
Picking a Venue and Date
Picking Speakers
Managing Sponsors
Getting Help and Communication Methods
Event Week
After Event Follow-up

Website

After picking a date, my next step is to request a site be created on the SPS Events website. This is the main hub of communication. I put all information for the event on the website and then all subsequent communication for the event will point back to this site. To make it easy for me to include the URL of the site in promotional materials, I purchased a custom domain name for the event, SPSNashville.org and then forwarded the domain to the site being hosted on the SPS Events site. This allows me to quickly communicate how people can find information and gives the event a professional feel. The custom domain name is not necessary, but I am very glad we have it.

Event Registration Website

I use the Eventbrite website for attendee registration. This allows for attendees to cancel their reservation if they can’t come and will send them a reminder a couple days before the event. The Eventbrite service also has a mobile app that allows for easy check-in the day of – you can either find the attendee by last name (surname) or use your mobile device’s camera to scan the bar-code on their ticket.

The site also has the ability to export attendee information, so it is easy to make nametags, send sponsors information about attendees who opted-in for sharing, and to gain insights on attendees by allowing you to ask them questions on their job role and work environment.

Other Services

In addition to the main website, I also create a Facebook page and Twitter account. I use these two services to communicate short messages but always point people back to the main website.

I use Twitter for reminders on the Call for Speakers, the Call for Sponsors, building anticipation for the date announcement, and interacting with people who may have questions. It is also the easiest method to reach out to potential speakers and sponsors that you might not be able to reach otherwise. You can schedule tweets to be sent in the future – I use Hootsuite – and I schedule tweets I know I will be important. For instance, I will schedule tweets to be sent out a week prior, a day prior, and the last day of the Call for Speakers. I will also schedule tweets to be sent out occasionally during the period before the event to encourage everyone to promote the SPS. Lastly, I schedule tweets right before the event to help communicate important topics to attendees such as where to park at the event, don’t forget to bring your entry ticket, and remember to visit our great sponsors!

I use Facebook to give more details on announcements – a good example of this is once we have sessions picked out, we will make a post about each session with the speakers name. This way the speaker can share that post via their own Facebook, Twitter, or other service. We also will interact with any potential attendees if there are questions or comments. I have also paid to “boost” posts in Facebook – this can be done for as little as $10, but it can be tricky to use this effectively. You can target your promoted post based on geography and other factors, but I haven’t noticed an increase in attendance due to paying Facebook. Use this, and other types of ad-type posts on any service, with caution as you could be wasting money.

Announcing the Date

Once I have the site created and customized exactly how I want it, including the event information, speaker material (telling potential speakers what type of sessions we are looking for), and sponsor information, I announce the date to the world using the main website, Twitter, Facebook, local LinkedIn groups, and email.

Groups to reach

In announcing the date, I reach out to the following groups:

  • Previous speakers – send a group email making sure to use blind carbon copy (BCC)
    • If I picked them before, I want to give them opportunity to submit again
  • Previous sponsors – another group email
    • Sponsors who are willing to be part of the community will often participate again
  • Companies who have sponsored the local user group or have expressed interest in sponsoring
  • Local SharePoint / Office 365 user group
  • Other local technology groups – .NET user group, tech council, SQL user group

Signs, Banners, and Printed Materials

Lawn signs are needed to help attendees navigate the challenge of finding parking and getting to the building where the event takes place. I use Vistaprint to create basic signs with the logo of the event and room for me to manually draw an arrow pointing to the building. Don’t put the date on the signs and you can use them year after year.

I order a couple banners to have at the registration / check-in desk. The banners have the event logo and the logos of the sponsors that are gold-level and higher. Banners aren’t required, but are a nice touch and relay the message to sponsors that they are important. I use Vistaprint for the banners and I have been very pleased with the quality.

I used a local printing company for printed schedules in the past and put sponsor logos on the back of the heavy paper stock guides. However, last year I used a shared Microsoft OneNote file that included everything the printed schedules included plus all the speaker biographies, session explanations, building maps, and sponsor descriptions. It is easy to update – sometimes you have to make session changes during the day of the event. There are web services that can provide a mobile or computer app for attendees to build their schedule and keep track of feedback. These services, such as Guidebook, aren’t always free, so you will need to evaluate if the cost is worth the benefit.

I will most likely stick with an electronic form of the schedule in the future, mostly due to the flexibility of making last-minute updates. This past year there were complaints voiced by two or three attendees who hadn’t read the 10 emails that clearly stated the schedule was electronic and to plan accordingly. I had also supplied a PDF copy of the schedule for people to print and bring with them to the event, but reading the emails would have been required to know that as well.

Organizing a SharePoint Saturday – Picking a Venue and Date

All the posts in the Organizing a SharePoint Saturday series:
Organizing a SharePoint Saturday – My Experience
Promotional materials
Picking Speakers
Managing Sponsors
Getting Help and Communication Methods
Event Week
After Event Follow-up

In my experience, picking the “right” venue and event date is of utmost importance. There really isn’t a one size fits all rule for when and where a city’s SPS event should take place. Being a part of the local community and knowing the area is a key ingredient to setting yourself up for success.

Venue

Selecting a venue can be a tough decision and this year was no exception. Choosing a place with convenient access and entertainment options nearby can be an advantage. The previous two years SPS Nashville was held at a university close to downtown. The location made it easy for attendees and speakers to get to from the airport and also provided easy access to the local music scene, for which Nashville – Music City – is known.

The location must have enough rooms with sufficient seating for your sessions and be equipped with the appropriate technology to make presentations easy, such as a projector and screen. You will most likely need an area to have the registration/check-in table, an area for your sponsors to setup advertising/tables, and a place to serve food.




A great place to start looking is at universities, then move on to large businesses with enough conference rooms (this includes your local Microsoft office if you have one) and then finally with conference centers. I base this on two major factors: 1) cost and 2) flexibility. For cost, typically no one can beat the price a university will charge. This is because they are excited to have community events that expose working professionals to the educational opportunities the university can provide. Some universities may not have state-of-the-art technology for hosting an event (e.g. high-resolution projectors) while others may be leading-edge. Depending on the technology your local university has will be a factor in the fee they are able to charge – I recommend visiting the university to check it out for yourself. A critical point here is to use your sponsors’ money efficiently; it might be necessary to choose the lowest-cost venue option and not get everything on your venue wish list.

Universities can also be a great option for flexibility in dates as most campuses are not as active on Saturdays as they are during the week. Beware this can cause logistical problems as well. For instance, the campus mail center may not open on weekends. If your sponsors want to mail booth materials to the venue, they need to have it delivered during the week and a university representative will need to pick it up before Saturday.

You will need to contact your venue early in the planning phase – I have found 5-6 months is a good time-frame. This is usually the advance time facilities need for scheduling events while still getting you in early on the booking process. This time-frame will vary widely between cities and getting familiar with the event scene in your area is important. The timing also depends on your chosen venue – convention centers may schedule events a year or more out, so make sure you check with each venue for the advance notice they will require.

Date

Many factors play into picking your event’s date and your chosen date can also drive which venue you pick. My process for picking a date goes something like this:

  • I check my calendar – at this point in the process, the main organizer must be able to attend! Make sure there are no weddings, vacations, work trips.
  • Are there any other SPS events scheduled within 300 miles or so? If so, you probably want to change your date so you won’t be competing for speakers, sponsors, and attendees. Ideally, your event will be the only SPS in your region / country on that date.
    • Check the SPS website for other event dates http://www.SPSEvents.org
      • Some cities don’t list their events on the SPS Events site unfortunately.
  • Check for major events in your area – for instance: a major sporting event or a festival.
    • My first year, a college basketball tournament was taking place in town. It made finding an after-party location difficult.
  • Check the calendars for the public schools in your area – all of them. If schools are out on a break, there can be low attendee turn-out due to people traveling or spending time with their family.
  • Generally avoid holidays and the summer months for the same reasons as above.
  • Make sure you give yourself enough time before the event date – in my experience the minimum amount of time is 3 months, but the more time you have, the more planning and promotion you can do.

This year, I had a date picked and was on the verge of reserving the venue when I got word from a friend that one of the largest SPS events in the country had picked the same weekend. I could have moved forward with the date – the other event was far enough way geographically (over 12 hour drive), but I would be competing for high-quality speakers and sponsors who typically attend the large event. I decided to change my date, but my preferred venue was not available. It took an extra couple weeks to get another venue picked and confirmed, but I am confident it was worth it.