This year I am organizing my third SharePoint Saturday (SPS) event for Nashville. SPS events are a FREE one-day conference held in different cities around the world, featuring sessions from influential and respected SharePoint and Office 365 professionals. This is the first in a series of posts about planning a technology event based on my past experiences. This series is not intended as a “one size fits all” guide, but rather some helpful information for other organizers to use when planning their own events.
My journey to becoming an SPS organizer started in 2008 when I learned of a meeting being organized by the local Microsoft office. The purpose of the meeting was to kick-off a SharePoint User Group and afterwards I attended a meeting of those interested in being on the organizing committee. This was my first taste of “technology community” and it was awesome! SharePoint administrators, developers, business users and decision makers meeting and discussing new features, issues, and helping each other – it was a lot of fun and planted the seed of building community.
In 2013 I began looking into what it meant to be a technology event organizer. I was leading the Nashville SharePoint Users Group and from that experience, I had learned a lot about communicating with speakers, sponsors, and venues. I connected with the SQL Saturday (SQLSat) local organizer, Tamera Clark, and attended the Nashville SQLSat event in 2014 to get a behind-the-scenes look at a Saturday event. I jumped in to help and got a great feel for both what happens the day of a Saturday conference as well as how the venue worked for the event. In fact, based on my experiences that day I chose the same venue (Lipscomb University) for the first SPS Nashville event.
That same year, I attended the SPS Huntsville event and learned a lot about running an SPS event from Cathy Dew and Lori Gowin. There were some major differences between a SQLSat and SPS event – I won't dive into them in this post, but it is good to know what the core fundamentals are and where there might be some flexibility in making the event your own.
Thankfully, the SPS organization asked someone to help me with my first event – someone to help guide me through the “tricky waters” of organizing an SPS event. That help came from Cathy Dew, who is a pro at this from the organizing and speaking side. She is the reason SPS Nashville 2014 was a success and in doing so, is a major reason the SPS events in Nashville continue.
In the upcoming posts in this series, I will offer details and share my experiences in the following areas:
- Picking a Venue and Date
- Promotional Materials
- Picking Speakers
- Managing Sponsors
- Getting Help and Communication Methods
- Event Week
- After Event Follow-up
If you see anything missing on the list or would like something specific covered, please let me know! Also, if you would like to give some commentary to be included in a post, I would love to hear it!
[More to come]