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January 13
Your SharePoint Saturday Attendee Guide

Greetings!

Good morning SharePoint Saturday attendee! First of all, thanks so much for giving up part of your weekend to spend the day with us! We’ve put in a lot of time and effort to throw together this little FREE event for you. We’ve got Book Authors, SharePoint MVP’s, Internationally recognized speakers, and even a few brave new speakers sharpening their skills all showing up to teach you and help you improve your SharePoint skills.

While you are here please be sure to stop by and thank our numerous sponsors. Without their outstanding support we wouldn’t be able to provide you with these beautiful facilities, breakfast, lunch, and maybe even some snacks later in the day. Oh, and did I mention their support helps keep SharePoint Saturday FREE for you? So, please, don’t be shy. Stop by their booths and let them know how much you appreciate them making it possible for you to get FREE training from some of SharePoint’s best. Who knows! You might even stumble upon a vendor that has a product that fixes a problem or limitation that’s been plaguing you for months… Heck, maybe you’ll even find a new career? You never know what might happen. At least grab a free pen or some other swag… you know your kids are going to ask them what you got them when you get home anyway… here Billy! It’s a brand new stress ball!!

But wait! There’s more!

Please feel free to mingle, network, and maybe even make a friend or two. Learn from those who’ve experienced your pain, and find answers to those difficult questions. Where else can you share your SharePoint pain and angst with a bunch of likeminded people?? And all for free!?

And hey, don’t forget to stay for the end of the day prize giveaways. Maybe you can grab a snazzy new tablet, gift card, or some other awesome prize.

How about a round of applause for our speakers?

Just think, some of these speakers travel hundreds of miles to get to you. Most of them have to take time away from their busy schedules to travel a full day on Friday and then a full day back home on Sunday! That’s precious time away from their friends and families and even lost revenue for some. Throw on top of that they even pay for their travel and hotel rooms and someone might start to think that these speakers are just a little bit insane! These guys and gals work hard and spend countless hours preparing their sessions.

You are probably wondering WHY on earth these talented people put themselves through the pain and aggravation for little or no reward? That’s an excellent question! You are so smart. You see, our SharePoint speakers love what they do. Most speakers see speaking at these conferences as a way to improve their speaking skills, learn new skills, test and improve presentations for other paid conferences (Yes, in some cases you are seeing sessions that other people have to pay money for). Some speakers are brand new to speaking and are taking a stab at giving back. Passion breeds passion and when they see other people give of their time and talents, they feel compelled to do the same, to enrich others, and to take a bold step in advancing their knowledge and careers. The next time you see a speaker who’s a little nervous, keep in mind this may be their FIRST TIME speaking in front of an audience. How lucky are you to be part of an experience THEY will never forget??

Another reason they love to speak is to hangout with their peers and learn some SharePoint as well. So, don’t be surprised to see a speaker attending a session with you. And hey, our speakers don’t bite (for the most part). Smile and thank them for being there…you’d be astounded how much a little appreciation can mean to those folks. Salt of the earth they are. There wouldn’t be a SharePoint Saturday without them.

Let’s not forget our organizers!

Unfortunately, SharePoint Saturdays do not create themselves. It takes a full team (and sometimes just one guy) HUNDREDS of hours to organize it all. Imagine, these committed (or need to be committed) individuals have to find a venue for the event, attract speakers to come speak, organize the logistics of meals, parking, signage, shirts, bags, brochures, and convince sponsors to part with thousands of dollars with no guaranteed return on their investment. And do you know how much this thankless job pays? Yep, nothing. Next time you see a harried SharePoint Saturday organizer stop and thank them for performing the most thankless task SharePoint Saturday has to offer. Thanks guys!! You rock!

We also can’t forget to thank the countless other volunteers who give up their Saturday to help check you in when you show up, point you where to go when you are lost, and make sure the whole day goes smoothly.

When you stop to think about it, it’s pretty inconceivable so many people would give up so much of themselves for so little. SharePoint Saturday is a triumph of the American spirit... that’s what it is… okay, okay… maybe we aren’t finding the cure for cancer, but you’ll definitely learn SOMETHING that makes your work life easier if you pay attention.

What’s the catch?

At this point you are probably thinking, free training? Free food? Great people? and prizes?? People spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours for little ‘ol me?? All for FREE?? Surely there must be a catch!

Oh, I assure you there is no catch. We like our SharePoint and we aren’t afraid to tell you about. SharePoint Saturday events are a great way for us to meet you and give back to a community that has given so much to us.

How you, the attendee, can give back

You know, come to think of it, it is possible for you to give something back. Aside from taking a moment to stop and talk to our wonderful sponsors, there is one thing you can do as an attendee that the organizers and speakers find invaluable.

Give us your honest feedback.

You’ll undoubtedly be given the opportunity to fill out a conference evaluation as well as speaker evaluations. PLEASE take a moment to fill these things out. It helps to make sure that SharePoint Saturday events just get better and better.

Not comfortable giving feedback? Never sure what to say? Here’s some helpful guidance that will help you and give the most benefit to the speakers and organizers.

Understand that it’s a free event

In case we’ve failed to mention it, this is a free event for you to attend. This means that our fantastic sponsors have to foot the bill for you to attend, and that there’s a conference budget that cannot be exceeded without the organizers having to pay money out of their own pockets (which they sometimes do anyway). This means you may not have free flowing coffee and soft drinks throughout the day. You may not even get an afternoon snack! *gasp*. When it comes to organizing these events, choices will be made that maybe you don’t agree with, or maybe it won’t be the way you would have done it.

When giving your feedback about the event though, please think about what is actually within the power of the organizers. Were the parking directions confusing? Was the communication bad? Were the rooms too small? Was a speaker rude or offensive? These important details can help the organizers better plan for future events. We’d love to give you all coffee throughout the day, cool flash drives with all the presentations, and even a new car, but these things cost money and usually more than you might think. So, be honest, but also be cognizant of what you are asking for and expecting from a free event.

When evaluating the speakers

We love our speakers, and for good reason. These guys give SOO much of themselves. The best way you can help make the event worth their time and efforts is to take the time to fill out those speaker evaluations and help them become even better! Some helpful advice when evaluating these guys:

If you rate anything but a 5, let the speaker know how to improve the session.

Nothing is more thankless or worthless to a speaker than to see a score less than 5 with no reason given. Did they not talk loud enough? Was the content disorganized and hard to follow? Was it boring? There’s some reason you didn’t like it, and these speakers welcome constructive criticism. They want to improve and get better. Help them understand what they can do to get to the next level.

Rate the session for what it IS not what you wanted it to be.

Did you just leave a session thinking “Man, I already knew all the stuff in that session. I wish it were a deeper dive.”  Well, before giving that speaker a hard time because you were hoping for an advanced session on Governance, maybe you need to question why you would go to a session called “SharePoint Governance 101” and expect anything more than entry level information?

Don’t rate the speaker’s session down because it delivered exactly what you were told it would deliver! Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.  As much as the conference is for you, it’s also for all the other attendees as well.

Be kind, but honest

Leaving anonymous feedback gives you the power to be cruel without repercussions, but remember, these speakers and organizers are people, not cattle. Be honest in your critiques but be kind. Negative feedback (especially non-constructive) can bother a speaker for weeks or months after the event. When all else fails, remember the adage that I have no idea who first said “Be a fountain, not a drain.”

We can’t wait to see you!

Once again, we can’t wait to see you and get to know you at our upcoming FREE SharePoint Saturday! We hope it’s everything you want!  However, if you find the morning pastries not up to your standards, the afternoon coffee lacking, or the absence of a PowerPivot session appalling, we’ll be more than happy to offer you a full refund of your registration fee!

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SharePoint Architect, Developer, Blogger, Speaker, Author, and general pain in the butt.
 
Thoughts, views, and opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own.
 
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