This topic definitely deserves an article. As part of what we do, we continue to visit and present at numerous conferences every year – including all of the ones listed below. The following is our perspective that we can share with those of you looking to evaluate the choices out there.
Why should you attend a SharePoint and Office 365 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 and Office 365 or is evaluating them as a critical component of your business, it will definitely serve you well to look into attending a conference with SharePoint and Office 365 content.
Please do not substitute training with attending a conference. Conferences are great for getting a feel for a 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 and Office 365 related Conferences provide the biggest bang for the buck?
Listed below are several major conferences that we have attended, did presentations at and had our company booths at in the past. Below is subjective information about each conference – not in any particular order. We have not listed the ones that we have not been to. No offense to organizers of other conferences. We have just never been there so can’t speak to it. Hopefully this info below helps you when you are deciding on which SharePoint and Office 365 conference to attend.
This conference is North America’s largest and most comprehensive event around mainly SharePoint and Office 365 technologies. In 2017, our CEO, Asif Rehmani, served as the speaker manager for this conference as well. This conference is a collaboration between Microsoft and a 3rd party specializing in the Microsoft conference space. The main topics covered at this conference are related to SharePoint and Office 365 apps. Although, we see other related technologies creeping in as well. Let’s see how this conference looks after a few years.
In addition to attracting IT pros, developers, and consultants, Microsoft invites business leaders and decision makers to this event as well. It’s a great place to meet entire teams of people at this event as they all come together to learn how SharePoint and Office 365 related technologies empower teamwork, employee engagement, communications, and organizational effectiveness.
ESPC is the largest SharePoint conference in Europe. We have seen ESPC grow in size every year. Our take on the reason of its growth is because of the level of planning they put into every aspect of the conference. They are very meticulous about almost every aspect of the conference and it shows. Another reason we think people love going to this conference is because it happens in a different city every year. They keep it a secret and only reveal at the end of the conference where it’s going to happen next year. So far the ones we have been to were in Copenhagen, Dublin, Barcelona, Vienna, and Stockholm.
SharePoint Fest is held three times a year. The best thing we like about this conference is the focus on the local audience. Whether it’s held in Seattle, DC or Chicago (the usual locations for this conference), 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 not much travel involved for the local folks, we recommend looking to see when it comes to your town and sign up for it.
This conference has grown quite a bit over the years. The team at Fest is always innovating and providing great experiences to their audience which continues to attract more attendees.
SharePoint Technology Conference (SPTechCon)
The SharePoint Technology Conference is held twice a year in the United States – once in the east coast and the other one in the west. Audiences that SPTechCon caters to are IT Pro, Developers and Business Users. A great overall conference to attend for all SharePoint and Office 365 audiences.
This conference has had its ups and downs. We have seen it attract very large audiences in the past and then it dipped to much lower numbers unfortunately. However, the new management that has taken over in 2018 is an extremely professional group of people with a lot of experience running great conferences. We have high hopes for the future of this conference.
Microsoft Ignite is a monster of a conference attracting more than 25,000 people. Ignite was born after the original SharePoint conference died in 2014. This conference covers most of the Microsoft technologies now and reminds us of how TechEd conference used to be. SharePoint, Office 365 and related technologies are just a small part of Ignite. Ignite attracts many executives from companies as well who usually come along with their team to strategize about how they best want to use Microsoft technologies.
This conference has predominantly Microsoft driven messaging. Most of the presenters are Microsoft employees themselves. The good part about this is that you get to personally meet many Microsoft product managers at this conference and get your questions answered.
These are free SharePoint (as well as Office 365 content) events that take place around the world – held on Saturdays of course :-). The basic premise of SharePoint Saturdays are to have a local event for the community that is free to attend. The event organizers are volunteers and most presenters are usually local folks from the community. This is a great way to get your feet wet and become part of the SharePoint and Office 365 community as an attendee or even as a speaker.
SharePoint Live covers Office 365, SharePoint and Office clients for developers & administrators. This is a pretty unique conference since it is held alongside with Visual Studio Live, SQL Live and others. A lot of people who come to this conference are beginners with SharePoint and Office 365. In fact, many of them come specifically for Visual Studio and SQL side of things and they wander into SharePoint and Office 365 sessions to see what’s going on there.
SharePoint and Office 365 User Groups
Too many around the world! A well run SharePoint User Group is designed to serve the users (usually for free) with monthly or bi-monthly events focused on all aspects of SharePoint and Office 365. Definitely check out and find the SharePoint User Group in your city. There are many good ones out there. 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.
In addition to in-person SharePoint and Office 365 conferences, there are also virtual conferences and presentations held year round. There are too many to mention here. However, doing a simple search on SharePoint and Office 365 virtual conference brings up several of them. More often than not, these are hosted by either SharePoint and Office 365 training or consulting companies. Also, various in-person conference organizers host the virtual conferences as well.
Asif Rehmani’s Presentations
Our CEO, Asif Rehmani, routinely speaks at these conferences. His presentations usually focus on the following topics:
- User adoption and governance
- Organizational change management
- Getting the best use out of Office 365
The recorded presentations and slide decks are available to download if you would like them.
Best wishes and we hope to see you at the next conference!
[updated: Feb 2020]