The SharePoint Conference is always a great event, but when it matches the launch of a new SharePoint version it rises to a whole other level. According to Jeff Spataro, this is the largest SharePoint Conference to date with:
- 10,000 attendees
- From 85 countries
- Over 200 sponsors and exhibitors
- Over 300 breakout sessions
- 45 hands-on labs
The Mandalay Bay Resort is the perfect venue for such a massive event, and Microsoft really knows how to take advantage of all the space in the Convention Centre. I’ve been here for the 2009 SharePoint Conference, and I can tell you it gets better every year.
Here are some of the new stuff they came up with:
- Your badge can be customized using up to 3 stickers that describe what are your main areas of interest (Search, Websites, Collaboration, …), what kind of attendee you are (IT Pro, Developer, Business) or some other SharePoint related expression.
- Your backpack can also be customized using a sticker with your attendee profile.
- There is an enormous Community Wall where you can leave your thoughts on what community means to you. But get this: you don’t to write it down on the wall. Instead, one of the professional designers will include your phrase in the wall and will draw something related to your home country. This ensures the whole wall will have a consistent and artistic look & feel. I can tell you it’s looking really great!
- There is also a SharePoint Timeline, where each attendee writes his signature on his SharePoint freshman year. One guy wrote he was a SharePoint newbie in 1979 because “he was born to work with SharePoint” 🙂
- A Photo Booth where you can use a few props to take silly pictures and e-mail them to your friends.
- Possibility to complete, on the spot, the two SharePoint 2013 beta certification exams for free, and other certification exams with a discount price.
The Keynote was delivered with plenty of music and videos, and a well known ensemble of presenters, for the usual wow effect in this kind of events. It started with Jared Spataro saying that “SharePoint is not just a product, it is a way of life”. He went on thanking the huge SharePoint community (both developers, administrators and customers) for all the support and enthusiasm. Throughout the keynote’s two hours of length, a great number of features were announced or presented, from the new version of SharePoint Online in Office 365 to Yammer, and through all the new stuff in Search, Web Content Management, Enterprise Content Management, Social and, finally, the new Office and SharePoint App model.
The Breakout Sessions were split into three groups, according to the intended audience: IT Professionals, Developers and Business Decision Makers. Each of these groups of sessions took place in a different floor of the convention center, which made it quite simple to go from one to the next, provided they belonged to the same track (i.e. audience).
Besides learning about the new features of the product, one of the main goals of this is event is, of course, Networking. The organization also thought about that and gave the attendees a great number of opportunities to do so:
- The Conference Reception – Sunday before the start of the conference.
- Club SPC / Lounge SPC – Two simultaneous parties on Monday evening in two of the bars of the resort.
- Attendee Party – Mega party in the Mandalay Beach with dinner and live music by Jon Bon Jovi and the Kings of Suburbia, on Tuesday evening.
- Ask the Experts – Specific period, on Wednesday after the breakout sessions are over, where you can find experts on all subjects related to SharePoint. Maybe it’s not a networking event, but you always end up meeting new people.
- The Community Lounge – a specific area inside the Exhibition Hall with a bunch of fun stuff and where you could always find people.
- Avepoint’s Red Party – a partner hosted party, by invitation only and with limited entries, on Monday evening.
- Axceler’s Party – also a partner hosted party, by invitation only and with limited entries, on Wednesday evening.
- MySPC website/app allowed you to find attendees that shared the same interests as you, as well as attendees which are connected to your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn networks, and setup meetings.
- Finally, the expo floor was always packed sponsors and exhibitors which would actively engage you in conversation, even if only to scan your badge and tell you about their products or services.
Overall it was a fantastic conference, well worth the time and money. Here are my key takeaways:
- SharePoint 2013 was designed for the cloud first. This means that, although SharePoint Server 2013 (on premise) and SharePoint Online (in Office 365) are currently equivalent feature-wise, this will probably not be the case in a near future. This is because SharePoint Online will have much shorter update cycles (around 90 days, I was told) and, for that reason, will always get the new features first. Keep this in mind when deciding if you go for SharePoint Online or On Premise.
- SharePoint Apps are the new and preferred development model for SharePoint. And also in this matter, everyone directs you to hosting your apps in the cloud (although that is not an absolute requirement).
- Search is everywhere and in the middle of everything.
Over the next few week I’ll be posting more specific articles about the new features.