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Reflections from SharePoint Fest Chicago 2012

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in the air this year, whether it’s for speaking sessions at an event or workshops for AvePoint’s enterprise customers. And with all my travel over the past few years, it’s surprising that my trip to Chicago for SharePoint Fest Chicago 2012 from September 25-27 was my first visit to the city since I was very young. What a treat both the city and event were! First off, the weather was absolutely perfect: mid 70s with beautifully clear skies. Of course, since events aren’t typically held at the beach, I was indoors most of the time. (Actually, there is a time that I had an opportunity to give a presentation from the beach back in 2009 in Orlando with Dan Holme. Read this article from Windows IT Pro for a blast from the past).

I did mention that the event was a treat, and indeed it was. The organizing team did a great job with session and logistics planning. The turnout was strong and it was a bright group. Everyone had great questions and was hungry for fresh content on Microsoft SharePoint 2013.

For me, the event started not long after I got to the venue on Tuesday afternoon. I did an interview with keynote speaker and friend, Dux Raymond Sy. We bantered back and forth on topics such as governance and the new app model in SharePoint 2013. Stay tuned for video footage of that interview on AvePoint’s YouTube channel.

That night, it was off to the Chicago SharePoint User Group (CSPUG) where I was honored to sit on a panel with some very distinguished experts in the community. In addition to Dux and myself, the panel included Todd Klindt, Sean McDonough, Brian Culver, and Jeff Willinger. The discussions included a number of SharePoint 2013 questions, such as ones about Business Intelligence support in SharePoint Online inside the new Microsoft Office 365 Preview. The crowd of approximately 50 was also eager to learn more about the SharePoint 2013 app model, which is something I’ve been working with a lot lately and was the subject of my first presentation.

I awoke Wednesday to another beautiful Chicago morning and caught up with a few friends before watching Dux deliver his keynote entitled “Revolutionize Your Organization with SharePoint 2013” to a packed crowd. I arrived right on time, but it was standing room only so I watched from the back. Dux was his usual ebullience, dropping bits of knowledge about SharePoint 2013 and the business value it brings.

Right after Dux’s session, I had my first presentation of the event: “Getting Started with SharePoint 2013 Apps”. This is a new session that I delivered at SharePoint Saturday Redmond for the first time a few days before, so I had some time to work out some timing issues and smooth out the demos a bit. I had a full house, with approximately 100 people in the audience. I covered the reason the new app model was created by discussing prior challenges with full trust and sandboxed solutions. I covered the benefits, some drawbacks (there is always something), hosting options, and, of course, gave a few demos to solidify these very new concepts. I had a number of good questions, and the attendees were very generous with their feedback. The slides for the session are available on my SlideShare Page.

After my session, I caught up with my colleagues at the AvePoint booth and got ready for a lunchtime book signing. As usual, we ran out of books before everyone in line could get a copy. To be perfectly frank, even though I’ve done many of these book signings, I still feel uncomfortable with the attention. But, I work through it and always try to greet the patient attendees with a fresh smile and warm handshake. It’s a pleasure to meet them and learn about what they’re doing with SharePoint. Once that was over, I had to rush out for a client meeting and got back to the event during the evening social.

Since I had another presentation the next day and I hadn’t finished my slides, that night was a “work in the hotel” kind of evening. (Yes, folks, that’s the way it works…for most of us, these events are a part-time functionand we normally put together slides right before the session.) The second session I presented was “The Future of Social Collaboration”, and I always try to put my own spin on topics that may have been covered in other presentations. It took several hours, but I was very happy with how the presentation came together. In this session, I began by covering some of the strengths of social collaboration, such as giving users a voice and helping to disseminate knowledge across the organization. From there, I dispelled the top 10 myths of social software and used some hard statistics to prove how social technologies are used quite heavily by all generations.

After that, I added some ideas that I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while but haven’t ever articulated to anyone before. The premise was that I think we can learn a lot from the Internet Generation that is coming into the workforce. The idea is that this generation is very adept at communicating in real time with family, friends, and others. Location to them doesn’t matter, as the person with whom they’re communicating may be sitting next to them or in another country. Between text messaging, instant messaging, and Facebook conversations, they process a continuous stream of knowledge in real time. Specifically, they know what their friends know, where they are, what they are doing, and, in some cases, what they are thinking. Imagine if these streams of knowledge could be shared across the enterprise. We could break down physical and virtual walls within our organizational silos to effectively deliver the quality of collaboration that has often been so hard to attain.

Once I established this idea, I moved on to ways in which social features in SharePoint 2013 deliver on these tenets. I also talked a bit about Yammer as a product and Microsoft’s acquisition of it. I closed the session by providing some guidance on how to approach a social adoption strategy and my “six secrets to social success.” So, the presentation preparation took me all of an evening and a part of the next day, but I’m pleased with how it turned out. It seemed the hard work paid off, as the attendees in my session were very engaged. This was no easy task, since the presentation took place at the end of two full days of sessions and intensive SharePoint learning. The slides for this session are also available on my SlideShare Page.

With that, another successful event was completed and I was back in the air on my way home to San Diego for the weekend.

I do hope to see some of you at a future event! If you see me first, don’t be shy – come over and introduce yourself. I’m always happy to meet and connect with other members of the SharePoint community.


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