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SharePoint in the Lone Star State: Thoughts on SharePoint Saturday Austin

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2012 is to make a concerted effort to attend more SharePoint Saturdays. I attended the events in New York City and Washington, D.C. in 2011 as well as the ones I organized in Perth when I lived in Australia, but I have not been to many others. This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending SharePoint Saturday Austin (#SPSAusTX) in Texas, joining fellow MVPs, architects, developers, end users, information workers, and other SharePoint professionals for a day of sharing best practices and learning.

This was the first SharePoint Saturday Austin run by Jim Bob Howard and Matt Lathrop. The format of SharePoint Saturdays is very different from SharePoint User Groups (aka SPUGs) and they require a great deal of effort by the organizers. Jim Bob, Matt, and everyone else involved did an excellent job and deserve a huge pat on the back for running such a great event. To quote the legendary Bill English, it was “absolutely the BEST SharePoint Saturday I’ve attended.” You would have never guessed this was the organizers’ first event!

I presented the topic “Deep dive into Feature Versioning in SharePoint 2010.” In the session, I walked attendees through leveraging the new Feature Versioning capability in Microsoft® SharePoint® 2010. I shared best approaches and strategies for putting the capability to use in an application development lifecycle, as well as examples and lessons learned from using Feature Versioning in the production environment for my site, NothingButSharePoint.com.

A few organizers of future SharePoint Saturday events reached out to me on how I felt about the event and why it went so well. Here are some of my thoughts:

Venue:

· The AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center was simply the best venue outside of the venues in Las Vegas.
· The session rooms were well equipped and spacious. They were essentially lecture rooms and worked nicely for the sessions.
· The hotel was right next to the venue so I could crawl out of bed and arrive at the venue with no hassle.
· The location was perfect: Not far from airport, and right by the amazing night life in Austin!

Sessions:

· The turnout from the community was great, with more than 18 MVPs on hand as well as other members of the community I love to watch present, including Richard Harbridge.
· The “Women in Technology – SharePoint Panel Discussion” was a valuable portion of the event.

· The 50 minute sessions were a bit of a challenge for speakers, including me, who are used to having an hour. I would have also loved to see more development sessions.

Vendor hall:

· There was a nice variety of vendor representation throughout the event.
· Vendors were split over two floors, which may have posed a challenge for vendors in certain parts of the venue, but the spaces were given on a first-come, first-served basis.

Lunch:

· The lunch was better than the spread my Nan would prepare for Christmas dinner! The selection was great and the staff was friendly.

Speaker Dinner:

· I was disappointed to miss this, but I did rush straight from the airport for a gathering at Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar on 6th Street, which was awesome. The welcome hugs from good friends were the perfect way to start to my time in Austin. It had been a while since I’d seen everyone and it was great to catch up.

SharePoint Saturday Austin was a fantastic event, and I look forward to attending my next SharePoint Saturday in Philadelphia, PA (#SPSPhilly) on February 4. I hope to see you there! If you’re there, be sure to join me at 10:30am as I share best practices for Application Lifecycle Management in SharePoint 2010.

Did you attend SharePoint Saturday Austin and would like to share your feedback? Drop a comment here, or follow me on Twitter (@jthake).

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