The Evolution of SharePoint Saturday
This past weekend I was able to participate in two SharePoint Saturday events: I co-presented a session on Office 365 Productivity Tips with my good friend Tom Duff (@duffbert) at SharePoint Saturday Twin Cities in Minneapolis, but also dialed in late Friday night to give the virtual keynote for the inaugural SharePoint Saturday Ahmedabad, the first SPS event for this part of India. While I am not speaking at nearly as many SPS events as in the past due to my busy schedule, I’m happy to be able to continue supporting this still-thriving community event at locations around the world.
However, the needs of this global community continue to evolve and change. SharePoint as a brand has certainly seen a resurgence, but with the expansion of Office 365 and Microsoft 365 branding, and the rapidly growing popularity of Microsoft Teams, PowerApps and Flow, Azure, Power BI, and other tools and services, it makes sense to re-affirm the model and get feedback from the community that the current model is still meeting our collective needs and interests. When myself, Chris Beckett (@arsnebula), Erica Toelle (@EricaToelle) and fellow members of the Puget Sound SharePoint User Group (now the O365 Seattle group) launched the inaugural Office 365 Saturday event back on February 25th, 2012 on the Microsoft campus, and had larger attendee numbers that our three previous SPS events, we sensed the winds of change happening….but it was still early. Since that time, the Redmond-based user group has re-branded as has the SPS event, with the most recent O365 Saturday event pulling in around 450-500 attendees, which is 100 or more than our 2012 event…..and double the last SPS number.
More than a name change
The more I talk to people, the more it makes sense that it’s not just about SharePoint anymore. Not that it was ever restricted to SharePoint….but a name can impact potential attendance. I learned that while launching the first Blockchain Saturday event in Salt Lake City in September, calling it Azure Blockchain Saturday thinking that we’d tap into the established Microsoft community as well as the blockchain community. That didn’t work. Azure’s role in the space is still relatively new, and as I spoke with dozens of people who said that their first thought was to ignore the event, but who then looked at the session schedule and saw that there was much more content beyond a single Azure track and decided to attend, I recognize that the name had confused too many people. While Microsoft will continue to sponsor these events (February in Puerto Rico, and April back in Salt Lake City), we’ve learned our lesson and will stick with the simpler Blockchain Saturday brand (and a new website going live before end of year).
Back to the topic, SharePoint Saturday has experienced these same responses from potential attendees — which is why more and more of the events are adopting the more-inclusive O365 Saturday name/brand. But it’s not just about the name change. Many user groups and events are struggling with decreasing numbers because they have failed to adequately tap into the market changes and attendee interests. Adding additional topics is good, but some regions may also consider structural changes, such as how monthly meetings are run.
For example, with a leadership change earlier this summer, the Utah SharePoint User Group (#UTSPUG) decided to change the structure of our monthly meetings, with a rotating quarterly focus on 1) deep-dive developer topics, 2) Office 365 updates and other key admin / IT Pro topics, and 3) business user topics and real-world use cases. While each meeting may make mention of important news across all three areas, what this new structure does is split up the workload of finding compelling speakers and topics across three primary owners, and it helps us as a user group to better position ourselves to these separate user segments. Additionally, we have started using Meetup to promote our events under the banner of Microsoft User Group Utah (#MUGUT), which allows us to more easily cross-promote separate but related activities, such as the recent Office 365 Dev Bootcamp at Microsoft in Lehi, Utah, and future community networking events.
For our 8th annual SharePoint Saturday Utah event, we’re building on the O365 Saturday model, including a blend of related topics, and will be promoting our call for speakers (open now) to other community user groups that may not have traditionally participated. We want more first-time speakers, we will focus on local speakers before national/international speakers, and want to hear from people on the topics they want to see.
Share your feedback
Which leads me to the latest community survey. Following my session with Tom on Saturday, I was chatting with a couple attendees about how they would like to see more diversity in the topics at the Twin Cities event. As some of you know, this is a bi-annual event in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and continues to be one of the larger SPS events in the world. But they’d be the first to agree that attendee feedback is critical — and they want to know how they can improve. So I created a short survey (4 questions) to get an idea of how many SPS events people are attending, and the topics they are interested in — or think are missing from the lineup.
Please add your feedback to this survey, the results of which I will share out in a future post. You can scan the link here to get to the survey, as well. It’ll take you less than 2 minutes to complete, and will help all SPS and O365Sat organizers to better understand what interests the community. Thanks!