Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars, Reviewed by Bjørn Furuknap
"ESPC in 2013 was well organized, professional, and handled any incidents with grace"
I had the chance to attend the European SharePoint Conference in Copenhagen this February, having been invited by SharePointReviews.com. The three-day conference is the largest European SharePoint conference, offering some of the brightest stars on the SharePoint sky, both as presenters and attendees.
First off, I’d like to commend the organizers for pulling off a major event as smoothly as they did. Throughout the entire conference, attendees experienced a professionally organized event and if there were any hiccups, those were skillfully hidden from the audience.
I should also mention that the venue staff was extremely good, so kudos to the staff of the Bella Center too.
The first day of the conference had full-day workshops featuring brilliant presenters and exciting topics. The workshops were sold on a separate ticket, so not all conference attendees participated, giving a better chance for those that did attend to talk to presenters. I’ve reviewed a couple of the workshops in separate articles.
The next three days, however, were more of a traditional conference, with sessions in multiple tracks, organized for developers, administrators, and business users. There was ample time between sessions to talk to presenters, meet up with other attendees, and get to the next session, or, as I often found myself doing, check in with the various vendors that had booths set up in one of two vendor areas.
Throughout the conference, there were several events, keynotes, and other special community activities that added a nice variety to the information flow. And like all major conferences, there were the mandatory conference parties after the regular conference hours, organized by vendors.
Beyond being a very well organized event, what impressed me most was the content offered at the conference.
ESPC offered a vast variety of sessions, neatly organized in three normal tracks (developers, it-pro/administrator, and business value) and had some of the best presenters in the world deliver presentations on topics that were up to date on the latest and greatest technology. With SharePoint 2013’s imminent public release, that usually meant a lot of focus on the newest platform so anyone who wanted to get up to speed on that had plenty of opportunity to do so.
Further, I’ve always loved talking to vendors at such events, and ESPC had not only one but two vendor floors. The usual suspects were there, but also a lot of smaller and more local vendors who showed off brilliant ideas and products.
If you haven’t moved or plan to move to SharePoint 2013, you probably would feel a bit left out at many if not all of the sessions at ESPC. Everything revolves around the latest and greatest, for good and bad, but the pre-SP2013 crowd was left with scraps. With 40% of organizations still working on SharePoint 2007 or older, there’s still a huge crowd that’s not being catered to at events like these.
Further, and sadly, the organization of the vendor floors meant that a lot of the smaller vendors didn’t get the attention they deserved. With many smaller vendors also less experienced with running a booth and often seemingly overwhelmed with the bells and whistles from more prominent booths, you’d have to be extremely interested in a particular vendor to get information about their products and services. Most of the major vendors were located near the entrances and their often professional booth teams generated a lot of attention for themselves, and the smaller booths and vendors probably didn’t get the attention they deserved.
Regarding the content, I would also have liked to see more detail about the skill level required for the sessions. It’s difficult to judge the requirements from a title alone, and on at least a couple of sessions, I ended up finding the content too basic for my taste. Of course, by that time, it was often too late to head over to another session.
Finally, there were a few technical issues at the event, particularly with the Wi-Fi connection in certain areas. The free Wi-Fi was great when it worked, the speed was excellent, but at least one of my three Wi-Fi enabled devices always failed to connect. Thanks to tethering, though, I was able to work through this, but it was particularly annoying when trying to live-tweet from a session, only to find that half of the tweets failed to send.
Any bad factors, however, was overshadowed during the initial key-note from Microsoft’s Ludovic Hauduc, where he was attempting to convince a room of 1,400 geeks about the brilliance of Apps. In short, every single demonstration he attempted to show failed at some point, but that’s not close to being the worst part.
After continuously failing to get a working demonstration of Apps in Office, he finally wanted to show off a recruitment App that Microsoft developed in SharePoint. When that failed too, he decided on a whim to log on to the live production system and thus exposed sensitive and personal data about several job applicants, data such as phone numbers, email addresses, and whether they were offered a job. One applicant got his entire job application process exposed, including details about feedback received during interviews, his submitted documents, and additional sensitive data.
All of this was shown to a room of over 1,400 participants, with no prior approval from the job applicants. I managed to snap photos of the incident and later contacted several of the people on the list, and none of them had given permission or even knew about their data being used in this way.
It’s always nice to meet up with people you normally only see through Twitter, Facebook, and other various online channels. ESPC attracted a lot of the SharePoint superstars, but also many average Joes and Janes that you normally don’t meet.
From the feedback I gathered from those I met, people were impressed with the content, on both the variety and the level, as well as with the event itself. The venue also yielded a lot of praise.
Like all events, there are challenges and some factors that don’t work out perfectly. Overall, however, ESPC in 2013 was well organized, professional, and handled any incidents with grace.
Speaker / Session Reviews:
- Create an End User Adoption Strategy, Presented by Erica Toelle
- SharePoint 2013 Workshop for Developers, Presented by Sahil Malik
- Achieving the Application Lifecycle Management Dream in SharePoint, Presented by Jeremy Thake and Randy Williams
- Patterns in Apps for SharePoint Store, Presented by Sonja Madsen
- What’s New in SharePoint Designer 2013, Presented by Mai Omar Desouki
- Workflow Stages Done Well, Presented by Mike Fitzmaurice
Did you attend ESPC 2013?
Let us know what you experienced at this conference by commenting below. Even better, please rate the event here.