Thoughts on the European SharePoint Best Practice Conference – London

I recently attended the Microsoft SharePoint European Best Practice Conference (6th – 8th April 2009) and wanted to share some of my thoughts.
On the whole it was a good event, plenty of top speakers (such as Joel Oleson, Andrew Connell, Eric Shupps, Todd Bleeker … and many more [full list here]) and certainly lots of topics and tracks to attend .. the event was well organised and catered to all tastes .. but I was left a little bit underwhelmed by the experience.

The Good Bits
The technical sessions (IT Pro and Dev) were excellent, especially the "ask the expert" sessions at the end of each day. These really were an opportunity to get into the nitty gritty of SharePoint with some great topics and questions coming up (some of which even caused disagreements amongst the "experts"!)

A lot of them also tried to grasp some of the more subjective "best practice" topics like content deployment and testing methods. All in all, thoroughly enjoyable, but I did think that there wasn’t a massive amount that I didn’t already know.

The Bad Bits
The Information Worker and Business Adoption tracks were extremely disappointing. I was expecting a "Best Practice" conference to assume a high level of competence with SharePoint as a starting point, but it seems that the majority of these started off from the "so you’ve just bought SharePoint .." or the equally dull "so you are thinking about implement SharePoint eh?? .."

There were some exceptions (Penny Coventry did quite a good session around locking down SharePoint Designer, which was quite useful and at the very least an engaging presentation).

But a large amount of the conference was so under-whelming that I actually walked out halfway through a couple of sessions because the "governance" session seemed to be saying "make sure you backup your data" and "don’t forget to train your users".. I really couldn’t believe how dumbed down a lot of the sessions were.

The BEST bits …
By far the best parts of the session is to meet and greet people at the conference .. networking was by far the best (and most enjoyable) part of the conference, especially at the "SharePint" sessions in the pub round the corner. Getting to chat to other professionals who are knowledgable and enthusiastic about SharePoint is something that I rarely get treated to outside of my office .. and it is always refreshing to get a new perspective on things.

Andrew Woodward presenting on Test Driven Development
Chris O’Brian presenting on Content Deployment
Andrew Connell on Field Controls & WebParts

and of course .. the "Ask the Experts" sessions