I remember back in early 2012, Ricardo and I started talking about SharePoint Saturdays. The main conversation was, hey with all of the SharePoint Saturdays around here, how come we don’t have a Columbus SPS event? We decided that we wanted to bring an SPS event to the Columbus community. With Brian Jackett’s advice (lotsa work he said..), we started the quest…
It takes a village
With the financials troubles that the original SPS organization had, we started having some difficulties getting started. Our initial target date was going to be in February. This target date would give us a gap between all of the SPS events that were going on around the time (SPS Cincy, Kentucky, Dayton, etc). As we started looking for more information on what it takes to organize an event, that target date started to slip away. We got lots of good tips from Sean McDonough, Tony Maddin, and Brian Jackett. All experienced SPS event organizers.
The search for a Venue
Once I’ve got the rights of the SPS transfer to me (thanks to Jennifer Mason for a smooth transition) we started to look into step 1: Find a venue. From Nicola Young, I’ve obtained the last invoices for SPS Columbus 2010-11. Yikes! Obviously, the first choice was to use the MS Office at Polaris. Since we hold our user group meetings in there and it would be a lot cheaper to host the event in there. Our initial target number was for 100-150 people. The problem with the MS office is that it can’t hold that many people, and the logistics were not very easy to accommodate. For instance we needed at least 4 rooms (IT Pro, Developer, End User, Misc tracks). While the idea of having a venue where ALL of the logistics were going to be taken care of (food, parking, rooms, cleaning, etc) at OCLC was great, the size of the price tag was too big for us. Without having a way to do a financial disbursement (we are not a 501a), I’ve tried talking to OCLC into the possibility of splitting the invoice into 4-5 parts, so that we could go after sponsors to do a partial payment. This approach was not ideal for them.
At this point we got help from someone that made this event possible: Michelle Caldwell. Through her many/many connections, she was able to secure a FREE venue in the OSU campus. Joe Roush (previous BuckeyeSPUG steering committee member) came to the rescue and get us a building: Ramseyer Hall, in the OSU campus. While this building was a little bit too small for our 4 tracks, it was a free venue. Happy ending: Joe was able to upgrade this building to a different building: Campbell Hall, where we ended up having SPS.
Now that we have a venue, our attention shifter on getting great speakers with great content to come and speak at our event. Our committee grew with more volunteers from the community: Shawn Vest, Terry Galentine, Syed Abbas, Ryan Dennis, Don Zielke. We started promoting the event and got some speakers line up. Once again, Michelle help us line up not just a gamma of great talent, but also the keynote speaker.! 80-90% of the great content that we had for SPS Columbus could be attribute directly to Michelle’s vast networking connections. Because of the overwhelming submission that we’ve got, we decided to add a 5th track (Dev, IT Pro, End User, Bussines Value, Misc)
With the speaker’s submissions and the task of sorting out the entries under way. We also started focusing on getting sponsors to help us. We identify sponsorships items that were a MUST for the success of the event (food and drinks, etc..). QSI and K2 were the first ones that came to our help. Quick Solutions sponsored Breakfast and Coffee. K2 sponsored the t-shirts for the events. K2 went even further and decided to provide the Speaker’s Polo shirt! Cardinal Solutions sponsored the Gift to our speakers. Danilo from AvePoint sponsored drinks and snacks throughout the whole day. Craig Morton from TekSystem step in and brought some prizes to give away at the end of the day. One of the most important items in our list was the lunch for all attendees and speakers. This item took a little time to materialize, but at the end Quest (from Dell) came out and sponsored the lunch. MetaLogix also came through and gave us another main prize to give out at the end of the day.
Among the list of items that we were looking to get a sponsor for was the Speaker dinner and SharePint. While we were not able to secure neither of these, the speakers were kind to understand our situation and pay on their own. The attendees were also very understanding of our limited sponsors-items (Parking for instance).
Big Day is here!
Throughout this ordeal, we had other volunteers in the community that came to help. Getting to the OSU building at 6:30am was not an easy task, lots of passion for our community from Diane Neale, Dr. Miebi Akah, Samantha Orons (did I miss someone?). Setup and tear down was easy thanks to them and the core SPS committee.
While the event went as smooth as we could ever wished, there were a lot of personal time spent from everyone. Zach Cochran not only spent a lot of time preparing for his talk, but he also worked with us and K2 to create all of the new logos we used for SPS. Shawn Vest, was without a doubt one of the most “overused” members of the core team for SPS. He scrubbed all speaker submissions, create the system to select speakers, contact hotels, helped me with the SPS site and our O365 site. I think in total, the SPS steering committee had close to 10 2hrs-lunches plus lots of offline hours that we didn’t keep track of.
I’ll blog next on how you can host your own SPS event on a Shoe-string-budget… http://spsevents.org/city/Columbus/2013/agenda.aspx