If you have been in the SharePoint space for a while, this conference “Techorama’ that is/was hosted in Antwerp, Belgium may not be familiar to you…that is because it was mainly a core Developer conference without a SharePoint track… but all that changed this year and it was undoubtedly a super fantastic event by all measures. I was fortunate to be invited to speak at this event under the SharePoint Track where I delivered two (2) sessions for the track chair Andy Van Steenbergen. I think that conferences like this one will ultimately become the standard for SharePoint practitioners, bet it ITPro or Developer. Since we have lost the traditional SharePoint Conference (SPC) and we have pivoted to a MS Ignite world where IMO its an amalgamation of TechEd, MEC, and SPC, if you want to remain focus to core SharePoint or as we have now evolved to “Web Dev” topics, the content here is some of the best I have seen. While as a Dev, I may be prejudiced towards Dev tracks, we had folks like Spence Harbar, Thomas Vochten an other IT Pro focused MVP’s delivering sessions here to a very receptive audience. When said and done, I really enjoyed this conference and the track chairs did a fantastic job.
Pick up my Session Decks
So, one of the takeaways from this blog post is to provide a means for the session attendees and folks who are curious to pull down the Decks I used in my presentation as well as links to the GitHub Repo used in my demos. You are able to find them here
- Session 1: Getting the most from the Microsoft Graph
- Session 2: Creating Cross Platform Mobile Services with Office 365 and Xamarin
- GitHub Repo that is used for both Sessions: find it here
Summary of my Experience
(TL;DR – be ye forewarned)
As I stated above, I was invited to speak at this conference, by Andy who did a great job framing the conference, its focus, the fact that SharePoint would be new and laid out a good historical and vision perspective. After conferring with the local MVPs there that I am acquainted with Elio and Thomas, who spoke highly of the conference, it was a no brainer that I would accept the invite. I plan to write this summary wearing three (3) hats in order to really give it justice and to help future speakers and attendees who may have the opportunity to be a part of this event.
- Attendee (when I am not in sessions)
- Tourist (I stayed a few days extra to explore Belgium & the surrounding areas )
The experience here was great, the organization that was in place was flawless, emails for logistics, a speaker page that outlined responsibility, logistics, point of contacts, etc was iron clad. The hotel venue for speakers [and also for the Pre Conference Workshops] were located directly adjacent to Antwerp Central train station, this was very convenient
Besides issues of WIFI for the Workshops which can plague just about the best of conference planning efforts, the Workshops were very well attended, I sat through some of Andrew Connells Angular workshop which is always a good topic to learn from him. The very next day, I had a session to deliver so I also took the opportunity to scope out the attendees, see how they relate to the ‘American’ style of session delivery and ofcourse adjusted my slide deck accordingly
At the Event
The event was very well attended, Day 1 Scott Gu’s keynote was standing room only one of the largest cinema auditorium they had
Oh. Did I mention that the event was held at Kinepolis cinema and entertainment complex
which I must admit, I have never delivered a session where I had the attendees in these lavish seats, big theater screens and surround sound.. it was quite the experience.
Well, this is not your typical speaker room, it was yes… a speaker garden. A great place to ready up your deck and demo, but also featured a hammock, a putting green, and other amenities. Even MVP Vincent Biret found time for a European afternoon siesta or this could just be jet lag…
I was able to sit a few sessions, granted, I didn’t venture out too much outside my comfort zone, but I did attend some ITPro Sessions, and you know you also have to support your fellow speakers… so I attended some of my MVP mates session as well. The one thing that is most striking is that there were NO bad seats in the house. Between those comfortable theatre seating and the humongous screens, it was very easy to get drawn into the sessions and even sessions riddled with code, was easy to follow… you can see AC doing his magic here on SharePoint Framework.
If invited again to speak, I will most certainly go check out a few sessions that are not on the SharePoint track, the array of experts speaking in all sorts of topics of interest was truly amazing and star studded.
As I often do, whenever I speak in a region/country that is unfamiliar to me, or I really take a liking to, I often stay a few days to immerse myself in the culture and where possible, meet up with fellow MVPs that I only get to see when they come to to the USA. I was able to do all of that and even got a bonus when fellow community organizer and speaker Paul Keijzers invited me up to visit Amsterdam for a day trip. I will say if you ever get the chance to visit Belgium here are a few tips:
- if you know Elio and Thomas, they are absolutely the best guys to show you around Antwerp. I think we did like 13 miles on foot and covered both sides of Antwerp. BTW, Elio has family members that brew an triple award winning IPA beer.
- the train is your friend & it literally goes everywhere. Get those two apps I have highlighted below under “EuropeTravel”
- Do you like historical sites and /or beer? Take the train out to Ghent & Bruges. Ghent is on the way to Bruges if you are coming from the direction of Antwerp or Brussels. All in all it cost me 15 Euros or so for train tickets back and forth.
- If you have time for it.. Amsterdam is 2 hours by train from Antwerp Central if you take the slower (but more economical) train or almost an hour if you take the faster train.
And if you are asking how much time do you need. I was able to do Ghent and Bruges in 1 day.. I started out at Antwerp Central around 8:30 and got back to Antwerp Central at 7 pm and was able to spend a good deal of time in Ghent [I even attended mass at one of the oldest Cathedrals there] and also in Bruges I was able to see the “Procession of the Holy Blood” there.
All this to say… its good to take a break every now and then to explore things that are foreign to you. Finally as a testament to just how great this SharePoint / Office365 / Azure community is, I had folks take a day off from work (thank you again Paul and Daniel) to take me on tour around Amsterdam, I really appreciated it.
What to ultimately take away from this post
Hands down.. If you are ever afforded the opportunity to speak or attend the Techorama, I encourage you to do so. You can also see that they will be expanding in 2018 to Netherlands as well as continuing in Belgium. I personally hope to be there, Belgium is my new spot…sorry Mikael.. Norway had a good run
Anyway.. that’s a wrap, thanks to the organization staff and Andy for inviting me. It was great catching up with fellow speakers and community folks, always fantastic to meet new folks that share my passion & I will see you soon.