If you attended last week's SharePoint Pro OnlineLive! conference, you know what I'm talking about. You see, it was a virtual venue and my first time to attend a virtual conference. And I'll be back. But you won't see me then either which is good because I'll still be in my "not-for-public-viewing" sweatpants and favorite T-shirt. What's a virtual conference? It's pretty much everything you get with an in-person event--keynote, technical presentations, vendor booths, lots of literature--all without leaving your office (or home office in my case). Did I mention it was all free?<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

 

The event had two tracks: one for developers and one for IT Pros and end users. I didn't attend any of the developer presentations, but on the IT Pro side, I listened to Bob Mixon, SharePoint MVP, discuss real-world examples of how companies are using SharePoint and later watched his presentation on Microsoft Office SharePoint Servicer administration. Then I watched Dan Holme, SharePoint consultant, trainer, and contributing editor for Windows IT Pro magazine, give an informative, hands-on demo about implementing SharePoint document libraries. Then all the presenters came together at the end of the day for a live Q&A panel.

 

In between sessions, I went over to the vendor booths and chatted with representatives from various companies, collected and passed out business cards, and downloaded numerous brochures and technical papers, which automatically went to my personal briefcase where I downloaded them in one .zip file at the end of the day. How cool is that?

 

I "chatted" with a representative from AvePoint who liked the virtual format very much, commenting that "It organizes the information and presents it to the customer, and customers then get to see only what they want. It's also more relaxed, and attendees can read over the information at their own pace." He added that he thinks the format is especially popular with the IT crowd because they prefer to chat over IM rather than the phone. I heard similar comments from event attendees, who loved "the flexibility of attendance, the networking with peers, the range of exhibiters, and the breadth of information provided."

 

This was the second SharePoint Pro OnlineLive! conference, which is a joint effort by Windows IT Pro magazine and MSD2D.com, and more are planned for later this year. The event had more than 2500 registrants, but if you weren't one of them, you can check out what you missed here, where you can download the presentations and vendor literature (It's available through August 10 and requires registration). After you see the wealth of information, you won't want to miss the next one. The virtual venue may never replace in-person events, but if you're like me and appreciate being able to keep up with the industry without having to deal with planes, trains, and automobiles, this might be a great alternative.