The Sponsor role in SharePoint Saturday

The Sponsor role in SharePoint Saturday
A long topic of discussion around the SPS committee as well as the SharePoint community has been about the role that Sponsors play in the overall operation of a SPSEvent.  The rise and fall of the SPS movement in addition to community acceptance and advancement has been the availability of sponsors to donate their time, money and manpower to show up at an event just as the volunteers to organize and speak.
That said, truth is (try to hold your shock for a moment), SharePoint Saturdays do not need nor have they ever needed sponsors to run a successful event.  Allow me to explain before you put away your checkbooks :).
At its core SPS is a movement deeper than money, deeper than self-progression and most certainly deeper than any sponsor ROI. SPS started as humble as can be with ZERO funding with the sole purpose to cater to the community in which it finds itself. To that end in my opinion and many others’ the events will continue as long as there is need for education and a desire to help an individual foster their career, better their quality of life and their families quality of life.
There will probably come a day hopefully in the unforeseen future that there will be zero sponsorship funding available to run an event. At that time a host must make the decision to either get creative or not have an event as well as question the real reason they are having an event.
My faith as well as the faith of many attendees relies on that dedication to KEEP OUR TECHNOLOGY STRONG, keep each other strong and keep ourselves technically sharp.
The funding is dwindling, and as a host you will need to come to grips with that notion. We as a NEW committee cannot be in the business of collecting from the rich (markets) and giving to the not so rich ones.  There will be events higher funded than others and it’s not the sponsors fault it’s just logical. Spend money where they are most likely to recover that funding as well as create more business.  Its why there are only a few GLOBAL sponsors that are seen at most high visibility events. The reason is because the local firms in that market are the ones sponsoring the events most.

Ok now with that out of the way, I propose a different mentality. This is in no way a bashing or a “come to Jesus” post it’s just about reality and evolution of the organization.
For years sponsors have been getting mostly the same contacts, same booth, and same attendee list. Something at some point may have to change.  I’m not here to propose what that is as that information is in the midst of being gathered. As the events evolve and get bigger, demand more sponsorship funding and essentially offer the same thing back to those sponsors (other than maybe even more names) as bigger events are held the ROI for such an event has started to come into question.
At one time sponsoring an event for 1,000 USD (plus the cost of materials, travel and time for employees) for the opportunity to speak and have a booth was an excellent venture. Really all a sponsor had to do to recoup those costs was to close one or maybe two sales to make it all worth it. This was compared to other conferences where literally thousands are paid for the almost identical audience.
We as a “COMMUNITY” will (if not already) need to embrace that we are all in this. I owe personal and career success to a percentage of all of you and I hold that truth to be immovable. As such this ecosystem that is the SharePoint community in all of its quirkiness is ever changing and we, as a community, need to try to understand that and be tolerant of that.  It is NOT all about the speakers, it is NOT all about the advancement of an attendee and it is not all around a sponsor. We are all 100% equal in desire to see this community and its technology we all orbit around succeed.
Lastly a gut check to the attendees of SPS events. And when I say attendees I literally mean all of us in every aspect of the word attendee. Whether you are giving a session, or you stepped away to listen to one. Whether you are a sponsor in a small company who gave up time with your family to attend an event that you hope will build that business and in return build that families future. Or if you came out because you come out every year to attend and you’ve watched the event in your area, grow mature and get bigger and better.
There will come a time where something isn’t done to your liking, there will come a time where something is by golly scaled BACK instead of forward. Where you were once used to hot buffets or table service and now you’re rocking a slice of pizza (if we’re so lucky).  Remember, it’s a free event and with that come all the ups and down swings.  That may mean there are no more speaker shirts, or no mobile app or maybe the SharePoint Saturday is 1 single track with 3 speakers.  Accept it, embrace it and keep carrying the banner forward.
Other wise, its back to unix for a lot of us. And no one wants that do we?

(btw I totally just watched “Lincoln” find that pretty obviously proof reading)

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