Jackie (Jacqueline Baxter, Marketing Specialist): SUGCON Europe took place in Berlin, Germany, last week and several of our array were in attendance. We've gathered them here to get their thoughts and opinions of the event. Let’s start with an easy one - did everyone have fun? It looked like fun from afar!
Svetlana (Svetlana Pareva, Solutions Developer): I personally had a ton of fun.
Rob (Rob Prohaska, Head of United Kingdom and Benelux): The event was fantastic. Lots of really good energy and people enjoying the topics and networking.
Una (Una Verhoeven, Senior Solutions Developer): It was great meeting all the people again and catching up. Also meeting the new faces and putting the face behind the Twitter handle.
Svetlana: I wish I could clone myself to be at a couple of places at the same time.
Michael (Michael Greenberg, Head of Strategy, Sales, and Marketing): To me it was like the community slack in real life.
Una: With drinks ;)
Michael: And bad jokes. I'll also remember to get really, really comfortable shoes for next time.
Alex (Aleksandar Kamburov, General Manager EMEA). Everybody in the community is friendly. Getting out in the evening was fun, you could exchange with folks from around the world.
Rob: Speaking face to face and meeting people behind blogs was great.
Michael: It felt like Disneyland. After seeing all of these characters online, to meet them in person was great.
Jackie: Disneyland for Developers - we have the new SUGCON tagline.
Rob: “You don’t look like your profile pic.” :)
Svetlana: We even started with a Sitecoreland talk so it totally fits.
Michael: One of these days I share my experience at Disneyland Hong Kong. Surreal...and maybe the perfect place for SUGCON APJ 2019?
Jackie: Oh SECONDED. The fact that SUGCON is community driven is incredible. Were there any themes that stuck out this year? I’m guessing Sitecore 9 was a big topic
Una: SUGCON has always been about innovation. Where else would you see Alexa and blockchain technology. That is the part I like the most about it
Rob: Sitecore 9, Customer Data, Privacy and GDPR was fresh on everyone’s minds too. Being in Germany, who are ultra-concerned over privacy.
Svetlana: I believe Commerce is currently a hot topic, and getting hotter. Though xConnect is the winner from my point of view.
Michael: My theme takeaway was "It works, so go start using what we built and not just for content management." Plus, Forms > WFFM; Marketing Automation > Engagement Plans; xConnect > Whatever that ETL thing was.
Svetlana: There were lots of people but the venue was very big as well and I could say it felt less crowded than before, even during lunch.
Alex: The event is getting bigger and more professional, and there was a good presence from Sitecore reps.
Jackie: I saw that there were, what, 600 attendees? That’s very cool.
Rob: 350 attendees 2 years ago. 450 last year and now over 600; it is growing fast. Sitecore’s interest in the event in the last 2 years ago has grown.
Michael: +1 to that. 600 people feels like it went from a hobby to a major influence on the market.
Rob: It felt very professional while still being a “fun” user group rather than a CONFERENCE.
Michael: Before it was like "Oh, some developers are meeting. Isn't that cute." Now, "Oh crap every single smart dev is here, we can't screw up."
Una: I will take all of this as a big compliment to the organization.
Michael: And not just EMEA. Lots of the best from North America and Australia too.
Rob: Yeah. I was surprised; a lot of MVP’s flew from outside EMEA, as it was the Sitecore event that HAD to attend!
Una: Everyone comes to SUGCON Europe, there were people again from New Zealand and Australia; North America is always there.
Michael: In many ways it seems it has supplanted Symposium as the event of choice for the technical community. If they can only pick one, many pick SUGCON.
Rob: It certainly has deeper technical talks for the developer community, and less marketing speakers.
Michael: We need to add a Geek track to Symposium to keep up.
Rob: Tech Track at Symposium is typically fairly light-weight, or showcasing new version of Sitecore.
Una: Symposium is about business and shiny shoes, SUGCON is about sneakers and innovations (and alcohol)
Rob: SUGCON shows a lot more code.
Una: SUGCON code actually works.
Michael: The other theme that I saw was a clear move beyond content management only. You can begin to make the case for Sitecore for lots of things besides web content.
Rob: Yes. Getting the developers to push for more than just a CMS in implementations is important to get complete buy-in from a customer. Developers need to see how easy it can be done and that others are doing it.
Michael: Some incontrovertible live success stories would help a lot. Sounds like a plan for Symposium.
Rob: Real-world examples was the one thing missing from a lot of talks. It’s about innovation and what people “can do”, but not a lot of actual case studies.
Una: A lot of marketing talks cannot be addressed due to NDAs so I am more than happy to see marketing sessions at SUGCON.
Jackie: I am up voting very hard in my mind so as not to clog the chat.
Rob: As the popularity of SUGCON grows it may be more than just developers who start attending. I think that is very likely.
Michael: If it morphs from "cool conceptual stuff" to "cool actual stuff,” definitely.
Jackie: Is that what you meant by “smoke and mirrors” Rob?
Rob: Yes, in a sense. “Cool conceptual stuff” is great, but there is also a tendency to show things of new products that they “could” do (sometimes with screenshots). Seeing more actual stuff and solving real-world technical problems would be great.
Jackie: Were there presentations illustrated or tied into that at all?
Michael: At the same time, I think there are a lot of basic things that many companies are not yet doing.
Una: SUGCON is more involved with demos and practical stuff…even when the demo fails.
Jackie: The demo gods seemed to smile on this event, though.
Rob: There is more forgiveness at SUGCON when a demo fails. Everyone has been there. It is more about how the presenters were approaching problems, which was great.
Michael: The demos and cool stuff are, well, cool, but not really that practical. Not sure how to rectify that.
Una: The thing is, you want people to try out new stuff even when it doesn't justify the business because you can have many silly use cases but a good one can emerge from that. SUGCON is the only place to try something which is not either work for the client or work that we all do.
Jackie: Speaking of presentations - what were the best presentations you saw?
Michael: Yes, what was everyone's favorite session/demo/tidbit/concept?
Rob: Besides Michael’s 45 tests in 45 minutes….
Una: I think Pete Navarra was fantastic, he engaged the entire audience in live demo. 107 people participated.
Michael: I couldn't see them all, obviously, but I thought Alexei Vershalovich's live demo of Marketing Automation with 6 techs integrated was insane, even if it didn't quite all work. Of course, it could have all been fake for all I know.
Svetlana: As I already wrote, I saw a lot less than everything I wanted to see. From those I could attend, the Sitecoreland presentation wowed me the most.
Michael: I was really bummed that I missed that.
Una: Yeah, that was a good talk. I think also the dev ops sessions were great. It gave something for everyone.
Rob: I’d love to see more mix of Tech and Business/Marketing talking through examples. Get in deep to the code, but also show the “why” and business benefit.
Michael: That was actually my original intent, but there was no way I could get through 45 in the product itself.
Rob: The pace of your presentation was good though.
Michael: And "9 or 10 Tests in 45 Minutes" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
Rob: Spoken like a true marketer.
Jackie: We’re into the last few minutes so time for final questions - what was a highlight UNRELATED to the presentations? Side note: if no one mentions the chocolate fountain I will be so disappointed.
Una: For me personally, this was the first time that I was the member of SUGCON organization, and the amount of effort, passion and the enthusiasm from everyone involved, the team, Sitecore people, event team, speakers, is something I will cherish.
Michael: I know I'm breaking your rule here, but I was expecting about 6 people at my presentation. When approximately 80/90 showed up I was floored.
Jackie: I’ll allow it, since that is awesome. Exceptions made for truly great stuff.
Rob: There was beer!
Michael: The sheer quantity of people seeking out Charlie to chat and say hi. He basically never moved and yet almost never wasn't in a conversation.
Svetlana: The wurst (sausages) were awesome. Too bad there weren't any at SUGCON itself. But the food was good! Evenings were the best; having the talks and the hotel at the same spot is responsible for those I think.
Rob: Networking at the hotel or with attendees at nearby evening events was great.
Jackie: Nice. And finally: who’s excited for SUGCON 2019?
Una: Will the queen open it?
Rob: Should be a great event, innit.
Svetlana: I don't think I will get a 3rd SUGCON in a roll so better to hold my horses.
Michael: Now that I understand SUGCON better, I'm really looking forward to next year. There's so much I would do differently. Plus, I'll know more people.