Published on November 21st, 2012 | by Matthew Hughes8
An inch deep and a mile wide
Last week I was at the SharePoint Conference in the US where me, Seb Matthews and a few others were having a conversation about the Speakers at the Conference and Speakers in general, there were quite a few negative comments going around about some of the speakers and this got me quite annoyed given that I know what it takes to prepare for sessions as well as the guts it takes to stand in front of 2000 people and tell your story or give your experience.
There are two sides to the story here and it is worth us laying that out, it would be great to know how you feel about this and I welcome comments from both the people that were at the conference and those that were not luckily enough to be there.
Seb introduced me to the saying of “An inch deep and a mile wide or a mile deep and an inch wide”he explained that the former is like an Architect/Solutions Consultants they know a reasonable amount across the platform piece where as the latter talks about a Consultants/Specialists/SME’s they know a significant amount about specific subjects.
Seb expected that the conference speakers would be of the Technical Specialist category and therefore shouldn’t have problems speaking or lending on their experiences where necessary, I didn’t necessarily agree at the time but in hind sight I tend to agree that at a Conference of this magnitude and at a very large financial cost, the guys and gals presenting should know their stuff.
My side of the story which I know maybe doesn’t apply to this conference, is that I came from presenting on topics that I wasn’t an expert in and in fact it was more of a “tales from the trenches” story, however, as time has passed I have become more and more competent in this area but even now I would not consider myself an expert by any means (maybe it’s because I don’t like the term expert that I get hung up on what that actually means).
I suggested that maybe some people were not experts but in fact they were telling a story or informing people of their experience which in some cases is just as valuable as those that are experts. This goes hand in hand with the fact that some of these guys are not used to presenting in front of 2,000 people, some of the more seasoned presenters did let me know that it was quite a daunting prospect but they managed to power through it.
Finally, I understand Sebs view and this has certainly been cemented by various other attendees and indeed speakers at the Conference, I appreciate that the User Group format and SharePoint Saturdays are a little more forgiving on both the presenters experience and content and of course I accept that at the Microsoft Worldwide SharePoint Conference speakers should have a certain level of expertise.
Comments on this are welcomed and I know this has been a hot topic following the conference.
What are your thoughts? Is there such a thing as an expert? What level of expertise should you have at User Group / SharePoint Saturday or Professional Conference level?