What an amazing event. Over the past several years, I have been an attendee, volunteer, and speaker for a number of SQLSaturdays and code camps. Not until recently have I understood the amount of work and effort that an event of this type entails.
SQLSaturday events are community-driven events that provide free training for SQL Server DBAs, developers, and BI professionals. Started in 2007 as the brain child of Andy Warren, Steve Jones, and Brian Knight, the brand has recently been acquired by PASS, the Professional Association for SQL Server.
On April 10, 2010, Richmond, VA put on a SQLSaturday at the local ECPI College of Technology. Thank you so much to the speakers, sponsors, and volunteers who made this event possible. A huge thanks goes to the leadership team of Andy Leonard, Kevin Israel, Ron Deskins, and Steve Fibich who put in many hours of work!
As most of these wrap-ups go, I feel there were some things that we could have done better, and I wanted to share my thoughts to hopefully help future event leaders!
Volunteers are a godsend. Do not underestimate the need for multiple volunteers throughout the entire day. At one point when I was manning the registration table, I needed to grab an attendee to sit at the table while I ran away to take care of a room situation. (Thanks, Jimmy!) Speaking of room situations...
Check your projects and/or any other technical equipment needed the day of the event. We had a projector that decided to cut off of a fifth of the screen! We were lucky to be able to move to another room and readjust accordingly. Having a back up room and/or back up projector is a must.
We elected not to have evaluations for the event based on time and budget constraints. In hindsight, I wish we had deemed this more important. I really only have my own perspective and a few feedback emails to judge how the event went. It would be nice to know if we missed anything that was important!
After raffling off the sponsors' raffle prizes, we had a raffle for everyone to win some books donated by Microsoft. Trying to be proactive, we had put everyone's name in the box who had signed up to attend. Unfortunately, with a 30% drop off rate, that means we pulled quite a few names of people who were not there. This actually could tie in very well with Evaluations, where we use the forms that people fill out to pick the winners of the final raffle.
Tell your sponsors they must send their materials to be including in attendee bags/raffle signs/raffle prizes to you ONE WEEK BEFORE THE EVENT. The items must arrive ONE WEEK BEFORE THE EVENT. Send the sponsors multiple emails to make sure the materials are there ONE WEEK BEFORE THE EVENT. Did I say that enough times? ;) We did not clarify a time for materials to arrive, and due to some last minute postal crises, had some extra details to work out the night before the event. Better to be safe than sorry, so make sure you receive your materials ONE WEEK BEFORE THE EVENT. ;)
Beginning of the day
Start your morning setup at least one hour before you tell attendees registration will open. We had some attendees who were so ready to learn some SQL Server, they arrived 25 minutes early! We had to ask them to wait as we finished setting up the registration table, breakfast, and last minute room adjustments.
I also wanted to highlight a few things that I think went pretty well!
We received a few compliments on our massive color coded schedule. Each room had its schedule on the door in the appropriate color, that matched the wall schedule, and matched the map that each attendee received. We were easily able to switch rooms or make adjustments to both the wall-schedule and the door-schedules. I think it worked out well for both the attendees and leadership team!
I cannot stress how great boxed lunches are. We ordered lunches from Firehouse Subs, which each came in nice, neat, easy boxes. Attendees grabbed a box, grabbed a drink, and were on their way. This resulted in no line during lunch, and very little mess to clean up! (Yes, that is my flow diagram for lunch - there is no such thing as too many signs or too many instructions ;) )
We set up our sponsors in the same room as breakfast and lunch. This allowed attendees to grab some food and browse the sponsor's wares at the same time. Based on the amount of raffle tickets in the sponsors’ raffle boxes, I think we got almost everyone to visit the sponsors!
This could be me going overboard, but we created instructions for the folks at the registration table. This included FAQs that attendees may ask, things to mention to the attendees when they checked them in, and the different steps they needed to do at the table. This worked out well because we could hand the volunteer the instructions and let them have at it, while we focused on other items of interest!Here are a few posts from SQLSaturday Richmond speakers as well:
Do you have feedback? Thoughts? Want to run your own SQLSaturday? Leave a comment below!