This year was SQL Saturday #5 in a row for us at Louisville. It was by far the best event we have had and we greatly enjoyed hosting it. Below are some things that worked and did not work this time:
1 The location – ideally situated, no parking hassles, walking distance from the discounted hotel, all rooms on one floor, a very friendly and cooperative staff – in short everything we wanted in a location came through this time with this one. Our sincere thanks to Indiana Wesleyan University for hosting us (in particular to Leigh Ann Black) and our volunteer Dave Mattingly for finding them for us. We hope to have the next event(s) at the same location.
2 An enthusiastic crowd – although our turnout was not as high as usual (190 compared to 220+) we found most of the audience interested, appreciative and many stayed until the very end.
3 Our loyal speakers – over time we have grown a crowd of speakers who attend our every event unfailingly – these include Kevin Edward Kline, Louis Davidson, Allen White, Tim Chapman, Dave Fackler and Craig Utley. Our thanks are due to these speakers (and everyone else) whose knowledge and willingness to share it made the event a grand success. It may also be worthy of mention that Kevin unfailingly gets voted as the best speaker, and Tim has been the first guy who made it upto the MCM from this town.
4 Sponsors – We put the sponsors in a separate room along with snacks and sodas. Almost all of them were very appreciative of the audience they got and promised to return again. It may also be noteworthy that other than Quest/Dell Software and Confio and our local VSoft Consulting, all the other sponsors were first timers for us. Some like Embarcadero, Imperva and BI Tracks did their first ever SQL Saturday sponsorship with us and wanted to return again. We consider this a huge victory not just for us but for the bigger SQL Saturday community as well.
5 Post Event party – We did not have post event parties at older events. The main reason for this is because we are a small volunteer crowd and all of us were very tired at the end of the day. Coordinating another party was too much of an effort to pull off. This time VSoft Consulting stepped in as sponsors and coordinators, and we were able to host the first ever post event party. While it was not hugely attended, it was a good start and we will surely consider doing this again.
What did not work:
1 Pre Cons – We started with announcing 4 pre cons and ended up cancelling all of them. Three pre cons were cancelled at the behest of the speakers, who were busy with other work and did not find attendance big enough to book their time in advance. The last one had to be cancelled because the count of students was too small for us to coordinate it. This made a few attendees unhappy and we were sorry that we had to do that. But some self examination helped us understand that pre cons were too much effort in addition to the sql Saturday – we are probably not going to have them again.
2 Speaker Shirts – We ended up with some shirts that were not of desired quality. The main reason was that our order was placed in the last minute with a vendor who did a mix and match of suppliers. Our decision was to go with the Florida based SQL Saturday supplier that was used by many events , from next time.
3 Speaker Room – We had insufficient tables and chairs in the room that resulted in many speakers relocating to the lunch/registration room for chats and discussions . More attention to be paid to this later.
4 Speed Pass – We had a printer with us for those attendees who did not show up with their speed pass printouts. Surprisingly this time it was quite a large crowd (roughly around 30-40 %). That resulted in the printer chugging along as fast as it could and two volunteers working the registration table non stop from morning until the last attendee strolled in after lunch. We also learnt by show of hands during the raffle that most attendees were first timers. This might be one of the reasons. From the next time we plan to work around this by having something different – like perhaps a $1 fee for those who forget their printouts.
5 Lower attendance than normal – We had about 20% less people than usual. We attributed the main reason for this to be our choice of date for the event – one week away from July 4th and a time when most people take time off for summer vacations. We will work better at finding a better date.
SQL Saturdays are team organized events, they are not one person effort no matter how motivated the organizer is. The success of this event is due to the hard work of our volunteers – Brian Carter, Dave Ingram, Dave Mattingly, Karen Schuler, Deana Ritter, Kenney Snell and newbies Scott Drake and James King. We hope to remain a team going forward and bring more events to the community. Our thanks again to speakers ,sponsors,volunteers and attendees who made it a grand success.