SQL Saturday 222 – Change is Good!

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It has been about a month since SQL Saturday #222 here in Sacramento, CA and I realized that I had not posted a blog about it yet. I chalk it up as a hangover to the whole event. I am not even sure where to start with this event. We had a wonderful group of event planners comprised of mostly of our local user group board. Everyone worked very hard to make the event the success it was. Yes, our attendance was a little low, but the sessions and people who attended were treated to an overall great day filled with a ton of awesome sessions and networking with the community.

Like with any other event, with the good, comes the bad. All in all, we had way more good than bad at this event and a few lessons learned. The most important thing was that we learned from our experiences and mistakes from last year.

What we Changed:

SQLSat222 Precon – We added a Precon this year…Wow! I think that pretty much sums up the whole training from Kalen Delaney (b|t) on the day before the SQL Saturday. We had a class of close to 50 attendees. All walked away with nothing but great things to say about Kalen’s class and what she covered in it. The whole event took place at the same venue as our SQL Saturday. The facility took care of setting everything up and the whole event went very smoothly. We are already looking forward to next year’s event!Wine

Speaker Gifts – Last year we gave everyone personalized cowbells. They were a huge hit and we had a hard time thinking of something to top it. Being that we had several return speakers this year, we didn’t want to do the same thing again. As a thank you to all the speakers, we decided to get a bottle of ‘somewhat’ local wine for everyone.   As it turns out, the winery name is “Query”. We also got custom-made labels for the wine, so you can drink your Query and show it off too! It will make a great  paper-weight for the office desk.

Venue – This year we changed our venue from a stuffy hotel lobby to a corporate meeting center. The facility was already equipped with everything we needed. Overhead projectors, free wifi, drop down screens, break rooms, plenty of parking and security for all the over-caffeinated geeks. The facility was fantastic and we couldn’t be more thankful for Sutter Health and the Patrick Hays Learning Center for letting us use their facility. Did I mention it was FREE…BOOM goes the dynamite!

Scheduling – Last year, we tried to create a schedule with specified tracks such as Development, BI, DBA, etc. It made it really difficult to organize and accommodate speakers travel plans at the same time. This year, we opted to simplify the schedule. We had 5 tracks with 6 sessions in each. This really made the last-minute changes a breeze. This also forced people out of their seats and into the hallways where they can talk, network and meet the sponsors. It was a win-win all around.

Guidebook – We cannot thank PASS enough for making the guidebook set up so darn easy. Last year we tried to set up a Guidebook for SQL Saturday and it became more of a hassle that we anticipated. Now, with a few clicks, you can get the Guidebook posted. We pushed all of the attendee’s hard to use the guidebook for the most up to date scheduling. We encountered a few last-minute issues with speaker’s schedules and using Guidebook made the updates really easy. If you have a SQL Saturday coming up, the guidebook is a must!

Event Guides – Last year we had a VERY extensive event guide that had full, half and quarter page advertisements from our vendors. Granted the event guides turned out to be awesome, they were also expensive and royal pain to put together. That is what led us to the simple design of the schedule and a special thanks to all the sponsors. Our costs were low, creations was easy and they still looked great

Platinum Sponsorship Bonus – This year, as an added incentive for our Platinum Sponsors, we allowed them to have a room named after them. This seemed to go over well as people were referring to the rooms as the Quest room, Red Gate room, SIOS room and the Nimble Storage room. We felt that this was a big added bonus and better than advertisements in the event guide. The sponsors seemed to agree!

Lunch Fee – This was good and maybe a little bad. We hate to charge for a lunch for a free event, but after paying for an extra 130 lunches last year for people who didn’t show up, we figured this was going to give us a little more realistic number since people actually had some ‘skin’ in the game for lack of a better term. All in all, we only had a dozen or so lunches left and the security guard went home very happy.

Volunteer Shirts – We upped the ante this year by getting better speaker shirts and volunteer shirts. While the nice sporty, collared speaker shirts were nice, the volunteer shirts are what took the prize! Sand colored shirts with a camouflage PASS logo. We had attendees’ asking if they could purchase the shirts! I think we found the new Sacramento SQL Saturday logo for years to come.

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What we didn’t Change:

Speaker Dinner – Just like last year, we opted to have our speaker dinner at one of our local user group members’ home. I honestly think this is the best venue for an event like this. It is a very informal environment that allows all of us to mingle with more than just the 3 or 4 people sitting next to you at a restaurant. We BBQ’d rib-eyes, popped some wine bottles, tapped a keg and lit a few cigars. I am pretty sure everyone had a great time…from what we all remember. HUGE thanks to Tina Nguyen for hosting!

What we wished we could Change:

Sacramento Temperature – We did crank up the A/C in the building, but    , the lobby and foyer area did get hot. Unfortunately, it is Sacramento in July and we expect temperatures close to 100 degrees. We tried to remedy the situation with fans and we will have to revisit this again for next year for our lessons learned.

Additional Thoughts:

The hardest thing about being a SQL Saturday organizer is finding the time to relax and sit through an entire session. I felt like there was always something that needed to be done or attended to. I will say that we have an awesome group of volunteers here in Sacramento. On the day of the event, they came out of every corner to help make the event successful and I am very thankful to all of them! Would I head up the team again for a SQL Saturday? Probably. Nah, most definitely.

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