Dan English's BI Blog

Welcome to my random thoughts in regards to Business Intelligence, databases, and other technologies

SQL Saturday 99 Follow Up & Lessons Learned

Posted by denglishbi on November 22, 2011

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This month we had our 2nd SQL Saturday event in Minnesota. We stuck with the Friday setup that we have done in the past and had it on Friday, November 11 (11/11/11 – for SQL11).  This was our 3rd event like this, but just the 2nd one formally branded SQL Saturday.  Each year we have continued to see growth going from around 100 to 250 to around 350 now this year.  Great attendance numbers and fantastic to see such this type of a turnout.  A special thanks to the event organizing committee, volunteers, sponsors, and Grace church for making this all day free training event possible.  We had 35 sessions (as well as 2 lunch session from our You Rock sponsors – Quest and HP Microsoft Frontline Partnership) and 35 speakers which included 4 Microsoft SQL Server MVPs.

Two sessions that I attended that I really found interesting were the Women in Technology Panel Discussion and the SQL Community & Social Networking Roundtable.  This was the first time we had these sessions and I thought the discussions and interactions that went on during these were fantastic and I enjoyed the sharing and insights that occurred.  I can only hope that these sessions help to inspire others and continue to grow in attendance going forward.  I know I always tend to consider the technical sessions, so this was a first for me and I got to participate on the SQL Community & Social Networking Roundtable.sqlsat99

So how do I feel we did this year? Well for starters the attendance was up 40% compared to last year. That tells me we are doing something right.  Once again the sponsorship was fantastic and it is unbelievable to see the support we get from local and national sponsors to put on these events.  I think as a group we did a super job in getting everything put together, especially since this is not what we do for our day job.

If I review my items from last year, SQL Saturday 58 – Minnesota: Follow up & Lessons Learned, I think we did improve. 

  • speaker room – this year we had a dedicated speaker area! this was very helpful and provided a nice area for our speakers to prep as well as relax and chat.
  • evaluation forms – we had volunteers collecting and handing out evaluations, but we still need to improve in this area as far as distribution and collection of evaluation forms. Having these in the event bags would be a good idea as well as having a dedicated drop off location in each room.
  • planning committee/volunteers – we had more people involved organizing the event.  This was nice having more people involved so tasks could be split out as far as sponsorship, speakers/sessions, location, speaker dinner, registration, etc. The more help and coordination helps greatly for events this large.
  • communication – getting more event information out sooner to attendees is always a good thing, can’t hurt to do more in this area, definitely helps in the long run. Providing more logistics and event layout to attendees ahead of time would be good idea for next year in email format.  Not everyone checks out the event site, twitter, or reads blogs to get this additional information.
  • signage – more event signage would be good, particularly around the registration area.
  • registration – doubling the size of the registration team and adjusting the schedule to provide for more time up front would be good as well (we got slammed all at once and did the best we could possibly do, but when everyone shows up around the same time there just is not much you can do).
  • session rooms – the room sizes varied a bit and I think they worked well as far as the number of seats available this year. I think the setup for a few of the rooms could be revisited as far as the location of the speaker podium – keep these off to the side instead of directly front and center in front of the projector screens.
  • wifi – not much I can say here, it was awful, so hopefully no one had to use it during a presentation, but I know for sure at least one speaker was trying.
  • shirts – everyone this year got an event shirt and the speaker shirts were an upgrade from last year as well. The quality of the shirts was very nice.

I wasn’t able to attend that many sessions, but I did find time to sit in on a few.  I just wanted to try and help out as much as possible and I enjoyed being able to chat with everyone.  Next year the event will continue to grow and I hope that we can possibly get up to 500 in attendance.  Is this possible?  I think it is, but it will mean more planning, coordination, and communication.

If you want to check out some of the session content you can download the material from the schedule page for the event.  If you see an asterisk after the session title that means that the material has been uploaded and is available for download.  Simply click on the session link and you will see the download button.

sessioncontent downloadexample

Can’t have a follow up without some additional stats for comparison sake:

eventstats

Once again thanks to everyone that made this event possible and thanks to everyone that attended the event, we hope that you had a great time and enjoyed the sessions.  If you were able to walk away with a couple of nuggets of information and/or expand your social network then I would chalk this one up as a success.

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