My recap on SQLSaturday #49 is waaay overdue (sorry, Jack and Andy). It was nice to get a chance to present at the home of SQLSaturday, and I have to say, the amount of experience they have in doing SQLSaturday events really shows. The event ran smoothly, and they had plenty of helpful volunteers to help in the appropriate places. I missed the speaker dinner, but heard it was good. There was also some excitement Friday night, when the hotel fire alarm when off at 3:30 AM. Not a pleasant wakeup experience. You could tell the SQLSaturday people who were staying at the hotel though – they were the ones in pajamas with laptop bags over their shoulders.
The event was well attended with 270 attendees and the sessions I attended were pretty full. My presentation was on SQL Azure and loading data to and from the cloud with SSIS and BCP. Fortunately, I was able to get a good internet connection (some other presenters had warned me that reception was a little weak in some rooms), so the demos ran as expected. The after-party was nice as well. I had the chance to catch up with some friends (thanks for the ride, Eric) and meet some new people from the area.
SQLSaturday #56 – BI Edition was this past weekend. It was another good event, and had about 215 attendees. I got to spent some time with Greg Galloway (one of the other developers on BIDS Helper), Tim Mitchell, and I met several new people as well. The event itself was held at the Microsoft campus in Dallas, and rooms were very nice. We did have a couple of tornado scares, the first of which came up just as my first presentation was starting. It’s a little disconcerting hear an announcement that everyone should proceed to the storm shelters two sentences into your presentation. But as it turned out, the presentation room we were in was a “tornado safe zone” (which I guess means safer that the surrounding rooms, which had lots of glass windows), so the presentation was able to continue. The event had a small number of volunteers, and it was nice to see speakers and attendees pitching in to help wherever needed, whether cleaning up or helping direct people to the appropriate rooms.
A Little Different
Something struck me about both these SQLSaturday events. They were both felt relatively low key and relaxed. I wasn’t involved in the organization for either of these, but I got the impression that the organizers felt that they wanted to provide a good event without going to extremes. They realized that not everything has to be perfect or prearranged to have a good event. At some other events, I got the distinct impression that the organizers sat down and said “How do we make this SQLSaturday the best one ever?”, really focused on setting the bar higher, and probably experienced a lot of stress in the process. Don’t get me wrong – I think improving the SQLSaturday experience is important, and continuing to try new things to improve that experience is good. I’ve really enjoyed those events that changed my concept of what a SQLSaturday could be.
However, some of the groups that have done the “higher-end” SQLSaturday events have had a lot of sponsors (which means a bigger budget) and a lot of volunteers (which means spreading the workload a lot more). For those of you considering organizing a SQLSaturday in your area, I think it’s important to know that you can organize a very successful SQLSaturday on a smaller budget and with fewer volunteers. If you focus on providing what the attendees are there for (focused, relevant content that helps them learn), the rest of it tends to sort itself out. Based on the speakers and attendees that I’ve talked to at various events, there’s not a significant difference in the satisfaction levels between events. Attendees are very happy to get free, quality training. Speakers are happy to have an audience. The other stuff (meals, giveaways, personal assistants for every attendee ) is secondary.
So, if you are considering a new SQLSaturday event, don’t worry about how it will compare with the one the next state over, or the one you gave last year. Most people will be very happy however you choose to organize it. And if someone refuses to attend because there won’t be free doughnuts, well, did you really want them there in the first place?