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SQLAndy

I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.

SQLSaturday Orlando Planning Meeting on May 23, 2009

We'll be meeting at Chipotle in Altamonte Springs on May 23, 2009 at 11:30 am to discuss plans for the next (third annual) SQLSaturday here in Orlando. Both our previous events have gone very well, with a strong showing of 275 attendees last year. That's 275 attendees that got to pick from 40 sessions, had free breakfast, free lunch, and got a nice SQLSaturday t-shirt to boot. So the question is - what to do better or different this year?

Maybe the first question is why I'm asking that question, why not just do what we did last year and leave it at that? Not a dumb question. The event provides a lot of value and we have the formula, why make changes?

One reason is that I'm mildly competitive, and I like to try to do better than I did before. Another is that I like to experiment so that I can share lessons back with others that decide to do a SQLSaturday (thinking about it? contact me!). Right now it seems like we define better as more attendees than last year, or more sessions than last year, or both. Both are challenging goals because we don't have a great facility that scales well, the college that we use seats about 25 to a room, so max attendance per session is around 40 with people on the floor at the back of the room. We can get more rooms - they won't run out - but do we add value from going to 60 sessions from 40?

I've got a few ideas we'll discuss at our lunch, and I'll share them next, and hoping more come out at the meeting:

  • Look at having the event in South Orlando instead of North, try to reach a different audience. Does this work? It's a difference of perhaps 30 miles, is that a deal breaker for attendees?
  • Try to record all the sessions and make available online. This runs the usual risk of hurting physical attendance, but would definitely be a nice win for speakers to make sure they get max visibility for their (free) effort. Also the technical challenges of doing this in a low cost way.
  • More focus on networking. Ideally I get to test some of my ideas for the PASS Summit, but I think it's valuable to spend more time teaching and evangelizing networking as an integral part of the event.
  • Return to the pre-event paid seminar format. For SQLSat #1 we brought Joe Celko in for a $99 one day seminar on Friday and it was a big hit, and it's nice because we can advertise two things in one email. I'm actually thinking to go beyond that this year, with five seminars the week prior, so that we'd have a week of SQLSaturday Monday through Saturday. The economics are a little bit of a challenge, the ideal is we would cover travel, provide the space, and do some type of revenue share after that. Don't know if I can find five willing to do it, but I'm not opposed to asking! Imagine a week of SQL Server learning, where you can spend zero (attend Saturday), spend $99 (for one day), or get 6 days of training for $500.
  • Look at doing more Part 1/Part 2 sessions to provide greater depth
  • How can we grow more local speakers and get them to present?
  • What's a realistic attendance goal? What would it take to try to break 500 attendees?
  • Should we consider implementing the lunch charge of $10 (as Atlanta did with great success) to make the budget smoother?
  • Could we support a 2 day event, Friday and Saturday? I like Friday because it would let us reach a lot of people that won't come on Saturday and yes, I'm perfectly ok with having a SQLSaturday on Friday - it'll feel like a Saturday and we can all handle that bit of complexity can't we?

I'm sure there's more, right down to deciding what to serve for lunch and all the other important logistics. All comments appreciated, and if you're in the area this Saturday stop by even if to just eat lunch and listen.

Comments

Posted by Steve Jones on 20 May 2009

I think you're making a mistake going for a lot more people. The scale presents logistical problems, and goes against some of the goals of networking and getting more information out there. Instead I'd look for either a 2 day event, or doing it twice a year.

The other thing to consider, in my mind, is expand the sessions, but have more repeats, so if people want to see 2 popular sessions that are at the same time, they have a 2nd chance.

Posted by Andy Warren on 20 May 2009

Not a done deal to make it bigger. Doing it twice a year essentially doubles the work - two venues, two sets of sponsors, etc, etc. Repeating sessions is worth thinking about, but the challenge is to repeat a good one or give a new guy a chance to speak?

Absolutely the scale makes things harder, though I don't know how much harder. If I could get rooms that sat 50-75 instead of 25-40, it feels like we could do it with the same crew - just x more soda, x more sandwiches, etc.

It's a good conversation to have - you want to fly in for lunch on Saturday? Chipotle is a pretty good value you know!

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