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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.

Notes from SQLSaturday #21 – Part 1

I started the logistics preparations last Sun (8 days ago), finalizing the print version of the schedule, the eval cards, and other items that had been mostly prepped and needed to go out for printing. Tuesday night I had 8 volunteers come over for pizza and bag stuffing (a lot less stuff this year), and a walk through of the plan for the day. One of my volunteers (Deb) thought she could arrange to print some large versions of the schedule, Terrence took on getting 25 dozen donuts and a few gallons of coffee, and Bob owned signage. Off to a good start.

Deb confirmed that she could print 3x4 copies of the schedule at a reasonable cost – less than a buck each, so we sent over the schedule and room map on Wed. On Thursday I started going through my list and stacking the stuff that I needed – office supplies, sugar, sweet and low, books, etc, etc. On Friday Patrick Leblanc flew in and got to the office about lunch time, we went out for lunch along with Jack Corbett, then headed to UHaul to get a truck (that way we can load on Friday, just get up and go on Saturday).

While at Uhaul we saw this, thought of Steve – surely this could be a prototype for his next energy efficient car!

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Here are Patrick and Jack “helping”!

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And just in case you haven’t seen one, the official SQLSaturday truck! (Were I less tired and more creative, I’d add the logo to the picture)

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From there to Costco to buy a lot of water and soda. Bananas didn’t look too good (wanted them for breakfast), so we loaded our stuff and back to the office to load all the other stuff. Done about 4pm, Jack and Patrick head out to change for the speaker party, I go to get cash for Terrence to get the donuts with, then finish up printing a few things. As things work out, right then – literally – my VPN license expires before I can finish printing the attendee list. Get that fixed, out of time, off to pick up Andy Leonard at the hotel and then to the speaker party.

We had the party at Jax Fifth Ave. Good location as far as travel, often a little noisier than we’d like – it’s a compromise. Had about 25 speakers show up, almost half of the total, and a lively crowd. Lot’s of discussion about PASS and the upcoming election, how to become an MVP, the seeming explosion of brands within the SQL community, networking, the PASS Summit, and more. We had people drift in and out, but the last of us wrapped up about 11 pm. That’s for an event that started at 6 pm. Calling it a party is probably not descriptive, though it is festive – it’s 25 old and new friends meeting for dinner and talking about just about everything.

Half way back to the hotel to drop Andy off we realize that we forgot the box with the speaker gifts (leather business card holders), so we go back to get the box, start back to the hotel again. I got home about midnight, printed the attendee sign in sheet (we still had people registering Fri night at 9 pm), and called it a night.

Up at 5:30, picked Andy L up at 6, and on site at the college at 6:30. Almost cold for Florida, temp probably 60, good temp for moving stuff around. Volunteers start to come in and we were all set up by about 7:15 am. We had the usual set up; a greeter out by the parking lot (Bob Blaydes), two sign in tables outside and the food and sponsors set up inside. Attendees got a bag with session eval forms, and event eval, some flyers and a few misc pens and stuff we had to give out. They also got a name tag and a lunch ticket. We charged for lunch this year, though it an optional fee – attendees could bring their own lunch if they chose, so it was important to make sure we had lunch for those that paid for it.

Perhaps the most stressful point of these events is the initial setup (what if doors aren’t open, forget something, etc) and lunch (do we have enough without wasting precious funds on too many extra). My plan for this year was seemingly foolproof! I printed 45 sheets of 8 lunch tickets, the attendee sheet was marked to indicate who had paid for lunch or was comped (speakers), and we would also allow attendees to pay at checkin. The idea was that at any point we could count the remaining tickets and have an accurate count.

But…as things are apt to do, we didn’t get it quite right. We had a few people that said/thought they had paid that we marked down for research, one table collected cash and the other had them come back later. We also separated a bunch of the lunch tickets in advance (perfed 8 to a sheet), which made it a little harder to quickly count how many left! In general it worked, but it’s always an analog process, never quite as smooth as I’d like – but from an attendee perspective I think it worked well enough.

Somewhere in there we realized that while we had all the supplies for making more coffee (to supplement what we purchased already made), we were missing the coffee makers. I had them on the list, they were missing, and we didn’t have time/volunteers to try to go get them and get back in time to matter. Luckily the coffee we purchased carried us through the first break. We used almost all of 25 dozen donuts and $27 worth of bananas (a big box!). Reminder – make sure to provide a non-dairy creamer (we had it, but I remember someone not seeing it and asking).

Backing up a little, left out one fun part. Friday morning we find out that in half our rooms we won’t be able to use the projector. We had plenty of alternate rooms, but the schedule was already stuffed in the bags as well as the 3x4 posters along with the room map. We made the change, got it wrong (Jon Kehayias called to let us know we had lost a track), fixed that, and moved on. Saturday morning we marked up the posters with the room changes, but forgot to put a note on the old doors. Joe Healy caught that and fixed, but we had a few minutes confusion at 9 am. Dumb mistake, we should have planned for that.

I can’t say enough about the value of the large printed schedule. We got ours at a cheap price, but even at $20 each I’d buy them again in a minute. Much much more effective than letter sized ones taped up, and I saw people coming back to them through out the day. Makes me rethink putting them in the bag. We always have last minute schedule changes. This time we had one speaker cancel due to a family illness, one no show, and two out of town speakers that asked to move to an earlier time. Regardless of when you print, something will change! It definitely caused mild pain, but everyone took it in stride I think.

Comments

Posted by Steve Jones on 20 October 2009

One thing you might think about for lunch is small SQLSaturday wrist bands. The ones we got at Dev Days were easy to wear, easy to hand out, relatively unobstrusive. You could make a Sharpie mark, or even punch a hole in them as tracking.

Posted by bonniea on 22 October 2009

The banana alternative was great for breakfast! Enjoyed the entire event

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