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Notes from SQLSaturday #21 – Part 3

I thought I’d finish up the notes by listing things that went well and not so well:

  • Jack Corbett really helped me get things done, taking ownership of his tasks. All my regular volunteers and some new ones did a great job, good natured and hard working. Where we (I) failed is that we didn’t book enough volunteers, so we ran on minimum staff – about 10 volunteers. That worked, but we should have had more.
  • We forgot the coffee makers. Easy mistake, was on the list, just didn’t recheck it while loading. Finally found them at the office, got shuffled around and just missed. We did ok on coffee, but with more volunteers we’d have been able to send someone to buy coffee (or a coffee maker) in time for it to matter.
  • Lunch went smoothly, had enough food with just enough extra, and we gave what was left to the maintenance team as an extra thank you.
  • We didn’t do the end of day networking we planned. Two goofs here, we didn’t get cookies at Costco because they were more than we wanted to pay, and then forgot to get the next morning, and the other part, is our end of day volunteers weren’t prepped for it, so most of the drinks were already put away (my fault on not sharing the revised plan better)
  • A side note, I’m starting to like the idea of an event blog for the volunteers as a better/alternate way to interact with volunteers. Might try next time.
  • Clean up went really well, the team from the college literally in the rooms as soon as the last session was completed, and the volunteers having everything picked up.
  • Using the 3x4 printed schedules a big win, the most important new lesson learned this time
  • Forgot to put signs on the “old” rooms when we changed assignments

Another part that went so-so was our week of seminars. One of the things we’ve tested a couple times is running a seminar that is paired with the free day, and in the past it’s worked well. This time we tested a few things at once; seminar registration integrated into SQLSaturday, running multiple seminars, and integrating the seminar ad into our mailing engine. The big plan is that running a seminar on a Friday is a way to bring a “big name” speaker to town and subsidize the travel costs, and provide some additional education. For those that wonder, what we’re suggesting for a formula is that we guarantee travel expenses for the speaker, then subtract expenses from the gross and split 50/50 between event and speaker.

The seminars went well, but attendance was lower than expected, basically break even. Break even isn’t horrible, but we had hoped to drive some extra revenue into the oPASS speaker fund for 2010. There were some areas of pain:

  • We ran four seminars, three featuring out of town speakers. That mean I was in the office at 6:30 to do critical stuff, then handling lunch and miscellaneous stuff, then a dinner each night that often ran until 10 pm. By the time Fri night came I was getting tired. It was good time, but we need to plan for it if we do it again
  • The ad placement in the email messages was basically the right 25% of the email, but wasn’t delineated well enough, and many – in spite of our efforts – didn’t quite get what we were offering. Last year we did single purpose emails and I think that worked better. Need to tweak and test.
  • Managing the revenue split was a pain. Attendees could use a discount code and attend multiple seminars (or have multiple people attend one seminar), and we split the revenue appropriately to reflect earnings per seminar. But when we started cancelling a single day, it was all manual. That would be a huge time sink for me if another event was using this, so there is work to do there.

Jack Corbett has his notes posted as well, and I recommend you read http://wiseman-wiseguy.blogspot.com/2009/10/sqlsaturday-21-orlando-recap.html as well.

Bottom line, 370 registered, 230 attended, and lots of happy attendees!


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.


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