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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 #49

We headed into the SQLSaturday #49 weekend with a $99 seminar on Database Design by Louis Davidson. We ended up with 35 attendees and I think everyone had a nice day. We definitely need tools to manage this, having a separate registration and budget was a distraction at best, and I think it would encourage more event leaders to give it a try.

Once the seminar was started I picked up the shirts, sent out a reminder email, and worked for a bit before having lunch with the seminar attendees. After lunch I caught up with Jack Corbett and Mike Walsh, picking up the UHaul truck first. Everyone always seems astounded that we rent a truck, but we ended up filling the 10’ TM truck about 3/4 full, and being able to load it and lock it on Friday makes Saturday morning start smoothly. Then to Costco for 700 bottles of water and about 600 cans of soda, and back to my office to load 250 event bags stuffed with sponsor goodness, extra tables, the shirts, more shirts from sponsors, prizes, raffle boxes, coffee supplies (and the coffee machines!), and a lot more.

Done with that, home to change clothes and clean up, then back to the seminar to watch the end and break down the setup; projector, screen, assorted supplies, and then drive those back to the office where Kendal Van Dyke helped me tote everything upstairs.

Next was the speaker party, held at Liam Fitzpatricks in Lake Mary this time. Outside seating, and a crowd of close to 30. Good venue over all. The live music outside was right on the edge of being too loud, but only lasted a while and then was better. We handed out the speaker coffee cups and shirts to the few that had requested them, and then just sat and talked until 9:30 or, this at a party that started at 6 pm! All the food was sponsored by Confio, and it was great to have Confio big dog Don Bergal at the event too!

I stopped at Publix on the way home to get bananas and gallons of water for the coffee machines. I know from experience that if you ask they’ll give you a big box of bananas instead of cleaning out the display, and they did, a big 30 pound box. That worked well until checkout, where the cashier didn’t know what to do. They found a manager and decided that the way to do it was to weigh each bunch. So, they took them all out, weighed them, and put them back in the box neatly. Strange, but it didn’t take long.

Saturday started at 5:30, picking up the UHaul at the office and getting to Seminole State College at 6:30 am. Strangely there were direction signs out already, even though the signs were in the back of the truck. Not sure still what happened there, if we had a volunteer do it or if the college did it. Karla Landrum was the first one to arrive just after I did, and in a few minutes we had a good start on unloading. The unloading process was mildly comical, the best place to unload is at the top of a small round about, but in the mornings a bus comes through about every 10 minutes and they can’t make the turn with the truck in the way. So when the bus is ready I drive in recursive function around the circle so that the bus can exit, and then park back in the same place as before for another 10 minutes!

We got all the supplies unloaded, had our volunteer Doris head out to place more signs, and hung up our shiny new oPASS and SQLSaturday banners. Jack started organizing the tables and registration area, and by 8 am we were ready to start. We did three lines this year, and I never saw anyone wait very long. No negatives that I heard on the hand lettered event bags, and a few admiring comments about the thriftiness!

In between volunteer Dan arrived with breakfast, 25 dozed doughnuts and 6 gallons of coffee. I think the total on that was about $230. If you’re doing this kind of order let them know if you’ll provide the cups, sugar, etc, you can knock a few bucks off the bill, and you can save a little more if you provide the coffee containers instead of using their joe-boxes. Also, when you say ‘assorted’, it’s probably better to specify ‘no sprinkles’! We had a lot of strangely colored doughnuts, not enough plain, boston cream.

Turns out Dan had a sick child at home, but he got up anyway and made the breakfast run, and then went back home to do Dad duty. Volunteers are sooooo under appreciated, how do you say thank you for something like that?

oPASS veteran Mike Antonovich managed breakfast, heating up water for breakfast tea and starting to make more coffee to supplement what we bought. A note for next year, we should buy more coffee up front, I’d say probably another 2-4 boxes would not have been wasted, and I can calculate that because we used up the four gallons of water I bought plus some. Still, we kept up through the morning rush with out 2 coffee makers.

oPASS volunteer Deb arrived with the 3’x4’ printed schedules. Deb was sick, got up just to deliver the schedules and then go back home. Another killer volunteer! Those big schedules are a must have in our view, you see people crowding around them and much preferred to the smaller printed copies we give them, plus it’s a great place to post schedule changes.

I checked back on registration and as always, we managed to have enough people pass by checkin that we had to guess at the headcount. People who don’t want the bags, didn’t order lunch, speakers, etc, they all pass by and it’s just not like a conference where you can make them do it! That had Jack and I sweating the lunch count, the last thing you want to do is have to tell someone you ran out of food, especially when they paid for lunch. So we counted and recounted, and finally decided that we’d trust experience. We had 400 registered, so we were expecting 270 (70% attendance), and out of that we knew we had some that opted out of lunch.

With that settled, I made the rounds again, everything looking pretty good. We had to get more ice (we started with 200 pounds), but otherwise we were well supplied. AV issue in one room was quickly resolved.

PASS President Rushabh Mehta attended, as did PASS Board member and CA representative Neil Buchwalter, plus Tom LaRock wearing two hats as PASS Board member and Confio guy. It’s the best way I know to stay connected to the members (and soon to be members), watching the excitement, having the small chats. Rushabh and I took a few minutes to discuss SQLRally, which you could call work, but is something we’re both deeply interested in having go well. Neil & CA were sponsors here in Orlando for the first time

Mid-morning I met for about an hour with some of the new PASS Regional Mentors (RM); Karla Landrum, Jorge Segarra, and Adam Jorgensen, starting with some notes I sent out in July about SQLSaturday and moving into a general discussion of their role from my perspective. Notes from that:

  • Look for opportunities to build new SQLSaturday locations. Lot of interest from me in really under served areas, but not limited to that
  • Connect prospects with Nancy at PASS HQ
  • Nothing wrong with small events.
  • Keep asking and focusing on finding more local speakers, growing the pool
  • RM’s need to be visible, both to chapter leaders and to the general community
  • Watch for chapters in decline/static as well as building new ones, help the Board understand challenges
  • Need to make clear to the community the mission and top 3 goals, better to do less well

By then it was lunch time, and the driver from Jason’s Deli was calling to find us. He was close, so 10 minutes later it was time to unload 300 boxed lunches. I wish I had a better picture, but the car below was packed. Not sure how the guy got in the car, and I think he must have only made left hand turns because he couldn’t see to the right!

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it’s about a hundred yard walk from car to lunch area, and you can only carry two bags at a time (though the lunch guy had a pole with clips that would carry four!). Below you can see Rushabh & Tom helping organize the lunches.

 

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Lunch went smoothly, and then everyone had lunch on the grass and steps and everywhere else. I didn’t think to take pictures, was wandering to check on everyone and watching with fingers crossed on the food, but we ended up with about 30 extras. After that it’s all downhill!

Volunteers managed lunch and the cleanup, I checked on sponsors again and made sure we rotated volunteers on check-in. oPASS volunteer Bob set up the popcorn machine at about 1:45 and made a lot of popcorn. We finally gave him a helper, it’s a lot of work to bag popcorn when you do it a couple hundred times. I know sometime in the middle of my 2:30 presentation Jacksvonille guy Scott Gleason popped in like a stadium vendor with a box of popcorn bags to give out. Fun stuff, and thanks to Idera for sponsoring the popcorn.

I had one presentation to give on Statistics and that went well, good questions and no problems. Finished that up, then back to check-in to make sure the afternoon consolidation and clean up where under way. About 4:30 we started putting stuff back in the truck. We brought back about 9 cases of water and 6 cases of soda. All the bananas were gone, as were 24 1/2 dozen donuts!

Jack got the prizes out and organized, so about 5:15 or so we started throwing stuff out to the crowd (early picture below, we had a lot more down there once all the sessions were done). oPASS guy and Access MVP Arvin Meyer was helping out and was astounded that we were going to throw stuff out. Shirts, hats, bucky balls from Quest. Books from Wrox. Certificates from O’Reilly for ebooks (hint: throw them out in one blast!), shirts from CA. Ninja balls from Telerik (note, anything ninja gets a roar from this crowd, I think next year we will have more Ninja stuff – who would have guessed?). Books from Red Gate. More shirts. Magnetic dart boards from Quest. A digital camera and an iPad (which I didn’t toss over). We probably spent 30 minutes throwing stuff out, and somehow no one seemed bored or anxious. We celebrated great catches, teased on the misses, managed to land a few items in the tree and watch the crowd shake the three (who won’t let a good hat go missing).

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And then it was done. Time to finish loading up, retrieve the signs, and head to the after party, again at Liams. Jack had coordinated appetizers, and I just found a chair to sit for a while, tired and relaxed. Probably 30 people again attending, a mix of speakers and attendees, and I got to meet some more new people. I think we finished up about 10 pm, cold breeze starting to blow and out of energy too.

Of course, it’s not really done at that point. Sunday morning I had to unload the water, the soda, the tables, and all the rest, and then return the truck. Then I spent an hour updating our finances, still got a few volunteers to reimburse and a receipt or two to track down, but close. Jack has to send out the boxes of raffle tickets to sponsors, send out email blasts, send thank you emails, and more. I’ve spent an hour writing this up on Monday morning, and as much as I’ve written, there’s a lot more than happened, but we’ll call this part done for now.

We’re calling the final attendance 270, out of 400 registered. Thanks to all our sponsors, our speakers, our volunteers, and our attendees, I think our fourth annual event was the best one yet.

Comments

Posted by Steve Jones on 19 October 2010

Sounds like a great event, and sorry I missed it.

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