SQL Saturday #33 was held on Saturday, 3/6, at the Microsoft campus in Charlotte. Hosted by the Charlotte SQL Server Users Group, this was the first time for a SQL Saturday in the area and I think they did a fantastic job! Peter Shire (Twitter) and Greg Gonzalez (Blog | Twitter) put a lot of hard work and effort into making this a can't-miss event by enticing speakers from around the country to come present (including 14 MVPs), securing a great facility, and landing the backing of a great group of sponsors.
The speaker's dinner on Friday night started with a social hour at the SQL Sentry office. Hands down they've got the coolest lounge I've ever seen at an office – an XBox 360 hooked up to a ginormous screen with surround sound and a full set of Rock Band instruments on one end and a fridge full of frosty beverages on the other (for after hours relaxation, of course!). I spent most of the time at the social talking shop with Chris Skorlinski (Blog | Twitter), a Replication guru at Microsoft.
Dinner was a short walk around the corner and easily the best speaker's dinner I've ever been to. SQL Sentry sponsored and spared no expense. My favorite part about speaker dinners is the chance to catch up with friends who I only get to see a few times each year. The day of the event is always hectic and this is the one chance to get everybody in a room together at the same time. Worth the price of the plane ticket from Orlando, easily!
The Main Event
Saturday started with a keynote featuring Steve Jones (Blog | Twitter), Andy Warren (Blog | Twitter), and Rushabh Metah (Blog | Twitter) discussing the past, present, and future of the SQL Saturday brand. I presented at the first ever SQL Saturday in Orlando back in 2008 and really appreciate the opportunity it's provided for me to meet other SQL professionals and grow as a speaker. I also know how much time and effort Andy's put into getting it where it is today so I feel a sense of pride for Andy that it's grown (I think) into what he was hoping it would become.
The first of the two sessions I presented was Getting Started In Blogging and Technical Speaking (slide deck here). I counted 12 non-presenters in the room plus five bloggers\presenters (three of which I asked to sit in to help add perspective). This is an interactive session by design and despite some initial hesitation from attendees there were a lot of questions asked and some great back and forth discussion. It's also satisfying to find out that two people who came to my session decided to blog about their day here and here.
My second session, The (Solid) State Of Drive Technology (slide deck here), was less popular than I thought it would be. I was scheduled in one of the larger rooms that held 50 people but only 12 people showed. Maybe interest in solid state drives isn't there like I thought. Nevertheless, this was a first-time presentation for me and I thought it went well. I run an SSD in my laptop so it made for a cool demonstration to reboot and have the everything reloaded in less than two minutes. If nothing else I probably convinced a few people to go out and buy an SSD for their desktop\laptop!
I finished out the day by going to Kevin Kline's sessions on SQL Server Internals and Top 10 Mistakes, then hit the after party with a few other speakers before heading to the airport to catch my flight back home to Orlando.
- Speakers love feedback. Unfortunately there were no speaker evals handed out. I put my 1st session up on SpeakerRate but how many people will take the time to go there after the event if it's just a so-so session? (And those are the people we want to get feedback from the MOST because we want to know what we can do better!)
- Kudos for healthy menu choices during breakfast and lunch – the fruits, veggies, and fresh food were a step up from donuts and pizza.
- Lunchtime lacked a buzz for some reason. It seemed like people didn't have a lot of encouragement to try and meet new people and network. With as many speakers as there are at these events I think a "birds of a feather" style lunch seating would work really well here – give people the chance to sit with subject matter experts and ask questions, exchange contact information, etc.
- I noticed the Charlotte crew learned from SQL Saturday Orlando last year and had large printed poster boards with the schedule on them placed everywhere. For those that didn't have a printed copy of the schedule (me) they really helped.
- Charlotte is home to a large contingent of Product Support Services teams, and throughout the day there was a walk-in clinic in the cafeteria for anyone with a problem. Great idea, though I don't know how many people took advantage of it because I didn't see it promoted in the pre event announcements.
- There were a few books donated for the end-of-day raffle on display at the registration table after lunch. In the 15 minutes I spent at the table talking with someone no less than 3 people asked if they were for sale. Publishers & SQL Saturday organizers take note: there's an opportunity there! Partner up and feature books by speakers that are there that day, offer a day-of-attendance discount, etc.
- Speaking of the raffle, I would have liked to have seen a lot of smaller items offered. Big ticket items are cool, but I think there's more satisfaction in having a lot of people walk away with smaller things than a few people walk away with something big. I know, it's a free event and you get what you pay for so it's hard to complain about not winning anything.
- I'll say it again – for a first time SQL Saturday Peter, Greg, et. al did a great job putting this event together! If they do it again next year I'll definitely try to make the trip again!