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SQL Saturday - Top 5 Suggestions from the Attendees

 After spending much of the last two days reading through over 200 SQL Saturday Event Evaluations I have come up with a list of GREAT list of suggestions from many of our attendees.  Here we go:

 

1.        Minimize the time between sessions.  We allowed fifteen minutes between each session.  I did notice that at times people were just standing around waiting for sessions to start.  I thought this would be a good time to mix and mingle, chat with sponsors and speakers.  However at least 45 people agreed that that time could have been spent as an additional session.  Possibly repeating some of the more popular sessions at the end of the day.

 

2.       I was asked several times, who is that speaker, where is he from, who does he work for.  Basically the attendees really wanted speaker BIOs.  I didn’t think that this was important during the planning of our event.  After talking with so many people about each presenter and reading several evaluations asking for BIOs, I have decided that a BIO page will be added to each packet next year.  I usually provide a brief introduction of myself before I present, but lately I just kind of make that very abbreviated.

 

3.       One thing that surprised me was the number of request for novice sessions.  I think we as technology professionals, especially those of us that have been doing it for many years, assume people understand and know things.  This is not true.  I was asked by one individual that worked the Help Desk for his company, “What does SQL stand for”.  He actually knew what it meant, but his point was that we need a SQL 101 to bring people that aren’t developers and DBAs up to speed. 

 

4.       At every event there are typically three event levels, Beginner, Intermediate, and Advance.  I made the mistake of scheduling several Beginner sessions in the same time slot.  Pay close attention to the event level when building your schedule.  You should also pay close attention that the presenter has correctly categorized the event in the correct level. 

 

5.       This suggestion may seem a little mundane and some of you may even say that those people were just being picky, but I actually thought this myself after I received my badge.  Several of the participants at our event commented that we needed LARGER FONT SIZES on our badges, and I cannot disagree.  I like to use a persons’ name when I am talking.  I found myself squinting to read the name badges.

 

This is a very short list of the comments and suggestions that we were able to collect from event evaluations.  I am not quite complete (stay tuned for more), but I have to send out an email about my talk coming up next week at our user group “Near Real-time Data Warehousing”.  Not sure how many will be in attendance, but if there is only 5 people there it will be worth it to me.  I will talk to you more about it tomorrow.

 

Talk soon Patrick LeBlanc,

SQL Down South.

Comments

Posted by Jack Corbett on 4 August 2009

Great feedback Patrick.  I have attended 3 (spoke at 2) SQLSaturday's and there is always something to learn.

I'm a little surprised at the 1st one though.  I've always felt a bit rushed getting between sessions, and, as a speaker, the

time is great so you can get setup for your session and still have time for interaction with the attendees before the session starts.

Posted by Steve Jones on 4 August 2009

This is great feedback, and I think I'll send a "What is SQL" in for my next event as well. It would be good to have a basic session for people.

Posted by Kendal Van Dyke on 4 August 2009

I've spoken at several SQL Saturdays and seen the same thing re: level of sessions. It seems like the beginner sessions draw the most attendees. That's not necessarily a bad thing as it shows that there are a lot of people who are looking for the kind of stuff that the veteran DBAs seem to take for granted. In any case it's made me rethink the kind of sessions I submit.

I agree with Jack about the timing between sessions - it's not so much for the attendees as it is giving speakers time to get their equipment set up and nerves calmed down. I wouldn’t cut it down to anything less than 10 minutes between sessions. If you're looking for gap fillers to keep attendees around\busy maybe hold a raffle for some items in the vendor area.

SQL Saturday Atlanta did a great job on their badges. Not only were they easy to read but they were color coded so you could quickly distinguish attendees, speakers, and volunteers.

Posted by Patrick LeBlanc on 4 August 2009

Thanks for the comments.  I will add them to our list of ideas for next year.

Posted by Bill Nicolich on 5 August 2009

I attended a SQL Saturday event recently where the speaker announced after her session began that she was going to up the experience level of the material from beginner (as advertised) to advanced. I think perhaps she forgot her slide deck and just went with another presentation that was on hand - but the result in my opinion was bad.

I think event coordinators need to coach the presenters because I think that in the presence of peers, a presenter is tempted to come off smart instead of clear, degrading the learning experience.

Posted by Andy Warren on 6 August 2009

Patrick, I agree as well about speakers need time to set up, and it's the first time I've heard the complaint. Doesn't mean they are wrong though! First thought that comes to mind is finding a way to make that time more useful to attendees. For example, we've experimented with sponsor videos to run between sessions as a way to keep everyone interested and to give sponsors a better channel (especially absentee sponsors).

It's good feedback on all of those, we'll try to find a way to address.

Posted by Patrick LeBlanc on 7 August 2009

Thanks Andy, one suggestion that I think we will use also is allowing the vendors to have raffles during that time.  We will add the raffles to our event schedules.

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