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Steve Jones is the editor of SQLServerCentral.com and visits a wide variety of data related topics in his daily editorial. Steve has spent years working as a DBA and general purpose Windows administrator, primarily working with SQL Server since it was ported from Sybase in 1990. You can follow Steve on Twitter at twitter.com/way0utwest

SQL Saturday – A Few Lessons for Future Events

I’ve been to a few SQL Saturdays, and while most have run smoothly, I have a few comments on a couple issues I’ve seen multiple times that might help others.

Signage

In every event that I’ve attended, SQL Saturday or Tech Ed, the majority of people don’t really know the venue. They don’t know where things are, and they struggle to find them. Even maps in a booklet can be hard to comprehend when your frame of reference isn’t set.

Don’t spend a lot here, but print out a schedule for each room and post it by the door. Print out basic room names and arrows on regular printer paper and post them at every intersection. They’ll help a lot. If you change buildings, put a list on each door of what rooms are inside the building (and what tracks).

Space

Get more rooms if you can. Not larger rooms, but more of them. It’s hard to figure out what to offer, and invariably some speakers will cancel. What I’d recommend is that you duplicate some of your sessions that you think are popular, on the schedule. Give people a couple chances to see something interesting.

Spare Presentations

Make sure that you have a few spare presentations. You can ask speakers if they can bring an extra, just in case, and I’d recommend the organizer not get on the schedule. Have something ready that you can jump in with, but you’ll be busy. Don’t schedule a presentation if you don’t need to.

Raffle / Prizes

Usually there’s a bunch of swag to give away at the end of the day. This has been handled in a few ways, but my suggestion is keep it simple. Just pull names or raffle tickets out of a box. I’ve seen various fancy attempts to automate this or make it fun, the reality is that the quicker you can give out 30 prizes, the better. It’s been a long day, let people get out of there.

I’d make sure you have 3 volunteers here. One calling numbers, one handing out prizes, and one pulling up new prizes to keep things flowing.

After Party

As much as I think that having an informal, social get together after the event is great, it’s not a party. It’s not an excuse to get drunk, it’s not a cut loose after the week event, even though it is on a Saturday.

It’s a networking event.

So schedule is somewhere that you can get some decent space, and where it’s not loud. It doesn’t have to be private, IMHO, but it shouldn’t have a band or loud music. Let it be a place where people can sit down in chat, in small or large groups.

Heck, a set of picnic tables in a park would be great if you can find a waiter to bring drinks by :)

Comments

Posted by knight_devin@hotmail.com on 17 March 2010

Totally agree with you.  One thing I would add to signage is to have larger signs outside of the venue on what building to go to.  Often these are held at schools that are large making it difficult to find the right building(s).

Posted by Steve Jones on 17 March 2010

large signs are expensive, but it might make sense to put up a photo of signs early so that people know what to look for. Or have more of them with arrows to direct people.

Posted by Jason Brimhall on 17 March 2010

All of these are important in any event.  The most important imho is the signage.

Posted by Glenn Berry on 18 March 2010

Signs are definitely important, since most people probably have never been to the venue before. They don't have to be fancy or expensive.

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