I’ve just arrived home from a quick trip to Pensacola to speak at SQL Saturday 14 in Pensacola, FL. I’m quite happy with the event; the planning and organization was handled very well, and I believe the event was a big success in the eyes of the attendees.
I flew into Pensacola on American Eagle, arriving at 3:30pm on Friday. I usually dread flying American, but this time wasn’t so bad; the flight was on time and the flight attendant (just one – it was a small plane) was polite and attentive. My rental car company, which shall remain nameless, was less impressive, since I had to deal with the cigarette residue from the previous renter, and I had to return all the way to the ticket counter to report some undocumented damage to the car before leaving. Nevertheless, I did get one good surprise upon arrival: Thinking that I had crossed into Eastern Time, I subconsciously added an hour to the time, only to realize upon arrival that western Florida is actually on Central Time. A free hour!
I got settled into my hotel room, which was about 5 miles from the event location. Note to self: Don’t be cheap, spend the extra $50/night next time and stay nearby. In a nice hotel. Andy Warren and I had tentatively planned to meet before the speaker reception, so I called him and we met up at McGuire’s Irish Pub. It’s a neat little place, and I recommend it if you find yourself near downtown Pensacola. One word of caution: read the signs on the outside of the restrooms carefully. By the way, the ladies room at McGuire’s is quite nice.
The speaker’s reception at the Fish House was a big hit. I don’t know if anyone kept count, but I’m guessing that we had 35-40 people that showed up over the course of several hours. It got a little loud when the peripheral crowds arrived, but a good time nonetheless.
The event itself went well, in my opinion. It got off to a slow start since the building was still locked at 7:45, but there were a lot of volunteers to help out with the heavy lifting. Traffic flow was very good and there were few bottlenecks during registration. According to the last figures I heard, there were 180 or so registered, and 170+ showed up (this included a number of walk-ups). I heard of one speaker that didn’t make it, but it was due to a family issue and Karla was able to adjust the schedule beforehand to allow for this. The book giveaway was done throughout the day rather than at the end, which helped to thin out the end-of-the-day swag bottleneck. Among the items given away was a pass to go on a deep sea fishing trip the day after (Sunday), which I personally would have loved to do but just couldn’t fit it into my Sunday schedule.
I spoke again on SSIS Scripting, and the session was full and seemed to be well-received. I neglected to plug in my laptop during setup – and believe me, a warning message stating “Your battery is at 7% – plug into a power source immediately” will throw a kink into the best presentation. I had an issue with the resolution on the projector which kept me from going full-screen on my VM, and this slowed me down during the demos. Despite these minor glitches, everything else went well, and we had some excellent questions and good discussion during and after the presentation. If you’re interested, I’ll be publishing the slide deck and code on my website in just a while.
I talked to several attendees during and after the event, and all of them that I spoke with spoke very highly of this SQL Saturday event. Those who attended were gracious, attentive, and polite, and I got the sense that they felt their time was well spent.
I did get to meet a number of people whom I’ve “known” for months or years but had never had a face-to-face chat, including Jack Corbett, Steve Jones, Brad McGehee, and Ken Simmons. I also got to visit with several folks that I had met at previous events, including Rodney Landrum, Karla Remail, Nathan Heaivilin, Pam Shaw, Jessica Moss, Joe Healy, and a number of others. I also shared a flight home on Sunday with Brad McGehee, so he and I got to visit for a while as we waited to fly back to Dallas. It’s great to share the company of these smart folks, because it 1) makes for interesting conversation and 2) gives me hope that I’ll collect a few IQ points by osmosis. For me, this event was also an experiment in personal networking, but that will be covered in another post.
My hat is off to Karla and the volunteers from the Pensacola SQL Server User Group. This event was well planned, organized, publicized, and executed. I’m hopeful that we can replicate this event, and its success, in the Dallas area sometime next calendar year.