This weekend I flew out to Pensacola, Florida to present a session at SQL Saturday 22. This was the second SQL Saturday that Pensacola has hosted, and I’ve been fortunate to have attended and spoken at both of them.
I got in around 5pm, travelling with my friend and fellow Dallas area speaker Tim Costello on what might be the most uncomfortable aircraft I’ve ever boarded (if you’ve ever sat on a park bench for 2 hours, it was kinda like that). We took a ride on the complimentary hotel shuttle (I didn’t realize those still existed) to the Hampton Inn just blocks from the small Pensacola airport, where we met up with Trevor Barkhouse, another of our Dallas colleagues. Tim and I hitched a ride with Trevor over to the Oar House for the speaker reception, where we were greeted with a brief but intense gulf storm which drove everyone inside for a half hour or so. They had a good turnout Friday night, where I got the chance to catch up with Steve Jones, Barry Ralston, Rodney Landrum, Brad McGehee and a number of other SQL folks I only get to see a few times a year.
I arrived at the event on Saturday morning about 7:20, just minutes before Steve Jones’s opening session was set to start. The event didn’t officially start until 9:00, but Karla Landrum and the other organizers had observed at other events that many people show up very early, so they wisely decided to offer an early bird session for the more eager attendees. I also sat through Pragmatic Works’ Brad Schacht’s session entitled “Introduction to SSIS”, which was a well organized and effective presentation. I did end up putting my foot in my mouth when I made a comment during the presentation and inadvertently plugged a competing product to PW’s Task Factory Community Edition, though I did catch up with Brad later and offer up my apologies.
I delivered my only presentation of the day at 10:15, entitled “Loops, Lookups and Splits: SSIS Beyond the Basics”. I had people still coming in 15 minutes into the talk, and ended up running short of seats with 35-40 in attendance. The presentation went well, and we had some good questions and discussion throughout the session. (Sidebar: If you attended this session, I would appreciate your feedback here.)
With my session done, I sat in on a number of other great sessions, including a Kevin Kline lunchtime presentation on SQL injection attacks, Joe Webb’s locking and blocking discussion, Patrick LeBlanc’s comedy routine / CDC discussion (which was the most entertaining hour of the day) and Ryan Duclos’s talk on managing SSRS reports. The end of day assembly and giveaway was handled very well, and I think most people stayed around for it.
The attendee party was held again this year at Rosie O’Grady’s in Seville Quarter, an area that reminds me a lot of Bourbon Street in The Big Easy. There wasn’t a huge turnout at the dinner, probably due in part to another nasty thunderstorm raging outside. Karla had rented a shuttle bus to make a couple of round trips from the Hampton to Rosie’s, which was a nice touch since several of us didn’t rent a car. I spent some time mingling with attendees and speakers, and got to meet up with a few attendees that attended my sessions at last year’s event.
Karla and Rodney Landrum and the rest of the Pensacola SQL group did an outstanding job of organizing this event. I said last year after their inaugural event that it was one of the best run SQL Saturdays I had yet attended, and this one was even better. Here are a few notes on what I observed:
What worked well:
- Communications from Karla leading up to the event
- Hotel very nearby airport (with a free shuttle!), within walking distance to event
- Shuttle bus to/from attendee party
- Event guide was well laid out
- Session and event evaluation forms included in attendee bags
- Attendee and volunteer shirts to help attendees identify each
- Lunch was excellent!
- The presentations scheduled during lunch were good options for those that didn’t want to have an hour of downtime
What could be better:
- Signage. There wasn’t a lot of signage on the roads heading to the site, and few signs inside the buildings.
- Event evaluations were fairly terse. A simple 1-5 rating for the session and an area for comments are all that were provided. As a speaker, I like to get feedback along different axes (content, my presentation skills, etc.) so I’d like to see this expanded a bit.
- Water and/or juice with breakfast. I didn’t find anything but coffee with breakfast, and there are a lot of people who don’t drink coffee.
The good things overwhelmingly outweighed the shortcomings, in my opinion, and I’m going to call this one a success. Congrats to the Pensacola crew for an outstanding event, and I look forward to participating again next year.