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SQLSaturday #49 – Orlando: Event Recap

SQLSaturday #49 – Orlando was this past weekend (October 16th, 2010).  As one of the event organizers the entire week was a busy week.  The week started with sending out final instructions to Sponsors (I was the event lead in charge of sponsors) and finishing up the event guides.  New Tribes Mission, my employer, has some printing equipment and I was able to have the event guides printed by them, but, as part of the deal I had to provide some labor.  I folded and stapled all the event guides on Sunday (my wife helped) and Monday, so that we’d have them for bag-stuffing on Tuesday (see this post for a recap of that fun evening).

Thursday I headed over to Andy Warren’s office to drop off some totes for hauling stuff from his office to the event.  We took the time to finalize some plans for Friday & Saturday and I filled the totes I had brought with attendee bags.

Friday started off with a trip to the airport to pick up Mike Walsh who was coming to Orlando from New Hampshire to speak at the event.  Mike was staying at New Tribes with me so we headed to my place to drop off his stuff and do a tour of the organization.  Then we had lunch and headed to Andy’s to go pickup the UHAUL and load it up.  Mike was great help getting things purchased and loaded on the truck and because of his help we were able to finish early enough to be able to head home before the speaker dinner.

David WaughThe speaker dinner was Liam Fitzpatrick’s and was sponsored by Confio (thanks again!).   We had a great turnout with about 40 attendees!  It’s always great to have time to get together with the speakers.  At this event I knew almost all the speakers from previous events.  I did get to meet Rafael Salas and Ed Wilson (The Scripting Guy) and his wife, Teresa for the first time.  We had an area on the outdoor patio (one of the perks of being in Florida) that allowed us to mingle freely.  The wait staff did a great job making sure that everyoneSome Speaker Party Attendees got the right drinks and meals.  We had so many people attend that we had to have 2 tables added to our area in order for everyone to have a seat.   I’d definitely recommend this location for events as they did a great job and were easy to work with. 

Saturday morning I picked up Mike and we headed to the event, arriving just after 6:30am.  Now, I’m not a morning person, so it took some effort to get there and get going.  Andy enjoyed giving me a hard time about it, saying, “Get a picture of Jack enjoying the sunrise since he doesn’t see it very often”.  Of course this was after I snapped this picture: IMG_3163 and said, “Need to get a picture of Andy working hard”.

After unloading we got everything setup and started check-in at 8:00am, and there was a line well before that!  While check-in was on-going I was trying to catch all the speakers to make sure that they got their speaker gift (see it on Andy’s post) and a book to giveaway in their session.  On my travels I snapped a couple of pictures of attendees getting coffee/tea and donuts/bananas.

IMG_3165IMG_3164  Then I got another picture of the sponsor area:

IMG_3166 As you can see we had a good crowd arrive earlier, with people registering right up to lunch.

I managed to get around to the first set of sessions and take some pictures.  Here’s what most of the rooms looked like:

IMG_3169 IMG_3176 The morning went smoothly and lunch was delivered on time.  We tried something new for lunch this year.  We had round stickers that we put on the name badges, red for regular lunch & yellow for vegetarian, it seemed to work well.   Scott Gleason came over from Jacksonville and helped out with lunch.  He did a GREAT job letting people know that he needed to see their badges to verify that they had to have a IMG_3185sticker to get lunch and that he had to see a yellow sticker for a vegetarian lunch.  Lunch went smoothly and people always seem to enjoy eating picnic style out on the lawn.  We have been fortunate to have beautiful weather every year so people WANT to be outside. 

I did present one session, Profiling: It’s Okay in SQL Server, at 1:30pm to about 15 people.  I honestly don’t think it was my best presentation because my focus was on keeping the event going, not on my presentation.  Apparently I did alright though as my evaluations were all met/exceeded expectations and 4’s and 5’s for overall quality.  There were some good comments and questions during the session, and I had fun with the group.

There were 2 more sessions after mine, and I spent that time starting the clean up process and organizing for the end of day raffle.  By the time 4:30 had rolled around I was getting bit punchy from being tired and started tossing out the ninja balls provided by Telerik.  As more people came out of sessions I was tossing the ninja balls at people to check “ninja” reflexes.  If you caught the ball you got to keep it, if it hit the ground it had to be returned to me.  This got me going again and the attendees seemed to enjoy it.

As has become our custom, Andy got to throw things off the walkway to the attendees below.  Thanks to our great sponsors, we had lots of things to giveaway.  We started with t-shirts from CA Technologies, Telerik, and Quest and worked our way up to our big-ticket items (gift card, iPod Shuffle, iPad, software from Telerik, CA, RedGate).  I was actually concerned going in that we wouldn’t have enough stuff, but we had enough so that most attendees had something to take home with them.

We had the after-party at Liam Fitzpatrick’s out on the patio.  We had a good turnout of about 40.  The event provided appetizers and the attendees were responsible for meals and drinks.  I spent time chatting with with Brad Ball, Noel & Tamara McKinney and others.  I was planning on an early night, but once I started talking to people I was having such a good time that the next thing I knew it was after 10pm.  I finally headed out about 10:30.  I had a great time.

This turned out to be a great event thanks to the volunteers, speakers, and sponsors.  We had 75 event evaluations passed in with an average rating of 4.6 out of 5.  Here’s a semi-random sampling of attendee comments:

"Awesome book giveaways
Prize in each session
V101 Freezing
Add speaker contact information to web site (email, blog, linkedin)"

"Event is awesome.  I also love similar events with keynote speakers, I know time is limited.
A break between MINI's and the next session would be good.
Thanks for all the hard work"

"Bottom of screen was hard to see in many rooms
Have extra chairs in rooms
Great topics
great lunch for good price
very helpful staff
easy location to get to
have beginner topics early and advanced later"

Finally, I’d like to congratulate Plamen Ratchev for being voted the best speaker of the event!  Here’s a list of the top 5 speakers:

Votes Speaker
11 Plamen Ratchev
6 Jeff Garbus
5 Jared Neilsen
4 Ed Wilson
4 Kevin Boles
4 Mike Antonovich

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