SQLSaturday Orlando Notes – The Five Hats

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I want to wrap up the notes on SQLSaturday by writing about my approach to managing events that I’ve evolved at SQLSaturday but definitely applies to most events and perhaps to many things beyond that. I don’t that it’s original, when I searched I found it be somewhat similar to the six thinking hats, but hoping you will find it useful regardless.

It’s all about understanding who your stakeholders are. For SQLSaturday, I’d say it looks like this:

  • Attendees
  • Speakers
  • Sponsors
  • Volunteers
  • Venue Host

Now put on your “attendee” hat and think about the event. Think about the messaging, are you assuming they know stuff? Think about what it feels like to try to find the event – do you have enough signs, would an image in the email be better than written directions? What does the typical attendee “expect” from the event and did you set those expectations or did they?

Now put on the speaker hat and go again. What do they value? What do they need? What about sponsors? Put on the that sponsor hat and imagine you’ve paid $1000 to sponsor this event. What do expect when you arrive? What makes a good day? When will you eat if lunch time is a sponsor presentation or just working the table?

Do you know what volunteers value? Imagine signing up for an event and checking the box that you’re willing to volunteer – what do you expect to happen? What do you think if no one contacts you? Or if you are just “signing up” with no idea of the time or type of commitment?

Here in Orlando we’re lucky to have a venue that is provided at no cost. If I put on my “venue host” hat I know that I need to be able to show the college president how this event benefits the school (they do this great seminar for students AND they get to go an industry event). I know that we’re putting extra work on the maintenance team on a Saturday, so if they get a free lunch out of it that helps too.

Put on that hat and think about it for a while. It doesn’t take long and it’s a good exercise. As you grow and learn you can create some new hats. Think about the “first timer” hat or the “new speaker” hat, what do they expect (and fear!) and what could you do to make it a good day for them?

Events are all about details and it’s easy to get caught up in them. Setting expectations and meeting them is the way you win. Wearing the various hats is one way to make sure you’re understanding the expectations.

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