Thursday, October 22, 2009

SQLSaturday #21 – Orlando What We Can Do Better

Well, the event is over and the Event Evaluations have been tabulated.  I’ve already posted my week leading up to the event and my event recap that means it is time to do a self evaluation.  This is the fourth SQLSaturday I’ve been involved with, but the first one that I’ve been part of the planning committee.

Here are a few things I saw that we could improve on:

  1. Better communication.  At the event I found out that some of the speakers had not been receiving speaker emails.  I’m not sure how you verify this if the messages don’t bounce back.  As the scheduler I should have taken ownership of speaker communication while letting Andy Warren handle other communication.  There was also some confusion caused by having the mini-sessions that could have been fixed had I been more proactive in communicating with the speakers.
  2. Volunteer scheduling.  We had plenty of people willing to help out, but we didn’t do a good job of using them efficiently.  The SQLSaturday site has a decent session scheduler and I think that it should be adapted to put together a volunteer schedule.  Sure there will have to be tweaks on Saturday, just like for the speakers, but if the volunteers know where, what, and when ahead of time then they can plan their day as well.
  3. Lunch Tickets.  Overall lunch went well and everyone got fed, but there were too many unconfirmed lunch payments.  I’ve never tried to interface with PayPal so I don’t know how difficult it is, but perhaps having some kind of confirmation that the attendee needs to print and bring to the event to get a ticket?  Also some type of identifier for those who ordered a vegetarian lunch (this would apply when lunch is free as well).
  4. Session Scheduling.  I wouldn’t say I totally screwed this up, but I definitely made some mistakes, especially putting SSAS/MDX in one of the smaller rooms.  I’d never attended those sessions, so I didn’t realize how popular they are.  Experience will definitely help here.  I also think have a specific beginner track would be good.
  5. Printed Schedule.  We may want to at least put level on the printed schedule, if not the abstract as well, especially if we do poster size schedules again.
  6. Presentation Resources.  Having the speakers upload them prior to the event or that day would be helpful.
  7. Session Evaluations.  We use them as raffle tickets as well, to try to encourage attendees to do them.  The only issue is that means they have to be sorted to be compiled.  Kendal Van Dyke had an excellent suggestion, a post-event volunteer meeting to sort and compile the evaluations.  This could also be used to do a post-event evaluation as well.  I still think that there has to be a better way to collect the information.  Always open to ideas.

Overall it was a good event and the majority of the feedback was positive, but you always learn something new you can do better.

If you attended and have any comments on what you think can be done better please comment or email me.


  1. Jack, that is a good list. On the lunch tickets we could set it up to email them something on our side and I think that makes sense to cover the few cases where someone paid and we don't show it (but I think we can fix the glitch too!).

    I think volunteer scheduling strikes me as a big win, worth a lot more thought, and could change the game if we could do it well

  2. 1. Have speakers click on something at the top of a few emails to confirm receipt. Not perfect, but if you haven't heard from someone, you'll know to ping them.
    4. You need counts from previous events to guess here.
    7. build a twitter/SMS app for voting?

  3. Andy,

    Yeah I think the PayPal integration glitch can be fixed, but I like the idea of giving attendees some responsibility there.

    The volunteer scheduling is almost a no-brainer and I wonder why we never thought of it before. Of course you do need to have a couple of floaters who just take care of things.

  4. Steve,

    All good ideas.

    1. I think this is definitely something we should look into. I don't know if other events have had the same issue, but even just for Orlando it would be worth it.

    4. Counts would definitely help. Maybe base it on the evals submitted. A place on the SQLSaturday site for evals would be nice.

    7. We actually looked at an SMS app for evals this year. Of course the big issue is that the raffle is incentive for you to fill out the eval so how to keep that incentive and still make it better.

    Definitely be talking with Andy about this stuff after PASS.

  5. If I read the review above I'd think the event was questionable. But I was there and know better. Self-flagellation is all well and good, and its nice to let folks know you're mortal. But you should more overtly showcase the awesome job you did, and the fantastic community effort that was applied.

  6. Point Taken Joe. Perhaps also listing what went well would have been better. Here's a link to the event evaluation post, Those were positive.


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