Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Speaker/Session Evaluation Results from SQLSaturday 14 – Pensacola

I received the results of the speaker/session evaluations from my session, Getting Started with SQL Server Profiler, so here they are:

Expectations:  0 Did not Meet, 7 met, 10 Exceeded. 

Overall quality:  Zero 1's, Zero 2's, 1 three, 5 4's, 11 5's.


Overall pretty good results and slightly better than the results I got in Orlando, which it good because it means I have gotten better.  I would like to have seen some comments, but and introductory level session on Profiler isn’t exactly the sexiest topic.  I did have one attendee tell me later that it was a “great session”, so that made me feel pretty good.  Also, it’s good to know that the session didn’t disappoint anyone.

Monday, June 8, 2009

SQL Saturday 14 – Pensacola Networking Wrap-up

For me the event actually started Friday night at the Speaker/Volunteer party at The Fish House.  We spent the evening out on the deck with appetizer’s and drinks meeting and greeting old and new friends.  It was great to re-connect with Rodney Landrum, Karla Ramail (the event organizer, thanks for a great weekend), Nathan Heaivilin, Pam Shaw, Brian Knight, and Steve Jones, all of whom I had met at SQLSaturday – Orlando and at other events.  Then I was able to meet Brad McGehee, Ken Simmons, and Tim Mitchell, each of whom I had interacted with on-line, but had not met in person.  Finally there are all the new people which included Sven and Li from Troy University, Ryan Duclos from Mobile,  Shawn, Tony Davis of RedGate/Simple Talk and others.  To be honest I’m pretty happy that I remember that many names the next day.  Oh, and of course, old friend, Andy Warren was there, pushing me to meet new people.  I was able to meet Jessica Moss who is an MVP and regular speaker at these events, on Saturday morning.

At the after party I spent most of my time with a group including, Andy Warren, Steve Jones, Tim Mitchell, Nathan Heaivilin, Pam Shaw, Jessica Moss, and Don Demsak.  This is definitely an interesting group to spend time with as the topics range from technical, to professional, personal, and politics, and with Andy around you know there will be some interesting discussions as he likes to be controversial to get other people involved.  Add in the fact that most technical people tend to have strong opinions and see things as black and white, you never know what will be said.  Then this group, minus Don and Steve, adjourned to the Fish House for dinner although we took a round about way there.  How many techies with smart phones does it take to find a restaurant within walking distance of your location?  Well, in our crew it took 2 with the help of the rest of us.  We ended up walking around a couple of blocks before circling around the the Fish House, which was pretty much in sight of Rosie O’Grady’s.  Needless to say it was quite amusing to think we walked about 2 times further than we needed to.  Again, it was a good time of discussion and fun.

Tim Mitchell is from the Dallas area and now the idea is to get him to spearhead a SQLSaturday in the Dallas area.  I’d like to get over there as I have a brother in Texas (about 4 hours away from Dallas) and I could take my family to visit him and do the Dallas SQLSaturday in one trip.  Plus, Tim is a great guy and it would be nice to help him out and get to spend some more time with him.  Not to mention the opportunity to meet more new people from the Dallas area.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

SQLSaturday 14 – Pensacola Wrap Up

Great day today in Pensacola for SQLSaturday 14.  There were 170+ attendees and I am pretty sure everyone was pleased with the event.  The day started out okay, there was a little confusion when check-in first started and the rooms were a little hard to find at first, but both issues were corrected fairly quickly.  One thing they did very well was having volunteers placed at strategic places directing traffic.  Also this was the first SQLSaturday I had been to where the volunteers had different shirts than speakers, so they were easy to identify.  The other thing that they did that I liked was that there was name tag for every attendee.  This definitely made it easier to introduce yourself. 

I sat in on Tim Mitchell’s session, Unconventional ETL using SSIS Scripting, which was well-done and covered areas where the controls built-in to SSIS do not meet the specific need.  It was a well attended and received session.  I think SSIS sessions are always popular because people are always looking for better ways to use SSIS. 

I was doing my Getting Started with SQL Server Profiler session in the afternoon and was going to be followed by Brad McGehee doing another Profiler session.  Needless to say I was a little nervous at first since he has written a book on Profiler.  We were able to discuss our sessions a little before lunch and it turned out that our sessions really meshed well.  I was giving an introduction and overview on how to use Profiler, while his session was more advanced and gave examples of how to use Profiler to troubleshoot specific problems.  His session was the session I attended in the afternoon.  My session went well and had about 15-20 attendees.  As usual I asked who had used Profiler and I was surprised that only 4 had used Profiler.  It went well and I had some good questions, all of which I could answer, and the feedback I got was all positive.

During lunch I wandered in and out of Andy Warren’s talk on What is PASS?”.  Unfortunately, there are still many SQL Server developers/DBA’s that aren’t aware of PASS and what PASS does.  It was good to hear about the direction PASS is going and to see the time being taken to promote PASS.

The day at Pensacola Junior College ended in the auditorium to raffle of the swag.  The 2 big items were a $200 Amazon gift card donated by Bitwizards and an XBox 360 (I don’t recall who donated it).  There were also “smaller” items donated by Confio, Redgate, and other sponsors.  It looked like over 100 folks hung around for the raffle although 1 person who did not stay had their name drawn twice!

After the raffle it was of Rosie O’Grady’s in the Seville Quarter for the after party.  This was also well attended with about 50 in attendance.   Overall a really good day with great learning and networking opportunities. 

My next post will be a follow up on networking results and people I met.  I’ll also plan on posting the results from my speaker evaluations when they come out.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pensacola, Here I Come for SQLSaturday

I’ll be leaving tomorrow morning to head to Pensacola for SQLSaturday #14.  I’ll be doing my Into to Profiler session that I have done at OPASS, SQLSaturday Orlando, and TSSUG.  Immediately following me will be Brad McGehee with more advanced Profiler session that I hope to attend.

There’s a great roster of speakers for the day with Brad McGehee, Steve Jones, Andy Warren, Tim Mitchell as some of the highlights (see the full schedule here).  I’m really looking forward to Saturday as I have never met Brad or Tim, although we have interacted via Twitter and other on-line mediums.  I’m also looking forward to meeting you if you’ll be there.  I’ll be around the whole day, attending sessions, chatting, and helping out where I can so feel free to walk up and say, “Hello”. Even if you have not registered you are welcome to come as there will be a registration table setup for walk-ins.  

The only thing I’m not looking forward to is the drive as it is about 7 hours.  Oh well, that’s not that much of a price to pay for a day of training and networking.  Hope to see you there.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Making SQLSaturday Orlando Bigger and Better

Once again I am a bit late in getting this out, but on Saturday, May 23rd, I participated in the first planning meeting for SQLSaturday – Orlando 2009.  This will be the third SQLSaturday in Orlando, fourth if you count the Tweener Weekend.  Andy Warren is once again taking the lead role for the event, although he is looking for someone else to take that over for 2010, and he asked a few folks that have been involved in OPASS and the other Orlando SQLSaturday’s to join him for lunch to begin planning this year’s event.  Here are few things we discussed:

Getting People to Attend the After Party

With ~275 people attending the event, getting less than 50 to attend the After Party seems to be a low number, especially when most of them are speakers and volunteers.  We understand that it’s a long day of training, but we also think that one of the most valuable aspects of the day is the networking opportunity.  We discussed having a barbecue (burgers and dogs) on-site instead of adjourning to a restaurant.  I personally think this will be a great way to get people to stay.  I know I have been to events where once I get in my car, even with the intention of going to the after event party, I decide I’m tired and would rather go home.  If I never get to my car, I probably hang out.  There are definitely some logistical issues with doing the After Party on site, but I think the payoff will be worth it.

Growing the Event

How do we get more people to come?  There have to be a lot more than 400 people working with SQL Server in the Orlando area, right?  What do we need to do to get them to come to a free training event?  Certainly adding some “name” speakers would help, but that adds to the event budget and it reduces the number of slots for local speakers.  One of the area where I think we are weak is that we don’t market the event enough to developers.  A lot of the content provided is applicable to .NET/Java/Web developers who access SQL Server.  There is almost always content around SQL Injection which is applicable to developers as well as DBA’s.  One way we want to do this is by adding a slogan or motto that will show that SQLSaturday is for anyone who has any interaction with SQL Server.

Charging for Lunch

One of the biggest expenses for the weekend is providing lunch.  A couple of events have charged for lunch and we discussed and pretty much decided to try adding a $10 lunch fee.  This will allow us to use the budget for providing a better overall event and possibly more swag instead of lunch.  This also will help us as we move to on on-site After Party which will be included at no cost.  So for $10 you get a full day of training; coffee, donuts, fruit, soda, water throughout the day; lunch; and a barbecue.  What could be better.

Pre and Post Event Seminars

On the Friday before SQLSaturday #1, End to End Training hosted a one day seminar with Joe Celko for $99 which brought in about 50 people.  One of the reasons was to get Joe to come and speak at SQLSaturday.  You can agree or disagree with Joe, but he is knowledgeable and certainly generates interest.  We discussed the feasibility of doing multiple events like this during the week before and possibly the Monday after SQLSaturday.  This could possibly encourage some speakers from out of the area to come to Orlando to make a little money and stay and speak at SQLSaturday, so maybe we get a couple bigger names to come, which may help us meet our first goal of growing the event.

This is one of my longer posts, but I think it was worth it to let people know what we are doing to try to make SQLSaturday Orlando a better event.  I think it’s a great event already, I was an attendee at the first one, and a speaker and volunteer at the second, but there are always areas where you can get better and we want to do that. 

I’ll be speaking at SQLSaturday Pensacola this weekend, June 6th, and this will be my first non-Orlando SQLSaturday so it will be good to see how someone else puts together the event and hopefully get some ideas to bring home to Orlando.  So if you are in and around Pensacola I hope to see you there.  There’s a great lineup of speakers.