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.

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