Tuesday, April 27, 2010

SQLSaturday #41 – Atlanta Recap

I had the opportunity to go present at SQLSaturday #41-Atlanta this past weekend (April 24, 2010) and I had a great time. Stuart Ainsworth (@stuarta) and crew did a great job putting together the event and as a presenter/attendee I would say that everything ran very smoothly.
Getting to Atlanta/Alpharetta

I flew up to Atlanta on Friday afternoon and met Kendal Van Dyke (@SQLDBA) at the Enterprise Rental Car counter and we drove from the airport to the speaker party, sponsored by Confio Software, at Bahama Breeze in Alpharetta. I have to admit that I was a bit worried about how long it would take to get from the airport to Alpharetta since we had to go through Atlanta to get there, but we had no problems and got to Bahama Breeze at about 6:30 and the party officially started at 7:00.

Friday Night Speaker Party & Extended Event

We thought we were early so we waited outside, but it turned out Stuart and some others were already out on the deck on the other side of the building. There was a good turnout at the party and nice to re-connect with people I already knew and to meet some new people (I’d list them, but in most cases I only have first names).

After the speaker party Kendal and I headed out and spent some time with Peter Shire (@Peter_Shire) and Steve Wright from SQL Sentry, another of the event sponsors. I had met both Peter and Steve at the 2009 PASS Summit so it was nice to get to know them a little bit better. Then we headed to Aaron Nelson’s (@SQLVariant) house to crash for the night. Thanks for opening your home to me; it was nice to be able to save a few dollars by not having to pay for a hotel.

The Event

Saturday morning we headed to the Microsoft campus where the event was held and arrived about 7:45. If this is what Microsoft’s satellite campus is like I really need to get to Redmond to see the main campus. Once you got to the campus Stuart and crew did a good job with signs directing you to the correct parking area and Microsoft did a great job of blocking the roads you were not supposed to head down. Registration was setup in the lobby on the first floor and seemed to be going smoothly, I didn’t spend much time here, so if there were any issues I didn’t see them. The first “problem” I saw was that the event was being held on the third floor and Kendal and I were not told this at check-in, although to be fair, we did bypass the main check-in line because Kendal had a session in the first block. Kendal had attended last year’s Atlanta event so knew we needed to go to the third floor, but either signs near/in the elevators or a person in the area directing people to the third floor would have been nice. Also signs or a person directing you were to go once you got off the elevator would have been good as well.

Once we got to the third floor we were directed to the speaker room which was right next to the sponsor area. The sponsor area was a little small, but everyone had to pass it to get to the sessions and, it appeared that the sponsors got a lot of activity. In fact, of the six events I have attended, this seemed to have the most active sponsor area. I spent quite a bit of time in the sponsor area, not so much to hear about the products, although I did that, but to meet the sponsors and begin advertising for SQLSaturday #49 – Orlando and OPASS. The sponsors are the ones who make it possible to offer these events for free with only a small lunch fee.

One thing that was different at this event was that they had books to raffle at the end of each session. Now this has been done before, but the way they did it was different. Each session attendee was given a speaker/session evaluation form and a raffle ticket and at the end of the session they put their raffle ticket number on the evaluation and the speaker drew the winner(s) from an envelope with the evaluations. The nice thing was that the speakers then kept the evaluations instead of turning them back in to the event staff. This is good for three reasons:
  1. Every attendee turns in an evaluation, although I did get two without any evaluation information. 
  2. The speaker gets immediate feedback.
  3. The organizers don’t have to compile the evaluations and send them out to the speakers.

There is one drawback and that is that the organizers don’t have data on the speakers for next year.

The second thing that they did differently was have a proctor in each room who was responsible for handing out the evaluation forms and raffle tickets, keeping the speaker on time, and making sure that the rooms were not over capacity.

The last thing I noticed that was different was that some of the volunteers/organizers brought their teenage children to serve as gophers. This was a great opportunity for the kids to do some community service and this meant that the adult volunteers were free to act as proctors and deal with any issues that arose.

The day ended with the large item raffle. The big items were a couple of $100 American Express gift cards, a signed iPod Shuffle, and SQL Sentry’s suite. The raffle was organized and went quickly. Any sponsors who were present got a minute to say something about their company and drew the winner of their prize.

Overall it was another great event. I went to try to make some new contacts, which I did, and also to work on developing relationships with the sponsors and I was able to do that pretty well also. So for me the event was definitely a success and worth taking the time and spending the money to go.

Thanks to Stuart and team for allowing me to come and speak. I hope I can do it again next year.

I’ll be discussing how my session went in my next post.

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