The Growth Of SQLSaturday

A recent Connector showed the following stats for SQLSaturday for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014 and mentioned 86 events completed:

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Impressive numbers to be sure, but are we adding events?   Kendal Van Dyke sent me this projection he did while on the Board of Directors:

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That looks like reasonable growth and shows a healthy franchise based on where we just ended the year.

Two thoughts on the growth and the message:

  • I think we’re so immersed in it that we forget to back up and tell the whole story. How was international growth? How many events changed leaders? How many net new locations? What trends are we seeing (is attendance staying same or increasing at existing events? Does it hit a natural ‘cap’?). What lessons learned? Economic impact? New members for PASS? Chapters that hosted an event (or not)? There’s a terrific opportunity here to not just print numbers, but to look at the numbers and tell the story.
  • It is reasonable growth. I am, however, often unreasonable. 10-15% growth a year is good, but what would it take to really increase the number of communities we serve as part of a one time push? Could we add 30? 50? What would a multi-year (but not 10 year) plan look like to get us to 200 events a year? There’s plenty of room to do it.

And for all of that, apply the same thing (minus the growth spike perhaps) to Chapters. Tell the story.

Building The SQLSaturday Orlando Marketing Plan-Part 26

More notes:

  • In hindsight it’s easy to see we should have worked on the email template first, then the flyers. Email is our #1 way of communicating and it’s important to try to get as much out of it as possible.
  • My original vision was to show the seminars as “ads” in a right hand column that would be about% of the page. I still like the idea of including them every time that way, but I’ve changed to treat them as “events” on a calendar. I think we’re trained to ignore ads. See the screenshot below. We’ll see if works out.
  • I’d love to have a “responsive” email template that will render on everything perfectly. Short of that, I took our template and ripped out all the extra stuff and then starting adding back, trying to check that it rendered ok in IE and Chrome and Outlook. I still owe Kendal some shadows to make it a little more polished.
  • The SQLSaturday framework supports a handful of tokens that you can embed in messages. Of those is attendance status with a payment link, I’ve put that in a HTML comment so that the email has something to uniquely identify it if it bounces back with a “new address” message – I have one I can’t figure out!
  • We’re still on the weekly tempo, seems ok ok far and we’re still above the registration curve from last year.
  • Kendal Van Dyke tried to forecast using Excel, didn’t get much beyond a line. Maybe it can be done, just didn’t have a lot of time to spend on it.
  • We’re trying hard to build Twitter as a useful second channel (secondary? for now). It’s slow going, but we’re working it every day, we want anyone that checks the hashtag – especially the view on the event home page – to see an active discussion. We’re also thinking to run a contest or two to get people to join Twitter (or to share their handle).
  • Next week is “schedule week”. The only thing we want to do is get people to look at the schedule (and then register) now that the event is truly “real”. The following week we’ll be focusing on the seminars (and by using the template, also reminding them of the event).
  • I need to follow up with the local college now that the schedule is posted – they are going to send an email to some local influencers for us
  • I added calendar files next to each event. Eventbrite offers them that option too, but I think anything we can do to get them to commit the time is worth doing. I think it also goes well with the “calendar” idea.
  • I added oPASS/MagicPASS to the header – I think the Chapter association part tends to get lost, trying to do a little to add that back
  • Visual Studio is a decent HTML editor (it’s what I have), but is there something better?
  • I’m going to run all the future messages through HTMLTidy to weed out the worst problems, it may help it render correctly In a few more places
  • I also like looking at the messages in print preview. I’m not going to spend a lot of time there, but it’s helpful if it will print and look like something.
  • I’ve added the flyers to the right column, but not sure I like it –  will they use it? Could I use that space better?
  • Next task is to add a “Resources” section and it’s there that I want to add “How to Ask the Boss For Training”, “How To Get a Colleague to Attend”, “How to Network…”, “Why You Should Go to the after party”, and maybe a couple more. I think those are going to be big enough that I want to do as separate PDF’s rather than a FAQ page and I want them to download/print/share. I think we’ll brand those as oPASS/MagicPASS for re-use next year.
  • Reminder that events can copy messages from other events, it’s built in to the tools – just browse to find something you like!

 

 

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A Question From The NomCom

One of the many things we’re discussing going into the 2014 PASS election is what the planned two official campaign events should be. I asked on Twitter yesterday and got some good comments, still looking for more. Last year was (I think) the first year PASS hosted live events, one in a town hall format and one on Twitter. Should we do those again, or something different?

When the campaign begins we’ll have information posted on the Election HQ site about each candidate (application, photo, links to other bits of information). If you as a voter choose to read that (good!), then we have the discussion forums where members can ask questions of the entire slate (typically most candidates reply to all questions). That’s two ways to find out more about the candidates. Is a live option a good idea? Would you rather watch a few minute video of a ‘stump speech’? Is Twitter a good place, or should we look elsewhere? Does a “live” format put those who aren’t great public speakers or good with quick responses at a disadvantage? Should we give them some of the questions in advance (perhaps from the forums?)?

Our goal is to give the candidates a chance to talk to you and to give you a chance to talk to the candidates. We get that not everyone will watch a town hall or debate or Twitter chat or whatever, but some will. What can we do that will be most effective for those that would participate in one of those formats? What will help you as a voter make a well informed decision?

Comments here, on Twitter (tag with #sqlpass #nomcom), or write a blog of your own and post the link. We’d love to hear from you.

How To Get The Boss To Pay For Training

How do you get the boss to pay for training? In my experience you have to:

  • Ask. The boss isn’t sitting around thinking of ways to make your life better
  • Align. Ask for training that is relevant, or show how it is relevant if not obvious
  • Persist. Even if you do a nice clean ask, it’s not a top priority. Follow up without being annoying!

It’s doesn’t need to be complicated. A short email, a link to the class or a an attachment with the details. Something as simple as this might net you some nice company paid training! 

<<Boss>>,

I’m planning to attend SQLSaturday Orlando on September 27th, it’s a free all day training event for SQL Server professionals. On Thursday September 25th they are also offering an all day class on Enterprise Monitoring for SQL Server that is being taught by David Pless, a Senior Field Engineer for Microsoft. It looks very good and I think I’d benefit from attending. The registration fee is $120 and that includes lunch. Would it be possible for the company to pay for the training?

Thanks,

<<you>>

I know that works out to AAP. I’ll work on a better mnemonic!

Building the SQLSaturday Orlando Marketing Plan-Part 24

We’re at 180 registered so far and we haven’t published the schedule yet! So far so good. We’re on track to have the schedule live at 60 days out, maybe a little bit sooner. For those not attending you don’t get to see our marketing messages, so I’m including screenshots of the last two (one last week, one this week). Any thoughts?

Subject Line: Registration for SQLSaturday Orlando Is Open – Please Register Today!

 

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Subject Line: SQLSaturday Add-On: Spend a Day Learning Monitoring Strategies for SQL Server for only $120

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Other stuff:

  • We have the event posted on the oPASS LinkedIn group and sent a message to those list members
  • We’re staffing Twitter Mon-Fri, trying to reply to everyone that gets a system auto tweet when they register and plugging the two seminars
  • You might miss it if you don’t zoom on the images, one of the low key ideas I tried was raffling a seat at the speaker dinner to early registrants. Someone wins, something else to talk about. What else can I raffle?
  • Got the flyers and thumbnails loaded to the site. I hacked the thumbnails, doing a screen capture and then uploading to a site that does it for free.

More soon!

SQLSaturday Orlando–A Message From Last Year Revisited

I was doing some work on the marketing for SQLSaturday Orlando and looked back at the messages we sent last year, and in one those messages I found this under the heading of “Invite a Friend”:

“New to SQL Server? Not new, but never been to one of these events and wondering what it will be like? Wondering if free training can be worth a Saturday? Wondering what kind of people spend Saturday learning about SQL Server? All good questions!

The kind of people that spend a Saturday working on their skills are the people you want to be around. They know there is value in learning, it keeps them employable and they learn because they like what they do. The cost is free because the speakers donate their time to pay it forward and because they like what they do and they’ve spent a lot of time learning to do it. There is an amazing variety of content, the hardest part of the day will be realizing you can only watch six of them!

It’s an easy going event. Follow the signs, park, check-in, grab some coffee and a donut. Browse the sponsor area to learn about new products or just find your way to your first presentation a bit early. Along the way you’ll see a group of people that is the most open and welcoming that you’ll meet. I’ve never figured out why that is, if it’s because SQL Server draws happy people for some reason, or if it’s because they just enjoy learning that much, or maybe it’s the chance to hang out with true peers for a day talking shop.”

It turns out I wrote that in a post for the event last year and Kendal Van Dyke plugged it into an email (with attribution). It’s a year old and still a pretty good message. It’s easy for those of us who have gone to one (or a couple dozen) what it’s like for someone who has never been. I bet there is someone you work with that hasn’t been to one. Why not talk to them or send them something? Borrow mine, write your own, talk about it over coffee, find a few minutes to remember what it was like for you the first time you signed up and attended.

SSC Editorial: Access Disdain

Contrary to the title (by design), Access Disdain is about not automatically hating Access (or it’s users). Clearly Access has limitations, but so do most apps that we give to “average” users and the more industrious ones build stuff because that’s the tool they have (when all you have is a hammer….). I’ve never minded a technical discussion about fixing/upgrading/replacing one of these, who would? I’ve just never enjoyed the arrogance we sometimes display while doing it (and I’ll admit to teasing my friend Arvin about Access, who takes it all in stride). There’s a deeper, and darker theme that runs through many businesses. We talk about empowering users, but we tend to mock them for solutions that aren’t professional grade. Something to think on.

SQL Speakers–Will You Accept The Chapter Challenge?

Most SQLSaturday’s do ok when it comes to finding speakers, the results of an incredible speaker mailing list and a lot of reasons for speakers to participate – I’d say a combination of a chance to learn in addition to presenting, the chance to spend time with other speakers, and the sheer fun of going to a new/different city. Chapters struggle. It’s a much harder sell to convince a speaker to drive/fly any distance to do an hour presentation. Online presentations are slowly growing in popularity, but even then we don’t have an effective way for chapters to reach out to speakers, at least compared to how we do it for SQLSaturday.

Someday the “speaker bureau” will fix that problem. Someday.

I was thinking about all of that as I was contemplating goals again. How could we reverse the polarity and have speakers beating down the doors of chapters? What about setting a goal of speaking to every PASS Chapter? With more than 200 chapters that is a task of years, but what a journey! Nothing to stop you (or me) from embarking on that journey, but how I wish it was one that PASS would chart and publicize. How about doing even more, how about incenting it, at a couple levels? Imagine that:

  • Anyone who completes an hour long presentation to a dozen or more different chapters in a single year gets a PASS leather jacket to commemorate? Or a substantial discount off of PASS Summit attendance? Both!
  • Anyone who completes an hour long presentation to more than 200 different chapters gets free life time admission to the PASS Summit?

I can think of a lot of fun having competitions for who can do the most presentations in a year, the most in-person, the most online, maybe the most states or countries. Earning a “state” badge for presenting to all the chapters in that state (that has a chapter!) A light hearted competition, but think of the scoreboard and the blog posts. Would that a be a change for the good? Would it change the problem of getting speakers for chapters? I think it might.

I’m going to lobby for something along those lines, but incentives aside, there’s no reason you and I can’t get started now. My goal is to speak at all the Florida groups this year. Not as ambitious as “all chapters”, but given that I’m starting in mid July it’s ambitious enough. Will you set a chapter goal and what will it be?