Category Archives: SQL Community

Notes On SQLSaturday Orlando #318

Notes from a speaker/volunteer perspective:

  • It was a lot of fun to talk to the students at our Student to IT Pro Seminar. Interesting to hear their questions, easy to forget what it’s like to be a true beginner. 70 people in the seminar. Win!
  • I had about 20 in my 9 am presentation. Went reasonably well and I identified some things to tweak before the Summit.
  • The chef coats we received as speaker gifts were just excellent!
  • We sold 25 SQLSaturday Orlando polos this year at our cost of $25. Not bad at all.
  • We had 8 serving tables to expedite lunch (which worked), but I could see attendees struggling to see past the lines at the front tables. Minor tweak for next year.
  • Lunch went very well and we had food left over that went to a local shelter
  • We had 5 or 6 schedule changes in the last two weeks, makes it challenging to commit to the door schedules – but change is going to happen.
  • The super sized schedules in the elevators were well received, perhaps in part due to the elevators being really slow.
  • We found a volunteer to do photos and I’m hoping those turn out well. We just didn’t have enough volunteers to do it the way we wanted.
  • 54 speakers is a massive schedule. Not sure I even got to say hello to all of them. We couldn’t do it without you.
  • Shawn purchased a water balloon slingshot that worked well for tshirts. Kendal was sending tshirts all the way to the back table in the gathering area
  • We had minor glitches that we noticed, but I don’t think anything that the attendees noticed (all 450+ of them)

We manage the event as a committee here in Orlando, with leadership alternating between oPASS and MagicPASS. I think this year was our best year so far and a really good team. Everyone had a pretty good idea of what they wanted to get done and stayed focused, and Kendal did a nice job of figuring out which ideas to take and which to leave on the list. Our weekly Tuesday calls really helped maintain communication. We also focused on numbers a lot; registration, speakers, sponsors, seminar registrations too. It was also nice to reinvigorate our relationship with ONETUG (.Net group here in Orlando) and we look forward to doing a lot to help with with the Code Camp in early 2015. We’re all writing up notes on what we could do better/different next year and in the next week or so we’ll have our first planning call for SQLSaturday Orlando 2015, then we’ll mostly be on break until March.

We had a lot of great volunteers, but I had a note to mention one – Rodney Landrum. Rodney is quiet and behind the scenes, but he gets things done. By the time I arrived Saturday morning he was covered in sweat from moving tables and handling problems, then came the student seminar at 9 am to teach students about what relational databases are, and then he went back over at 1130 to host the raffle for them, and that’s just the parts I saw. All of which took up so much time he didn’t get to do the thing he wanted to do – be the roving reporter. We’ll get that next year Rodney! I didn’t get to spend hardly any time with volunteers and I missed that, I like hearing the stories and having time to say thank you to them, something for me to do better at next year.

This year was the most I’ve been involved since I handed over the keys to Orlando years ago. It was good to be back. Interesting to see lessons learned, and some lost and re-learned (coffee plan). The local franchise feels strong. We’re lucky to have a lot of people in Orlando with talent and energy. It was good to have the time and energy to put into trying to push the edges back some, and sometimes a challenge to remember that while ideas area good, they can be stressful when the team sees something else that might get added to the stack.

I meant to take more photos, only ended up with a couple. Here is Jedi Knight Mark Souza defending the attendees against the Empire, which was attacking with a t-shirt slingshot. He put up a valiant fight but was finally knocked to the ground by Sith Lord Rodney Landrum. Obi-Wan was bent and a little crumpled, but was able to attend the closing raffle by leaning against the wall, light sql saber still at the ready!

 

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This is mid-raffle. It’s a lot of people! Green shirts are volunteers. The walkway behind the crowd is where we put the serving tables at lunch (and check-in before that), with the building that has our classrooms on the far side.

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That’s for it this year, now we have to finish up our joint meeting of OPASS/MagicPASS in October featuring Mark Souza, then it’s off to the Summit and then I think it will be time for the end of year break. Time flies.

Notes On Our First Student to IT Pro Seminar

This past week we did our first try at the Student to IT Pro Seminar, run concurrently with SQLSaturday Orlando. You can read why we did it at http://sqlandy.com/2014/09/the-student-to-it-pro-seminar-were-doing-at-sqlsaturday-orlando/. Some notes on the experience:

  • We registered 85, had about 70 attend
  • Mostly students, but we had a few from SQLSaturday that found it interesting
  • We spent the first 30 minutes talking about logistics and then the silos in IT, from Java/Microsoft down to the various and many titles related to SQL Server
  • Rodney Landrum then delivered a hour or so about relational databases, installing SQL Server, and some really really basic queries
  • I returned after the break (and after delivering a session at SQLSaturday) to discuss LinkedIn and social networking, career choices, and answered lots of questions, ranging from “what is business intelligence” to “should I take cert exams” to “how do I get my first IT job (and how to become a DBA)”.
  • We had a local staffing company thing spend 30 minutes with them, building on the themes of networking and knowing the target job title to help the students understand how to use staffing firms effectively, common resume mistakes, and more
  • We finished up with a raffle, and provided students with a certificate of completion and/or a signature on their schedule proving attendance, and then invited them to lunch at SQLSaturday and to attend the afternoon sessions
  • We need to send a follow email to try to connect them to oPASS/MagicPASS and to solicit more feedback
  • It’s almost impossible to make this “too beginner”. I’d bet money that your best shot at beginner is still too advanced. Advice to us for next time too!
  • A half day or less seemed about right, both for students and for us. I wish I could have sat with them at lunch to interact more (had to serve the food!) and I can see it being very handy to have more than one person available to answer questions – perhaps a networking, server, developer, DBA, maybe a few more different people, let them pick a group, or even rotate.

The response seemed very positive. We need to dig into the evals and feedback from Rodney and others, mainly to see what we could better and to work on formalizing it more – very off the cuff this year, we had good ideas and were prepared to adapt as needed.  Definitely a win though, and we’re hoping to do more and better next year. That said, it put a strain on the team running it on the same day as SQLSaturday. Nothing decided yet, but we’re thinking there is real merit to holding it 2-3 weeks prior to SQLSaturday. That would separate the logistics and allow us to give it our full focus, and hopefully we convince some of them to then register/attend SQLSaturday.

Lots of lessons still to be learned.

SQLSaturday Orlando Marketing Plan–Part 48

This past Saturday we held our eight annual SQLSaturday. I’ll write some notes about the event and post today or tomorrow. The final registration count after marking 20-30 people as cancelled (things got hectic, was hard to track) was 640 (vs 344 last year) and our best effort on attendance count is 450 (and was slightly higher than that because we ended up with some students dual registered). Our Student to IT Pro Seminar had about 70 attendees (and some of those were dual registered). We had more people pay for lunch than registered last year. We’ll try to get the final drop percentage refined, but it looks like the expected 30% or so. I surpassed both my goals for this year, 450 attendees against the goal of 350, and 640+ registered against the goal of 500. Definitely satisfying to hit the goals after months of work.

I still have some work to do that I’m planning to have wrapped up by Oct 17th:

  • Send out the remaining sponsor email blasts
  • Related to the event, market the upcoming joint oPASS/MagicPASS meeting starring (featuring hardly seems to be the right word) my friend Mark Souza
  • Write up a core set of lessons learned
  • Write up a plan that can be repeated next year (and by other events)

It’s been a long road and I’m definitely tired. Not unexpected, but a reminder that I need to find ways to make it less intense next year. We haven’t met yet to discuss roles for next year, but I’m leaning towards a different role and a new challenge while I coach whoever takes on marketing. It’ll be interesting setting a growth goal for next year, I know I’ll want to think hard about whether 20% is doable after the kind of growth we had this year!

 

 

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Four Big Things PASS Could Do Next Year

Here’s my wish list:

  • Fix the membership problem. One voter, one vote. That’s what we want. The current hack of requiring an updated profile is just that, a hack. Fixing this, making sure that elections are solid and that members have one permanent PASS identity leads to all kinds of good things.
  • Skip the speaker bureau and go big, build a not for profit technical speakers and writers association, one that at least serves the Microsoft space and ideally the entire technical space. And yes, build a conference to go with it. Spin it off with its own Board once built.
  • Create a PASS University to train and continuously educate volunteers and leaders. Online classes plus in person seminars, and no, it won’t be be cheap – why would we want it to be?
  • Build a BI Conference. Does it replace BAC? I don’t think so, but I’m sure there is a market for it

Big dreams, or not big enough? Got better ones?

SQLSaturday Orlando Marketing Plan-Part 47

Notes:

  • We sent out a final you haven’t paid for lunch reminder on Wed, asked for a reply if they were planning to bring their own. 20 or so are, so far. We don’t mind that they do of course, but it’s really valuable information because it’s another block of attendees we can confirm (or as close to confirm as possible). Paid attendees are one group (very likely to attend), comps (speakers, sponsors, a few volunteers, all very likely to attend), and then the rest. The way the site works we don’t make it obvious that you can NOT pay or how to change your plan. Not huge, but something we could tweak at the system level.
  • We also asked for people to cancel if their plans changed, and we’ve done – guessing here – as many as 20. Every little bit helps us to understand where we stand.
  • Why the obsession over counts? Back at #1 it was food, scared silly that we wouldn’t have enough. With paid lunches (and we order a little extra, still) we don’t sweat the food, but we still want to have about the right amount of water, soda, coffee, donuts, etc. Sucks to order 100 people worth extra, that’s money that could get used elsewhere. The other part is seating. Based on what we think we added a 10th room to make sure we could handle the attendance.
  • We’re at 604 right now, and the count has bounced up and down over/under for a couple days as we add one/lose one.
  • Maybe if we did another push to the not-reg list we might push it some more, but we feel like it’s a busy email week and we’ve done enough
  • All of this a reminder that registrations are all good fun to count, but what matters is attendance. Kendal has one projection that puts at 500 on site. Im curious to see!
  • We had the waitlist count sent to 600, but we moved it to 700. We don’t expect it to go that high, but with the count bouncing we’d rather just add people to the list rather than worry they don’t register because they’d be on the waitlist

 

Here’s some more art from Kendal looking at day by day number for the last week going back to 2009. The guess is +25 registrations from today. The question is how much that will get offset by cancellations.

 

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SQLSaturday Orlando Marketing Plan-Part 46

Registration count after some cancellations now at 577, way above my goal of 500. We’ve decided not to spend on LinkedIn this week, our numbers are good and we’re not thinking it would drive a lot. Tough call. I’d like to find out, but agree it’s money we can spend elsewhere. Sent the final message yesterday to the unregistered list, we’ll have a message to the attendees on Friday and a final reminder on Saturday morning. I also just sent out the first sponsor message to the list. We have four this week, then more to send following the event. Not sure of the final count, but we’re going to send a lot of sponsor messages (email blast on their behalf to the registered/opt-in list), quantity worries me, but I get the perceived value to sponsors. Something to watch.

Big conversation on our weekly call today was guessing attendance. We want rooms reasonably full, but not so full that people get frustrated. Paid unches plus comps, minus sponsor comps – a few speakers – a few volunteers? Registration * 70% (my rule of thumb). We’re adding a 10th room/track, we’ll schedule 3 morning sessions, reserve the three in the afternoon for any that were maxed out in the morning. Room size is the challenge. With some rooms holding only 30, just not a lot of flex. Really curious to see what the final is (goal is 350), but in terms of goal and trying to decide on a good enough formula.

 

 

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Why I’m Only Casting One Vote This Year in the PASS Election

First, a reminder/disclaimer that I am serving on the PASS NomCom this year. The four candidates in the election are all qualified, I have no debate with that. I’ve waited until the slate was posted to make any public comment about the election. None of my comments here are based on anything I heard or read during the application qualification portion of the NomCom.

This year we have 3 incumbents and one new candidate running, see the election page for more information. I know all of them, and are all good people – this isn’t about people. No, the reason I’ve voting for only one candidate is the three incumbents were part of Board decisions that changed the mission statement and the name of the organization so that “SQL Server” is included in neither. We voted them in to safeguard the organization and to serve the members, I believe those decisions do neither. Such a change might be necessary some day, if SQL Server ceases to exist, or attendance at events drops dramatically, but for now attendance is solid and there is no competitive threat, making that change unnecessary.

Did you imagine when you cast your vote for these candidates two years ago that removing SQL Server was something even on the table? They’ve crossed over into a place I don’t understand, and while I’ll try to speak out more often, there is really only one way to cause change and that’s with the votes we cast. This year, as much as I appreciate the efforts of the three incumbents, I’m voting for the only new candidate, Grant Fritchey, hoping that he will be a voice for safeguarding the community built by a lot of people over a lot of years.