Category Archives: SQL Community

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?

Presentation to the Baltimore SQL Group on July 15, 2014

I did an online presentation about PCI and Credit Card Security for BSSUG last night and it went pretty well, with one minor pain point – at very points in the presentation I was hearing myself on about a 1 second (or it seemed) delay. I was using my phone and a Bluetooth headset and thought maybe it was the room acoustic on my side but we finally figured out it was the open microphone in the room on the other side. No audio issues for them, just for me. When we finally muted that…nice to only hear myself once! One more lesson learned.

Building The SQLSaturday Orlando Marketing Plan-Part 23

Here’s the latest update on our registrations. We’re still ahead of all our previous events, that’s good, and we’re 2 weeks (or less) from announcing our schedule and I expect that to mark the beginning of the standard spike upward. Looking at this I realize that I don’t know what caused the nice bump at week 17-18 – probably oPASS/MagicPASS, but not sure. I keep looking at the chart, thinking there must be more insight to be found! Today I’m thinking that:

  • Starting early is good, but doesn’t necessarily translate into a higher end total
  • A whole lotta people wait until 3 weeks out to decide to attend. I don’t think that’s anything to do with us I think it’s them getting point they can commit. Will anything we say then make a difference? If it’s kids soccer or SQLSaturday hard to win that choice
  • Our mailing list is a lot bigger than any previous year, more than 2000 total, I’m really curious to see if that will make a difference starting this week



Building the SQLSaturday Orlando Marketing Plan-Part 22

  • Had our second planning meeting, still trying to complete the email template and realized we had not clearly defined two tasks for this week; finish the template and send out the first promo for the seminars. Easy to get it jumbled on a call, should have caught it in the notes. Not a huge thing.
  • Got the first draft of the email template done. It’s a start, but still needs….something (including it at the end of this for comment 0
  • Sent out the first promotional email to almost 2000 addresses. A couple changes and bounces so far, and one that said he had not signed up with us (the list goes back to 2007!)
  • I visited the local .Net group (ONETUG) to give a SQL presentation and plug SQLSaturday. Forgot the flyers, but I think the timing was a home run. They’ll mention it in the next two meetings and I think me showing up in July with an interesting topic might translate to them wanting to learn more about SQL in September. Reminder: can’t over state the value of an in-person visit (so where else do we need to visit??)
  • Looks like we’re going to set up a twice a year meeting with the ONETUG leaders to share ideas. We’ve always worked well together, but  each team has been busy and it will be good to spend some time sharing ideas
  • I should have a meeting with our venue partner in the next two weeks about outreach at the college and their other partners (and separately they are going to send out an email to their IT advisory council about SQLSaturday with the message I provide). Side story, as part of my request I suggested that perhaps they do a quarterly email instead of the twice a year they do now (they have two council meetings a year), which gives them a “not spam” place to plug other events (ours!) as well as stuff they have may be working on.
  • We’re jam up on speakers so we’re going to close the call early (today at midnight). That’s a nice win because Tues at our weekly meeting we can do a quick talk about how the schedule may look and depending on how much time the team has, we could have the schedule up by the following Tues. Marketing really starts when the schedule goes live because then it “feels real” to potential attendees. Our target date is July 27, so a few days early is a small win, but good!
  • One of the things I’ve been looking for is how to apply the ‘sense of urgency’ to register. PASS does it for the Summit with a metronomic series of price increases (yet, incredibly, many still register at the last minute and pay full price). Obviously price won’t work for a free event, so it’s remained on the wish list. Luck however, sometimes favors those who are at least looking. I invited a number of speakers to attend this year (people like to be asked!) and at the same time, I tried to call in a favor to get someone to attend that you rarely see at local events due to his schedule. He was already committed the week of our event, but instead he’ll be speaking to a joint oPASS/MagicPASS meeting in October. That turns out to be even better for us. We’re going to tease it in the SQLSaturday registration, and then the only way to get a guaranteed seat at the October meeting will be to attend SQLSaturday Orlando, where we’ll announce the speaker and topic (we may have to announce it a week or two earlier, we’ll see). Would it intrigue you to know we’re looking for a venue to seat 100+ attendees? (If you guess, please don’t publish it!)
  • We’re following 202 on Twitter and have 23 followers. A good start, need to keep at it. Remember, it’s a secondary/alternate channel, more channels are good!
  • As of last week we’re still tracking ahead of the previous year registration trend
  • Goals for this week:
  • Continue on the “bring a friend” plan – still a ways to go
  • Find out where we stand on getting local staffing companies as sponsors (and marketing partners)
  • See how we did on the seminar email – did it generate sales? Not expecting to see a lot within 7 days, usually takes longer to read, ask, get a decision, authorization, etc
  • Typing that bullet spurred an idea, I can’t see the prospects/pipeline. How about we offer a $10 discount to anyone who says they are planning to attend but waiting on approval? That gets me the list!
  • Schedule someone to attend the Aug ONETUG meeting to plug for us again
  • Get the ONETUG coordination meeting scheduled

Some Ideas for Meeting Sponsors

Most PASS Chapter meetings are supported by sponsors who either provide money which is often used for food and drink, or sometimes bringing the food, or picking up the check at a nearby restaurant for the “after” event. In return sponsors get a mention in the meeting opening and if they are in town, a few minutes to address the group. A system that works and has the potential to be good for all involved, but I think sponsors often manage to short change themselves.

If you’re a sponsor, here’s some things you might want to do, or not do:

  • Use your five minutes (or whatever time you were allotted). I see too many get up, do an awkward and short talk, and then sit down. You can accomplish a lot in five minutes!
  • Practice your pitch before the meeting
  • Explain what your company does, and I’d suggest starting at the beginning – I promise there is someone in the audience that will appreciate it
  • Explain why you’re sponsoring
  • If you’re in a competitive sector (staffing for example), help us understand why we should call you instead of Company A, B, or C. You might do that by showing competence. How many SQL positions have you filled in the last 3 months? What’s the average salary? The most common skill asked for (and perhaps not found)? How many openings do you have today? Or if you sell software, maybe talk about how you’re better at support, revisions, renewal fees – some clear differentiator
  • Work the room if time is provided. It’s a great time to find out if people know about your company/product, and a great time to hand out business cards too.

On the Chapter side, I’d like to see us do more coaching. Sponsor spend a $100 or $200 dollars (or more) for just a few minutes. Helping them be effective makes it easier to justify the cost, and increases the chance they’ll sponsor again. Beyond that though, a sponsor who ‘does it right’ adds value to the meeting. A sponsor who isn’t really prepared (or doesn’t understand the dynamic) just becomes a commercial that we’re required to sit through.

Free Ebooks From Microsoft

Probably you’ve heard about it already, but a quick post just in case – you can download a 100 or so ebooks from Microsoft – for free, no registration required. Here’s the link: