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.

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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:

Notes from the July 2014 ONETUG Meeting

  • Rained as I left (early) for the meeting, confirming again why I always leave early – stuff happens (in Orlando, rain = commute time * 1.5 or more)
  • New location for ONETUG in the Orlando Public Library downtown, public parking garage directly across the street ($2/hour)
  • Meeting was on the 2nd floor in the new Melrose Center. Gorgeous space. Only downside was no whiteboard/flip chart (a miss on my part to not ask ahead of time). Note that they wouldn’t let me in early, so I found a table in the library to go over my presentation until they opened up the meeting space. I also stopped by the used book store and spent a few dollars.
  • About 30 people attended, I think that’s pretty good for a stormy evening
  • I forgot the SQLSaturday flyers! But mentioned it several times as did Esteban (and I’ll send a follow up today).
  • My plan was to get a sense of the audience and then take them through some demos of the performance tools, but I also had in mind to adapt to how they responded to the first few minutes. I ended up just explaining things – no demo, no supporting deck – for the hour. Lots of great questions as I took them through why things work (or don’t) with simple scenarios they could visualize. Lots of fun to just engage directly.
  • Speakers, here’s a phrase I use that can connect you to developers: SQL Server was written by developers. One of my goals is to get them to understand that SQL is a tremendously complex product and getting them to think about the “how” engages them. You can see them light up when I talk about being smart about read ahead reads, flushing out least use plans, etc, etc, not just because it’s interesting but because they get the work involved.
  • Sign in for the meeting was on a web page, an experiment that worked ok, but not great
  • No name badges and not much real networking, I think they could do more there
  • July seems like a great month for someone from oPASS/MagicPASS to visit ONETUG (as lead-in to SQLSaturday) and we should look at the corollary for Code Camp
  • I had a great time. Thanks to Esteban and team for inviting me!

A Few More Thoughts on Summit Session Selection & Growing Speakers

Last week ended up better than expected when PASS decided to release feedback to speakers (selected or not) who requested it. I imagine many did and the feedback on the feedback was surprisingly good – and that is good. That’s a good step and I hope it will be become standard to deliver that feedback to anyone who submits a session. The next step is to provide the same level of feedback on the speaker evaluation. Right now we don’t know what matters or doesn’t, and there is no reason for that. If people can work hard and improve their standing, that’s never going to be bad for PASS except in one way – it will make the final choice of the sessions for the schedule even harder!

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read How Conference Organizers Pick Sessions by Brent Ozar, a great write up. Building a schedule worthy of a Summit size/cost event is non-trivial.

I also wonder if there hasn’t been an interesting dynamic in past years where those that (arguably) wanted/needed feedback the most were the ones not selected, and those are the people (like me, last year) who are apt to not make much of a fuss.

I hope the program review committee will include some outside voices, and that it will start soon, and that it will do transparently. We need to see the discussion and the challenges.

Changing focus to growing speakers, Chapters and SQLSaturday (and maybe 24HOP) are the farm club that feeds the Summit, and I think do so in grand fashion, but neither have anything close to the demands/process that go into the Summit selection. We (me) had hoped that SQLRally would be the piece that plugged that gap. With the abandoning of SQLRally in the US I haven’t seen much in the way of thinking about whether the problem remains or a way to fix it. I think it does, and I still think “regional” events are the key, something that is more selective than our Chapter/SQLSaturday events, but not as selective as the Summit. Or maybe exactly as selective as the Summit, but with the same idea we had for SQLRally, largely exclude any previous year Summit speaker so that “new” speakers can get a chance to grow.

I’d like to see regional events, but I don’t know that PASS (the Board) has the passion for them, so how else can we do it? Trained evaluators are one way, and we’ve seen the beginnings of that with well known people in the community offering to review abstracts. We could charter a program to train people to do abstract and presentation evaluations in a detailed way (somewhere back in the archives I have a 60 point eval sheet I suggested at one point) and as many (if not all) would be speakers, they could do one here and there as they attend events if someone has requested (and is ready for) an in-person evaluation. Maybe there is an opportunity to do some regional classes where experienced speakers attend for a day or two for instruction and then evaluation by the instructor – I’d have PASS pay the instructor and the overhead, make it free for qualified attendees. That’s something we could easily trial at the Summit. I think how great it would be to have the discussion about what we’d teach. Maybe it can be done online. Maybe there are other ways?

We’ve addressed the quantity problem of speakers, though I think we have to continue our efforts to find more people to step to the front of the room. What we need now is a deeper focus on quality. That would not just lift the Summit, but all the events that tree up to it.

I was just thinking that we hold meetings each year at the Summit for Chapter Leaders as a place to hear and share ideas, and we do the same for SQLSaturday leaders. Why don’t we have something for the speakers? Is it a different dynamic, or a so far missed opportunity? In the early days of SQLSaturday we knew that to grow we had to find that one person in each city that would take on the huge task of putting an event together, but we also saw that the entire success of the eco-system was based on speakers. That’s something I’m reminded of every time speakers sign up for SQLSaturday Orlando and fly in from some other city to attend. I wonder if that lesson hasn’t been lost a bit at the Board level, and I’d suggest that maybe it’s time to have a portfolio that focuses on growth of speakers.

I’m not arguing for doing more for the sake of doing more. There are ways here we can serve our members, directly and indirectly, just be putting some more effort into the growth and education of our speakers.