Tag Archives: SQLSaturday

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.

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

 

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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

Building The SQLSaturday Orlando Marketing Plan-Part 21

Been busy the past week, not as much time on this as I’d have liked:

  • Received the “retro” flyer with the minor revisions we requested
  • Decided flyers are final in design, just need to get them all into PDF
  • Had our first weekly call and talked about the tempo for marketing. Hope we can get into more detail next week.
  • Attended meeting with Seminole State (our venue partner) and plugged SQLSaturday to other attending IT leaders
  • Still tracking ahead of last years registration count by about 30

I feel like I’ve slipped from looking ahead to being behind. Probably not that much, but I need to find time soon to fix that.

Building The SQLSaturday Orlando Marketing Plan-Part 20

Next week will begin our weekly planning call, so ahead of that (and perhaps a bit later than I should have) I sent out my draft calendar and marketing plan. It was hard to let go, I really yearn for the detail of a full project plan, but that’s just too much to tackle this time around. My plan, boiled down to  bullets:

  • On the weekly call go over the next two weeks, confirming efforts for the next week and looking ahead one week, tweaking plan as we go
  • Beginning at D-60 do a weekly message, at D-14 (or about) go to a daily message
  • Review now the plan for working with sponsors/partners to message to their lists and get those conversations going – we want them to land at certain points, not all in one lump
  • Review reg count each week, panic if needed

I also wish for a real kick-off meeting. It would be an interesting thing to find a solid half day to put the team in the room, have everyone go over their plans and do some more brain storming. Too corporate-ish? Why?

I’m reminded that it’s not easy to drive and navigate at the same time. Hopefully with course plotted, we can now just drive.

My biggest todo now is to work on the “bring someone” plan. I need to understand common objections (and how to rebut them), common personalities/titles (require different approaches), and think about how to incent that behavior just a little, then get it back in something I can explain in a couple paragraphs at most. It’s a shift from marketing to sales in a lot of ways, how to convince someone who hasn’t been to go? The incentive is least important for you, the convincer, because not only will you be going to SQLSaturday you really want your colleagues to go because it raises the bar across the board at the office. The incentive is perhaps more interesting to the convincee, what will tip them to go? I’m convinced it’s not your/our raw enthusiam, which I think is where we often start (and end).

Instead, I think we need to focus on value and fears and get it down to talking points:

  • I’ve been, it was great, and I learned this and I met x.
  • Free <> no value – look at how many speakers fly in at their own expense.
  • Here’s the schedule, you might find this and this and that interesting (as you hand over a printed schedule highlighted)
  • Flyer and origami on the desk, with an “I’m going, want to go with me?” sticky note
  • You don’t have to stay all day. Come to a session or two and see what you think
  • Lunch is great!

Part of that is dealing with rejection. How hard to try and when to stop?

Back to the meeting and real life, I’ll try to catalog what we try each week and anything that seems to work or not work. Probably not always that clear, but a running log will be interesting. I saw Esteban Garcia reply back on my last post about the year over year trending graph that Kendal does and right there, that was worth the time it took to do the short post. Never know what will help or inspire, for this event or another.

Here’s a PASS Summit wish too – give us some training on marketing and some to share lessons learned. Maybe that is the SQLSaturday Roundtable, maybe a separate smaller meeting. I’d go to that one!

Building The SQLSaturday Orlando Marketing Plan-Part 19

Below is the chart Kendal Van Dyke maintains for us in Orlando showing year over year registration counts. Don’t I wish this was baked in to the admin tools! You can see the trend has been remarkably consistent over the years (and we see the same with PASS Summit registrations, except there you see spikes just before every price bump). This chart is also what drove me to the tempo we’re on this year, just routine mentions of the event until D-60, at that point we’ll shift to at least a weekly email plus other channels, and then at D-14 (or so) we’ll go to daily mentions. Now you could could argue that if we did that sooner we might change when that hard turn upward starts, but I’m guessing we wouldn’t. What the chart does tell me if that if I wait until D-60 I’m not going to behind the proverbial curve.

We started earlier this year which has a lot of advantages, but I’m not sure it will convert to a sustainable lead. I’d guess that we’re getting the devoted attendees that sign up as soon as they year about it, whether that is week 30 or week 12.

Remember that we use registrations to track progress, but the measure that matters is attendance, and we only get to measure that on game day!

 

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Building The SQLSaturday Orlando Marketing Plan-Part 18

I’m on vacation this week, but enjoying some quiet time during the day to think a little, going back through my first 17 posts and wishing I had them printed – sometimes marking up a document is good for thinking!

First, a recap of key items on the task list so far:

  • Review previous year plan/results
  • Set attendance goal as final goal, set registration goal as key metric to measure progresss
  • Build at least one event flyer, plus a flyer for any seminars
  • Bring forward previous year list into current event
  • Create/update event Twitter with all known attendee Twitter handles
  • Create marketing calendar
  • Create/update email marketing template

Creating the flyers has been tedious. Fiverr has been interesting, but it’s only as good as the input. It looks like we’re going to go with one that Kendal created. That’s not all bad, the exercise drove us to an agreement on what we needed – just enough text, no more. For those that lead marketing for an event, you’ll either get no input or too much input, both are tough to deal with. I’m really hoping we can reuse these flyers for next year. I’m glad we started early or we’d be way behind. Note also that Kendal ended up filling the role of the graphics person. We’re trading time for money. I might argue that we should spent the money! We definitely didn’t try hard to find someone from the greater group that could have helped, that’s my mistake. Note that I’m not fussing at Kendal, he’s the leader, he gets to jump in anywhere he wants to and his help has been good.

Related to that, I’ve been doing at least a weekly call with Kendal, blogging here, but probably not interacting enough with the event team. I’m going to try to bring in a couple advisors in the next week just as sounding boards for the next part of my plan.

Next hot item for us is the email template. The default one is blah, and we need to add in the seminars and our own Twitter handle.

I’ve also asked for help in updating the event home page. Right now our seminar options consist of pointing them to a very long URL at EventBrite, or pointing to our home page. We’re doing the latter (and in fact we’re standardizing on http://orlando.sqlsaturday.com as easy to remember) but the seminars are down the page. Is scrolling hard? No, but it’s friction. We need seminars placed in a way that adds to the event but doesn’t confuse. Tough in so little space.

On the seminars, we have two great speakers/sessions lined up. That’s good. The slightly bad is that neither has a large web footprint. I think going forward we’re going to look for speakers that maintain a blog. That’s not to underestimate Twitter, but it’s hard for the boss to appraise someone based on Twitter. We can coach on this, and there is definitely more than one path to success.

One of my ideas now is that the flyer pdf we can distribute can be multiple pages. Page one is obviously the final/key flyer, but we’re going to follow that with the seminar flyer, the retro event flyer, and then a couple fun things – the SQLSaturday van cut out, some kind of branded Origami (more soon on that), and maybe even a drawing for the kids to color. Relatively small effort to package, why not?

At my presentation in South Fla I asked how people heard about the event. Several heard via the college, it turns out some of the classes align pretty well. Another was there because of a colleague. Just reinforces for me that we need to work as many channels as we can.

I’ve also been trying to think what does PASS do that we don’t? The main driver for PASS Summit is the “price bump”. We can try that with seminars, but it’s a pain and feels blah given the relatively low cost, not enough swing to move a decision maker along. Summit has a very active twitter/social component, we can try for that, but I think hard to get the critical mass – which isn’t to say we shouldn’t try.  PASS does bottom up “sales” just like we do, and aside from better graphics, I’m not sure I see much there I can borrow. Maybe that’s wrong, need to think/ask on that.

My goal for this week, in and around my vacation, is to try to come up with one or two concepts for the “bring someone” plan. I still see that as the best shot I have for a major jump in attendance.