Tag Archives: SQLSaturday

Building The SQLSaturday Orlando Marketing Plan–Part 27


  • Email with the schedule went out this week, nice bump in registrations – we’re at 229 today
  • Mailed the list twice (bad) because the bulk loaded list is a subset of the attendee list (need to get the criteria for each list)
  • More emphasis on Twitter this week, trying to put up a message per speaker, and then we’ll see about scheduling them over the next 60 days to repeat a few times
  • I’m still thinking on the slides for area groups. Is what we have enough? Too much? See below
  • Twitter cards don’t seem to work, have to be able to put meta tag in header of site/page
  • Discussed offering some branded SQLSat Orlando stuff at the event for a fee – maybe the beach towels we did last year. Would brand without the “#318” so we could re-use? Or does it add value?
  • Email to speakers later this week to confirm them and ask for help in marketing
  • Still need to tweak home page!
  • Working to schedule dinner with ONETUG this week
  • Working on meeting with team at the hosting venue (Seminole State College) tomorrow
  • Need to think about what incentives we can send out via local staffing companies when we get them in the game. More on that soon.




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:



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:



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!




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! 


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?



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!




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



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



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.