Tag Archives: SQLSaturday

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!



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.

Notes From SQLSaturday South Florida

Notes from the trip:

  • Four hour drive between traffic and rain, about an hour longer than I would have liked. The new service plaza at Fort Drum on the Turnpike is nice, but I thought the old model had better/easier parking. Ah well.
  • Speaker dinner was at Carrabas. Not a bad venue, but I think attendance was higher than expected and they struggled to get every seated. It worked out, but I’d remind organizers that Friday night is prime time for restaurants. If you’re going to tie up seats for 3 hours you have to incent them and even then it can be tough. Look for places with outside seating or less of a Friday night crush is worth a try. Overall they did well on food and service.
  • I missed the event the last two years due to schedule conflict with my vacation, forgot how nice the facility was – very nice! Would have liked to see a few more signs. My rule of thumb is there should be signs at every turn/every direction once they come off a main road.
  • Speaker shirts were a bright red Cuban style shirt from Bohio. A very nice addition to my SQLSaturday collection!
  • I had about a dozen attend my presentation on credit card security and it was great to have 75 minutes, I could answer more questions and go into some areas a little more than I normally do. For all that, I’ve done this talk a few times and I wish I could draw more in. I need a different title, different approach, or both.
  • Saw an old friend from S Fla and he remarked on my writing the Question of the Day for SQLServerCentral, that it was good to see me writing again. Good feedback, and nice to feel like I’m not too far off course
  • Talked to another friend about my recently blogging on marketing SQLSaturday and appreciated the stream-of-consciousness in-the-moment aspect as well as the ideas. Reminds me I need to devote a half day or so to writing my own guide to blogging – something about fun, growth, deadlines, and no worries about profitability
  • Lunch was various sandwiches and salads semi-buffet style, was a bit of a slog to get everyone through. Buffet can work if you do multiple lanes – we do 5 or 6 each year in Orlando. It would also be nice to see them come up with a signature lunch. Nothing wrong with what they served, but having something that is particular to the event is powerful (and something for us repeat attendees to look forward to!)
  • Saw Dave Noderer at the registration desk, perhaps the most consistent volunteer in the Florida community. All the volunteers were doing great, everything ran smoothly, and they were highly visible in red tshirts
  • I just didn’t have enough time to talk to everyone I wanted to. A common complaint, but maybe one I should fix next year, perhaps with a SQLRally’ish event in Florida.
  • There were a LOT of speakers I had not met, and still didn’t get to meet. I need to get out  more I guess, but it’s also just a lot of growth in the speaker pool.

SQL Saturday South Florida And Then Vacation

I’m leaving early afternoon for the longish drive to South Florida for SQLSaturday tomorrow. The schedule looks impressive! I missed the last two years due to scheduling conflicts with my vacation, this year I made things easier and scheduled my vacation to coincide! I’m on vacation all of the following week and we’ll spend that in Miami, Key West, and probably somewhere else too, a nice easy Florida vacation. Good to take a summer break, though I have to admit not taking the entire summer off like I did last year hurts – something I’ll do again soon, just not this year. It’s also the beginning of the time when I think about what I want to be doing next year. Life is good right now and I may well stick with my current plan for another year, but I like the exercise of thinking about where I’m going and why.

SQLSaturday in Vermont, Idaho, South Dakota, Montana, Alaska, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Wyoming

Did the list of states in the title catch your eye? That’s the list of states where PASS is trying to get a SQLSaturday going.  I think it’s a worthy goal to try to have at least one event in each state here in the US (and every country in the world too).

Maybe you live there, or maybe you know someone that might be interested, or both! Just letting PASS know you’re interested is a start. You might be pleasantly surprised at the amount of coaching first time events get and how helpful the tools that are bundled with the SQLSaturday. Just being willing to be a volunteer is a huge step in the right direction, PASS can connect volunteers and before you know it, magic happens.

Building The SQLSaturday Orlando Marketing Plan-Part 17

Didn’t get as much done this week as I’d hoped, but a little luck balanced that out! I do at least a weekly call with Kendal Van Dyke (leader of SQLSaturday Orlando this year) to keep him informed and brainstorm and as of my last update we were still not there on the event flyer, with me conscious that while it was worth some effort, perfection is a goal seldom attained. Still, my worry was that the best one so far wasn’t quite there, so we talked about trying one more time with a metro style look.

Before I could get back to Fiverr to submit a new request, Kendal found some free time and sent out this:





Not perfect, but checks the boxes on what we wanted. I’m not sure about the networking part in the middle, not sure we call out SQLSaturday largely enough, but it does send the message we think we want to send. It also lends itself to replacing the left 2/3 of the flyer with the information about our seminars for the seminar flyer, far more so than the others we have. We’ll go back and forth on this one a little, but I think it will be this one and the retro one. We’ll post both because we have them, and then experiment from there. My goal is to be done by June 21, hopefully sooner, with all the flyers.

An interesting point to think on this we’ve spent weeks on this mainly because we had weeks to spend. Ideas need time to percolate. I’m hoping we can reuse this work next year, but it’s too early to know – we’ll just wish and hope it works out that way.

On my list for this weekend is to send Kendal the text for the seminars. We’re going to omit photos, go with a title and short(er) abstract and author name, with the price shown prominently – and then see how it looks.

TODO: I may have mentioned in an earlier post, but not only would it be nice for PASS to create a handful of flyer templates, it would also be nice if we had a place to go view a gallery of what’s been done. Maybe there is a wiki page already? Need to check.

After a week like this I’m really glad I have my notes to refer back to and I’ll be doing that this weekend too, getting back on track next week and planning to be offline the following week for vacation.

Building The SQLSaturday Orlando Marketing Plan-Part 16

As you can see my third attempt on Fiverr didn’t work out great. I asked for something bold/high contrast and this doesn’t quite get there, at least in a fashion I want to use. The name is mangled and the date seems more important than the “what”. The one thing I do like about it is the minimalism – I think we try to cram too much information on the page sometimes. Done differently it might work. We’ll talk about it and see if there is anything here we want to use.




Building The SQLSaturday Orlando Marketing Plan-Part 15

After doing some local exploring of the idea of delivering certificates of completion I don’t think it’s enough of a win for marketing to pursue right now. I think it would be worth doing, especially if a cross-PASS transcript was maintained, but it doesn’t seem like it will be the carrot I need to drive increased registrations. Off the list for now.

Yesterday I posted about our free SQLSaturday Orlando vans. I ran across the idea on Fiverr and thought I’d try it. What would we do with it? There are two cases where something like this is useful; one is to put something fun in the attendee bag, the other is to give someone that is registered something fun and compelling that they will take out and do/put up at work. My interest is the latter – at some point, maybe D-30 days, I want to really work on getting those that registered to spread the word at the office. I can’t afford (or even handle the logistics) of mailing them something, so it has to be something I can email them. Something they can print isn’t bad and that’s why we’re doing the event flyer, something they print and do something with is an alternate path. It seems like this might be the kind of thing you can drop on a colleagues desk to inform them of the event, maybe with a sticky note attached inviting them to go with you. Is the van the right device? I don’t know. I’ve started looking at origami and that led met to paper airplanes as a form of that, and I’m still looking. What would be fairly easy and intriguing if you saw on a desk, or on top of a cube wall, or on a break room table? There’s some potential for fun in the doing of it, maybe more fun if we ask for people to post photos, maybe even a mini-contest. Casting a wider net I’d be open to anything they could do with readily available office supplies.  Some plan for building something SQLSaturday out of paperclips, I don’t know! I just want to spark some conversations and we may try more than one device to do it.

Reminder: Something for the kids to color would be an easy and fun project we can email out and drop in the event bag

I’m very conscious that most events rely heavily on email marketing. It works and it’s cheap, at least when you have a list to use, and most of us do. I’m very interested in growing that list of course and we’ll work on that. but I’d like to get started on a different channel this year – top down. If you think of this as sales, we’re selling to the end user. That makes a lot of sense. But I think there could be a longer term win if we could also sell from the top, from the CIO/VP/Director level. People that are apt to stay in one place for a while and might see value in encouraging (and supporting) training, especially free training. It’s a tough path because everyone wants to do top down sales. CIO’s have gatekeepers and a short attention span for email, it’s going to take a special effort and a lot of networking to see if this is possible. Where it gets interesting is if – if – we could get a pool of say 20 CIO’s in Orlando that we could contact and that understand what we were doing, they could help open a lot of other doors. I’m going to be talking with our contacts at the college that hosts our event and see how we might take our partnership to new places, potentially a win for all. So much so that I’ve included ONETUG (Orlando .net) in that because they do the same thing we do, just a different audience.

I’ve got one more flyer design I’m waiting on and I’ve started to crayon what a seminar flyer looks like. The design I’ll leave to others with better skills, but I have to tell them what to put on the flyer. Hopefully I’ll get the first couple submitted for a design this weekend.

Kendal is now sending out a weekly registration report to the team that shows by week where the reg count is side by side with all the previous years. I could and so wish for more information, but just having that is very nice. Right now we’re ahead of our pace from earlier years (haven’t dug into why). I’ll see if he’ll post more on that, and maybe share the counts each week too.

I’ve asked the team to try to create two developer tracks this year. It’s a place where I wish we had started earlier with surveys of the developer community here in Orlando. My hope is that when I visit ONETUG in July I’ll be handing out flyers, maybe some “vans”, and talking about why they will find value at our event. There’s some interesting potential there.

Trying to look ahead, we need our schedule done no later than July 27th (D-60), and ideally done first week of July. Good for our speakers, good for us to have it done. We’ll start the main marketing push right at D-60, and talking about the content and the speakers will be a big part of that. That gives me another 30 days or so to churn some more on ideas and finish up the things we want to have in place, and from D-60 on it will be a lot more focus on writing the messages and accelerating the pace as we get closer to the event. That’s my plan anyway.

More next week. Lots more to do.