Prior to creating SQLRally the world of PASS consisted of the PASS Summit which is our annual mega-event, the European Summit, SQLSaturday, chapter meetings, and the occasional launch event. With all that going on, did we need another brand? What market void does it fill? And how is it different from our other events? I think those are interesting questions on their own, but if you happen to be interested in business they are even more so – you’ll face the same kind of decisions at some point.
Let’s start with the branding question. We debated having an ‘east coast’ Summit, a Summit Lite, and even a SuperSQLSaturday. There might come a time when we need to conduct more than one true Summit in a year, but for now we really want to keep it as the top of the pyramid, have it remain the event to attend if you’re a SQLServer professional. We worried that a ‘lite’ version would dilute our most powerful brand, so we crossed that off as well. Leveraging our SQLSaturday brand was certainly interesting and we even called it SuperSQLSaturday a bit entirely to help us focus on the mission statement, but ultimately the brand didn’t work; this was going to be a ‘for pay’ event and we it’s very important that we preserve SQLSaturday as free.
The market void was obvious and loudly heard by the Board, we needed to take better care of our East coast members and until we can move the Summit, we needed an interim solution. Reactionary? Maybe, but sometimes it’s good to react to customer wishes, and we didn’t make the decision based solely on that. We needed an event format we could take to other countries that don’t yet have the critical mass for a Summit of their own. We also needed to build a progression for speakers – what I call a farm club.
We knew we needed a new brand and logo, but what we really needed was the vision, the understanding of what this event would look like, how it would be different, how it would be the same, and more. A lot of what we talked through in the process of building that vision was understanding the differentiators. Look at some of these, and then we’ll come back to the vision again:
|Attendance||+3000||Max 600||Avg of 250|
|Price||$995 – $1995||$299||Free|
|Duration||3 Days||2 Days||1 Day|
|Organizers||HQ||HQ/Local Chapter||Local leaders|
|Meals||Seated buffett||Boxed lunch||Pizza/Box Lunch|
Hopefully as you look at that you’ll see that SQLRally is positioned in the middle, maybe just a bit closer to SQLSaturday than the Summit depending on where you focus. There are other differences, for example we won’t be recording sessions at SQLRally. SQLRally will be slower paced than the Summit, less formal.
Over the long term we expect that location will always matter, traveling a short distance will always be attractive in terms of time and money. But location isn’t everything. We’re also betting that SQLSaturday will drive people to attend SQLRally, especially if they have to fund it themselves, or if the boss still isn’t sure about the value of flying them to the Summit. We also think that people will have a great time at the SQLRally and part of that will be absorbing the sense of ‘if you think this is fun, wait until you go to the Summit!’.
To me, SQLRally fills an obvious gap in a lot of ways. It’s also important to see that this is a big part of what PASS does for the community; it finds ways to bring together smart and passionate people and then tries to stay out of the way while good things happen. Of course there are a lot of details still to go, and we’ll try to share a lot of them with you between now and May 2011.