SQLSaturday Session Evals & Networking

Below is a screen shot of our current speaker/session evaluation form. Simple and to the point, I think it gives the speaker some decent feedback and places a minimal burden on the attendee to fill it out. Here in Orlando we have the speaker collect them and then draw one as a prize winner, usually they get a book. The important point to remember about evals is that most speakers crave knowing how they did, and even more, any tips on how they could do better.

Since the beginning I’ve advocated collecting them and aggregating the scores. As an event leader it’s a way to check on speaker performance since I can’t spend time in each session evaluating, and it’s nice for the speaker to get a clean summary (and sometimes to see how they ranked against their peers). The downside of this is that getting that data is tedious.

Jack Corbett & I discussed it going into SQLSaturday #49, and we decided that we – the event leaders – just weren’t getting enough value out of them to make the aggregating worthwhile. In practice our speakers almost always do well, the only ones I try to check on are ones I haven’t seen before, and we know that if something goes horribly wrong we’ll hear about it one way or another. We talked about doing SMS polling, which I think could be made to work, but logistically it’s a lot of work for not a lot more information. The challenge of SQLSaturday is to do the things that matter; there is always one more thing you can do in a race to be ‘better’, but often the value doesn’t justify the effort. For us, we decided having the holistic overview just wasn’t worth doing.

So, we just had the speakers collect and keep the evals (and other events have done this already, we’re not inventing the idea!). They get the immediate feedback, we get less work. This morning I was going through mine (two 4’s, the rest 5’s) and I realized I was missing an opportunity to connect to some more people. They write their name on them, so I can first try the networking page on SQLSaturday which usually takes me right to them on LinkedIn, or I can try looking them up on LI directly. I suspect none of them will be upset to hear from me, but I thought, why not make it clear and obvious to both speaker and attendee, by adding a line to the eval:

“__ Check here if you would like to connect with the speaker on LinkedIn”

It’s an easy change, and at worst they don’t check it, or the speaker doesn’t follow through, or can’t read their name. At best though, we connect a few more people and put one more brick into building networking into the SQLSaturday culture.

For me, these are the kinds of changes I look for (and sometimes dream about), things that have almost zero cost and slowly cause a change in behavior that has positive results. I just wish I could find them faster!