Does SQLSaturday Increase Chapter Attendance?

One of the big goals for SQLSaturday was for it to be a membership drive. It’s worked hugely well in some ways; we’ve added tremendously to the number of PASS members, grown the size of the Chapter mailing lists (for those that held a SQLSat), and introduced a lot of people to PASS/Chapters. But has it translated into more people attending chapter meetings?

I’m working from a really small sample of Chapters that I visit/hear about, but I don’t think it has. Here in Orlando we’ve seen attendance remain fairly steady. It might be argued that it would have declined without SQLSaturday and I’d be inclined to agree, but it hasn’t grown attendance. We registered almost 700 for SQLSaturday Orlando last year, our mailing list for OPASS is round a 1000 addresses, and we still get 15-25 at most meetings. Maybe that’s just us? Just Florida?


I’m writing this not to criticize SQLSat or Chapters, but to point out the disconnect. Bigger lists should result in higher attendance. If it doesn’t, what does that tell us? That’s worth thinking about.

10 thoughts on “Does SQLSaturday Increase Chapter Attendance?

  1. Excellent point.

    I think we’d need to get a more comprehensive overview with a wider survey to really know how this translates, but that’s a great question. Thanks Andy.

    Then, of course, the harder follow-up is, what, specifically, to do about it, if anything.


  2. Something that Chapter leaders need to understand is that in order to get people to attend they need to provide compelling content.

    Locally we have a major problem that most months it ends up being either something related to PDW or Azure (or a general MS marketing type presentation). That really limits the interest that people have in showing up. Giving well considered DBA, Dev, or BI related showings would help get more people to attend I’m sure, but that’s not something that happens. You can get as many people into a SQL Saturday as you like, but without some interesting hook on the other side, they won’t be coming to your regular groups.

    In saying this I can only speak to the local group, this may not be the case elsewhere, but here, it most certainly is.


  3. I think we need to embrace technologies such as meetup. I have spoken this year at a local user group that is not a PASS chapter (it embraces all MS Integration technologies). When I spoke, half of the people in the room had never been there before, had never heard of PASS, did not know what SQL Saturday was or that there was a local SQL Server user group. They came solely because they saw that someone was talking about SSIS in their area on meetup (an app that is commonly used today). After my session, they indicated an interest in checking out the user group and SQL Saturday.

    My very first user group was because a co-worker dragged me along. I had never heard of it before nor was I aware it existed.


  4. Ed, Orlando does Meetup (and our .Net group basically lives there instead of a separate site). There’s definitely marketing to consider. I think for the most part we market the way we always have (email). Could always be better, but hasn’t gotten worse. The trend I’ve seen is that bigger topics/speakers draw bigger crowds, nice topics/new speakers less so. That’s a generalization, but a decent one, and that’s a challenge that goes beyond marketing.


  5. Something to also consider is location.

    Us residents of Palm Beach County may be reluctant to travel to Ft. Lauderdale or Miami. I personally don’t want to deal with an hour, or even two, of rush-hour traffic to see (as Nic put it) another pitch for Azure. With a selection of topics and material, SQLSat is worth the drive. The monthly Chapters are not.


    1. Chris, the commute time is an important factor. I have the choice of 2 groups here in Orlando, one is miles past my home and the other is in the opposite direction. Has to be compelling for me to go.


  6. Our two SQL Saturdays did not increase attendance for our user group. But then again, many of our SQL Saturday attendees came from over 1 hour away. They came because we were able to draw in some big name talent like the Andy’s of the world (Warren, Leonard, and Kelly). We even had a guy fly in from Nebraska to hear Geoff’s talk. So given this trend, I would agree commute time is a big factor. Even with a compelling speaker, it’s hard.


  7. Hi there,
    There was no user group at all in Edinburgh for three years, even though I had three SQLSaturdays over that time. It was tough finding volunteers and local company support over practical things like a venue, and so on. The background is that the Scottish economy uses a lot of Oracle as a consequence of the finance companies based there.
    I’m pleased to say that the Edinburgh SQL Server group has restarted, off the back of the last SQLSaturday I did in June. I’m happy to see that the SQLSaturday has had a lasting impact, rather than a one-day effort.
    I hope that gives a slightly different view from the old country.
    Kind Regards,


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