A few years ago, Pat Wright (Twitter | Blog) was hard at work on some Community events, as a member of the Board of Directors of SQLPASS, that would be similar to SQLSaturday events we have seen popping up all over the country. We had been having discussions about having a larger than a User Group event, but didn't move forward at that time. After a few SQL Saturday's started popping up, we started talking to the organizers about doing one in Utah. I believe we were initially #5 or #6. But it didn't come to fruition at that time either.
Fast forward to May of 2010, and luckily, Pat Wright got us all involved again, and got an event in Utah going. I must say that without him, none of the large events that happen in Utah around SQL Server would probably happen at all. Our hats are off to him and the amazing work that he puts in behind the scenes for Code Camps, User Groups, Photo Walks, IT Professional User Groups, and now, SQL Saturday events. So, enough kissing his butt. Back to my recap.
With the event in full swing now, it was a matter of simply ticking off the tasks, completing them, and letting time march us closer and closer to the day of the event. We had various emails going around, discussions, phone calls, and so on, as the tasks were completed. None of these tasks are super time consuming or difficult. It does take help from a few or even many volunteers to ensure that they all get done. And the fine folks behind the SQL Saturday website and SQLPASS HQ really help you stay on track and be busy completing tasks. We had a few conference calls with HQ. A few calls amongst ourselves. In the end, we learned us a great many things.
One of the things that I was in charge of was advertising and trying to get speakers from around the country to come and speak to us. I hit up some of my close SQL friends, and some thought about attending, but in the end, were unable to for various reasons. Others did express interest over twitter to other organizers. Even local folks (these are really those that should be speaking at these events anyway) came out of the woodwork to volunteer their times and talents to present. In the end, we had 4 speakers from the global #SQLFamily traveled to Utah to give of their time and talents. A bunch of local speakers did the same. We thank each of you for this.
Fast forward again to a few days before the event... Sponsors had come out of the woodwork, willing to give us money, in exchange for visibility. The SQL Saturday website and folks behind the scenes of the website are super important to this. Sponsors know that this is good visibility. Some even want to come out from all over the country to show off their stuff, and are willing to pay. This is so incredible to have a central location, and allow us to be able to have this access to sponsors. With money in hand, we were able to concentrate on the last few tasks. Speaker Shirts. Lunch. Speaker Dinner. Attendee Shirts. Gathering swag. Stuffing Swag in bags. Getting prizes. And so on.
With Twitter allowing us to constantly talk about the event, and other speakers and attendees talk about the event as well, we just hammed it up for days and weeks before the event. As it drew closer, and travel took some of us closer to Utah, twitter was the way to get the word out. Planning meet ups, speaker dinner and others things were all discussed as we got closer and closer.
Friday before the event, I left work, ran home and grabbed my wife, printed off speaker names onto papers, and headed to the Speaker Dinner. Along the way, I stopped at Best Buy, and purchased a large giveaway product. Earlier in the day, I had asked the SQL Family over twitter for some ideas. I ended up picking a Flip Video camera. Thanks to Ronald Demeron (Twitter) for the suggestion. He actually won one of his own at another SQL Saturday event.
At the Speaker dinner, we got to meet and remeet a lot of the speakers. Denny Cherry (Twitter | Blog), Nic Cain (Twitter | Blog), Pat Wright (Twitter | Blog), and Randy Knight (Twitter), Ben Miller (Twitter), Scott Heffron and Craig Berntson (Twitter | Blog).
The next day I got to meet the other speakers. Bill Pearson (Twitter) and Jason Brimhall (Twitter | Blog). We even met some other folks like Meredith Ryan-Smith (Twitter), Stefan Nelson (Twitter), Dale Cunningham (Twitter), Lars Rasmussen (Twitter). Even more have joined twitter since the event. My favorite phrase that was used to answer most questions ceased being the typical ‘It Depends’ and transitioned to ‘Get on Twitter and use #SQLHELP’. A few attendees actually got on twitter for this purpose.
During the event, Pat Wright had hooked up a netbook to a large screen TV near the registration desk, and was running tweets with #sqlsat54 hashtag. Folks were able to walk around the event, and see all the conversations happening in the subtext of the Twitterverse directly related to the very event that they were attending. This was a great idea. It was a great addition to the event.
What should you do??
Getting to the event early as an organizer is imperative. This lends to some great networking opportunities, most likely some hard work being accomplished, as well as a fair share of OH tweetables. But don’t fret, if you pay attention, you will find yourself surrounded with both Physical and Logical OH fodder you can tweet about all day long. It’s also imperative that you add to the event during the event, as you did before it, and will inevitably do afterwards. Take pictures. Post tweets. Talk to people. Help people. Clean up empty boxes around the registration desk. Talk to the SQL Stalker while allowing your colleague a chance to escape. They will repay you later in the day by doing the same. Talk to the vendors, make sure they feel wanted and loved, and have what they need to be successful. Put yourself in the hallways, near the registrations desk, remain visible all day long, as often as possible. If you are an organizer or a speaker you will have the shirt to prove it, and should be visible to assist where needed. The only time I went into the speaker rooms was to actually prepare for my sessions.
Back to my report
I arrived a few minutes later than I should have. I was bringing some of the items for the registration table, and hefted them up to the registration table. I took up my post at the table, and simply greeted people as they arrived, explaining the name tags, the raffle tickets, and answering any questions. As I usually do, I mess with people, tell jokes, and tease. I ended up meeting quite a few of the attendees and ended up talking with them throughout the day because of these initial talks. I hung out at the registration desk for a couple hours in the beginning, as my first session wasn’t until just before lunchtime. As I dew nearer to the time, I migrated to the speaker room to run through my slides one last time. I went into the room I was assigned and setup about 15 minutes early. This is such an unnerving time for me. Standing there in front of various folks in a room, setting up my laptop, and realizing that this is it. I am running the show. I’m in charge of the room. It’s up to me to set the tone and get it going. No one else is there typically to do these tasks for me. It’s just me. Each time this happens, it’s as if it’s the first time, for a moment. As I setup, I randomly start talking about whatever pops into my head. I talked about my background on my laptop. I talked about the logo we added to the power point template. I just talked about whatever. It’s important to be social at this time, even before you start. It will help get the audience to participate, I believe. Tell some dumb jokes or whatever you need to do.
My first session had 20+ people in it, and we had a lively time discussing Database Switch preparation tasks. My next session was after lunch, and had less people, but the same amount of discussions about Profiler and Trace. Once both sessions were completed, I was able to unlax and simply hang out. I spoke with attendees, speakers, and even one poor woman who was trapped for a moment by the SQL Stalker.
Once the event was over, we all gathered in the big room, the room that Denny got to speak in, and gave out prizes to those that stayed. Tshirts were flung into the audience. And the big prizes were given out to a happy crowd. We ended up giving out some great prizes thanks to the sponsors. Folks were happy, and have even tweeted about playing with their newly acquired toys.
And that’s it. The event that seemed to take forever to get here, arrived a lot quicker than I would have thought it could have. Thanks to all those that had a part in helping fulfill it. Thanks for the lists and suggestions from SQLSaturday creators and PASS HQ. Many many thanks to Pat for doing almost everything for this event. It will happen again. We will repeat, and make it better. We hope to get more speakers, more attendees, and most importantly, more SQL Lurning for the #SQLFamily.