SQL Saturday #91: An Internal Reflection

Ok, so a twist to some of the reports you see out there from speakers about their experiences at various SQL Saturday’s.  I’m going to give you a report as someone who has recently been one of the event coordinators for a SQL Saturday. I am planning another post about some issues that we ran into putting the event together, but here’s my report.

Early Morning

SQL Saturday #91

To set the stage, it was a perfect day on Saturday, August 27th in Omaha, Nebraska.  A few puffy white clouds were in the sky, a cool breeze made it’s way through the trees and across the parking lot.  It was one of those mornings that I wanted to get a good cup of coffee, grab a morning paper and see what it is going on in the world.  Yeah, it was one definitely of those mornings.

However, unlike my normal Saturday mornings, I was walking into Mammel Hall at the University of Nebraska – Omaha by 6:45am.  I had been up since 5:30am.  It was D-Day.  Our first SQL Saturday for the Omaha area was finally here.  After months of work and planning, our day had arrived.  As myself and the top notch crew that had volunteered to help, all walked into the building, almost like we were regulators going to wrangle up some thieves who were stealing our cattle.  We walked with a purpose and resolve.  We were going to have the best damn SQL Saturday possible.

The Morning

The preregistration time frame went really smooth.  Everybody of the crew had an assignment and knew what their jobs where.  We had a few minor questions here and there, but things were handled quickly and efficiently.  The catering company, Garden Cafe,  arrived shortly after us and started to lay out the breakfast spread.  We had smartly prepped the building the night before and knew where everything & everybody was going to go.

As a side note, Garden Cafe was a total rock star in doing the food.  We used them to provide the breakfast and the lunch and the beauty was that they handled everything.  They set everything up and was johnny on the spot if we needed anything.  I would definitely recommend them.

By 7:15, we were prepped.  At 7:30, people started to filter through the door.  Around 8:15 I had to disappeared to the auditorium to get my laptop ready to roll for the Welcome session.  By 8:30 we had about 100 people who had come to get their learn on.  Standing in front of such a crowd, knowing that all of them were there to learn something about SQL Server today, was no less than awesome!  The welcome session went off without a hitch and we had the crowd out the door in 20 minutes flat, already moving to their first sessions, eager to start the day.

First Session

At 9am, the first sessions commenced.  As event coordinator, I had already accepted that I would probably not be able to attend any sessions.  I let the team of coordinators attend the sessions (or present any sessions) that they wanted as I stayed back to handle anything that might arise.  They certainly deserved it.  They worked their tails off to pull this thing off.

That's The Sound of Learning Happening!

As I walked the halls of the University that Saturday morning, I found it surprisingly quiet and empty.  Not a single soul was in the hall way.  There wasn’t any networking going on. Everybody was in a class room getting their learn on.  That my friends, was a truly awesome realization!

At this point, I took some time to head back to the cafe area and just sit and relax.  I had a few minor things that needed to be addressed and I thought that it would be a perfect time to get it done.  There were a couple of speakers there that were just chatting, catching up on the usual things at hand.  They were gracious enough to allow me to join in with the conversation and it was great getting to know some of the greats, like Kathi Kellenberger (T|B) and Steve Hughes (T|B).

Lunch

The attendees broke from their first session and I got to watch the magic of SQL Saturday take place.  Networking was going on every where!  Some where munching on the breakfast goodies that we had provided, others were chatting while walking down the vendor row, others were taking 5 in some of the comfortable chairs in the hallway chatting with others about their latest epic database adventure!  It was magical to watch to say the least.

The second session started up and once again, the halls were empty.  Lunch rolled around and Garden Cafe showed up about 15 minutes before the second session released and we had the lunch table setup and ready to roll in 10 minutes.  We had plenty of lunches available and everybody who bought a lunch got one.  We did have a few minor issues where people came up to me and stated that they thought that they had purchased lunch but didn’t have a lunch ticket.  I looked into each issue and for most of them, I apologized for the hassle and offered to buy them a free lunch. There were only a couple of these issues and were relatively easily to resolve.

Now, I’m going to go on a minor rant here…

Remember Your Manners

<RANT>

If you are an attendee of a SQL Saturday and you have an issue, you need to remember that the organizers of the event probably spent hours upon hours putting this thing together and they probably didn’t get paid for it either.  So, remember you manners and when that organizer offers to buy you lunch or helps to solve one of your issues, take a moment and say Thank You.  That small act of respect will go a very long way.

</RANT>

And back to your regularly scheduled blog post . .

I did take about 15 minutes to grab some lunch and sit with a couple of co-workers.  We were sitting on the second floor, which was up and away from the hustle & bustle of the event, which turned out to be good break for me.

Afternoon

Lunch wrapped up and the sessions fired back up promptly at 1pm.  One thing to note, the speakers were absolutely FANTASTIC.  Not once did I have to remind any speakers of where they had to be or show they were their rooms where.  I’m not sure that I thought that I’d have to do that anyway, but every single speaker was ready to roll when they were supposed to be.  It was epic!

In between sessions I took the quiet time to work on a few things, such as adding final touches to our closing session or cleaning up around the venue.  I also spent some time chatting with various speakers as they filtered in and out of the speaker ready room, getting to know them more.  Talking to Mark House, Bill Fellows (T|B) (while in a kilt, in true PASS style), Kevin Boles (T) and Randy Knight (T|B)was just impressive.  It’s not often that I get to spend time with people of this caliber and it was truly awesome for me!

OK, so it wasn’t all perfect. We did have one issue.  We ran out of coffee.  I know, I know.  That was poor planning on our part as we thought that we’d have enough, but we didn’t.  It was mentioned on more than one occasion and we definitely made note of it for the next go around.

Closing

Almost To The Finish!

Before I knew it, it was time to wrap up and close things down. The final sessions were running their course and I was getting ready to do the closing session and raffle off the outstanding swag that we had gotten.  This was the only part of the day that I dreaded.  The process of giving things away always seems difficult for some reason.  But we plowed through it in true fashion and before we knew it, it was over.

We got a lot of comments that the event was “great” and “job well done” as people filed out of the auditorium, which was simply great to hear. We are planning on sending out a survey very shortly to see if we can capture some of those comments.

The Aftermath

Regulators! Mount Up!

We were spot on with our timing.  We knew that we had to be out of the facility by 7pm (or the doors would lock) and we had the closing done sharply at 5:30pm.  We spent about an hour cleaning up, wiping down tables, making sure all the electronics were off and all the trash was picked up.  The Regulators left the building right at 6:30pm, knowing that we probably just had one of the best events for the our local SQL Server community.  178 souls came through the doors that day.  I would bet that 178 of them left with some new knowledge of SQL Server.

Anyway, we went down to a local bar call the Liv Lounge and had a few drinks and just reflected on the day.  We all had various notes on things to change for the next time, however we all agreed that it went off relatively smoothly and we would call it a success!

That’s the way to leave it, folks.  All the hard work, countless meetings, hours spent.  It boils down to a simple word.  Success.

A huge “Thanks” goes out to the “Regulators”; Dean Nicholson, Mark Mathis, Jim Brust, Phil Brammer, Sudhir Gajre and David Klee. This would not have happened without their help.

© 2011, John Morehouse. All rights reserved.

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