Hosting a Sql Saturday – A hard but rewarding task

For 6 months ago I embarked a great community adventure as I signed up for organizing a SQL Saturday in Copenhagen.

This blog post is about my experience planning the event! It is described – almost – chronologically with some reflections about decisions and consequences. These are my own opinions and are possibly not shared by other team members.

It all started in Seattle

2012 was my first PASS summit and I was amazed by the community spirit of the conference. Of course they are a lot of SQL pros and vendors but there is also a considerable amount of volunteers and community people willing to share their passion and knowledge. Knowledge sharing being a time consuming task, one of the purposes of the summit is to make more people aware of the community and willing to help.

During the summit there is a SQL Saturday shirt-day where speakers from previous SQL Saturdays wear one of more SQL Saturday shirts. There is also a quilt day but this is another story !

Inspired by all these shirts and polos I headed toward the Pass booth and decided to ask how to have a SQL Saturday in Copenhagen. That’s when I met Karla Landrum. She gave me her business card and we decided to get in touch after the event. I am not sure I would have contacted her if I hadn’t met Niko Negerbauer on the plane back from Seattle to London.

And then I sat next to Niko

9 hours on a plane to London Heathrow. I’ve attended one of his sessions at the SQL Rally Nordic in Copenhagen but never spoke to him before. Well let me see that we had plenty of times to discuss SSIS, PASS, SQL Saturdays, Movie themes and Fish recipes during our flight. He also convinced me that hosting a SQL Saturday was exctly what I needed to do.

One evening in Stockholm I officially commited myself to hosting SQL Saturday in Copenhagen via Skype.

The Venue

One of the first things you need to inform om when creating the event is where is the venue hosted, a date and a limit number of attendees.

I contacted several companies in Copenhagen but Microsoft was the first one to accept the challenge and wanted to generously sponsor the venue and the lunches. All that within 1 hour after asking them.

A few days later the website was live.

The Team

Meanwhile I was made aware that some other peoples wanted to organize a SQL Saturday in Copenhagen. I hurried up to contact them and enroll them in the team. Unfortunately some of them where not able to help as they originally had wished to.

After setting up the core team consisting of David and I. We recruited some more team members in the community. We needed someone to manage : the speakers, the sponsors, the venue, the social activities and the volunteers. We ended up with 3 teams : “sponsor and marketing”, volunteers and “speakers and venue”.

The sponsor and speakers teams were by far the most active in the planning fases.

Planning the event

We started to contact sponsors and speakers trying to raise funds and plan the event. We also decided to have a pre-conf day with some paying sessions. This was quite a lot of administrative work as the SQL Saturday event administrative workflow does not include any facility for such pre-conf days. But it was a success and was partly financed by the attendees.

We had very few meetings but send a lot of mails!

Know the details

Use Excel and make lists of the speakers, the sponsors and write down if they are coming, their shirt size, if they are attending the dinner, uploaded session.

You will end up using quite a few spreadsheets but you can always consolidate them.

Make a budget also. Use the SQL Saturday wiki and add your own posts.

Use SkyDrive, Dropbox to share documents with team members so you only work on one version.

Always know who – from the speaker group – is coming and specially who is not coming to the event, the speaker’s dinner, the hotel you chose….

Build up your swag plan and carefully produce session plans, event evaluations and session evaluations to distribute during the event.

And then comes the big day

Where:

  • none of us has ever tried hosting a venue at this particular place
  • don’t know how many of the 182 attendees will show up
  • have to fill-up and deal swag bags out.
  • while registering 150 people, patiently queuing,
  • Everyone counts on you for knowing all small details and solving all kinds of problems
  • The majority of attendees hadn’t print their speedpass tickets.

But then we had

  • 153 attendees
  • 27 speakers from 11 countries
  • 28 sessions on 4 tracks
  • 380 bottles of beers (25cl)
  • 450 sandwiches
  • 390 cups of coffee
  • 8 false alarm calls to the security company due to attendees wandering off-limits.
  • And a lot of fun!

Again ?

SQL Saturday was never held before in Denmark and there was a lot of expectations from the attendees and the sponsors.

It was a lot of work, especially the week up to the event where things go very fast. And you have to inform a lot of people on a lot of different things. But we, as a team, put a great effort to make it a success.

All this passion, all these dedicated specialists gathered under one roof to learn, network and share for a whole day of free training. This is where you truely can appreciate the effort, this is the greatest reward!

This is why I’m already looking forward to for next year’s SQL Saturday in Copenhagen.

Thanks

Guys, the event would never been possible without your help and support….

Special thanks goes to

  • David Peter Hansen for helping me keeping stuff together, his network of volunteers and his love for good beers : @dphansen
  • David L. Bojsen for getting work done with the marketing and sponsor team and managing swag shirts, t-shirts and SQL Saturday mugs
  • Kenneth M. Nielsen for trying to get media attention and coverage and helping with the sponsors : @DoktorKermit
  • Claus L. Munch and Hans Hansen for their tight grip on sponsors and their sponsorhip purses….
  • Rasmus Reinholt for managing the volunteers
  • Morten b. Post, Jørgen Guldmann, Asraf Rafi and Partha Chakraborthy for being track managers
  • Thomas Skytte and his colleagues for investing time and energy has a host for the venue.
  • All the volunteers which in small or large way has contributed to the event
  • SolidQ for supporting my work and the community.

Régis

Feel free to contact me if you wish to hear more details about our SQL Saturday.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: