On Saturday I completed the first SQL Saturday, I’ve ever personally organized, I’ve spoken at many, volunteered at several, but this was my first time running the whole show. Our usergroup had done this twice before, so we weren’t totally new to the process. After sleeping about 15 hours yesterday I wanted to blog about and the lessons we learned.
I cook a lot–and I tend to get in over my head at times planning dinner parties, and end up doing these elaborate multi-course feasts. You prepare, prepare and prepare, make lots of lists, organize things in nice little boxes, and then when it’s time to execute, the event itself goes flawlessly (including the elaborate after party K and I cooked for). SQL Saturday 121 went flawlessly.
Before I get my lessons learned, I would like to thank my speakers and most importantly my volunteers, and also my darling wife who ran the soon to be legendary after party. In particular Bill Emmert and Mark Kromer from Microsoft who arranged our wonderful venue, and made facility logistics a breeze. Also, Paul Rizza from Microsoft who stepped up to take care of whatever needs that cropped up the day of the event. Vince Napoli, who is the president of our user group helped me whenever I needed help, and Chuck Kruelle was everywhere and did everything on the day of our event. Also Christina Leo, Erin Stellato and my wife, Kelly blazed through the kitchen during the after party, made it much prettier than it was before. Also, thanks to Adam Belebczuk for making an ice run to make sure the after party had cold drinks.
So overall, the event went great, and frankly I wouldn’t have changed much. Here are somethings to always think about when running an event.
- Always talk to your speakers to make sure you have a couple of back up sessions–people will cancel on you, sometimes it will be early, sometimes it will be two hours before their session. If you have sessions ready to go, it is pretty painless.
- Birds of a Feather lunches are really cool idea–for both networking and logistical reasons. Especially if you don’t have a centralized area for lunch-it works really well for routing people into rooms.
- Start planning your event as early as possible–we started planning in the January time frame, which gave us plenty of time to organize and not stress too much about little things.
- Also, communicate with your speakers early and often. I say this more as a speaker than an event organizer, as it’s really nice to be able to plan your travel and know your schedule well in advance. We set our event schedule up about 6 weeks in advance of the event.
- If you are planning on having a speaker’s dinner, also announce that early (once again so speakers can plan travel around it–they don’t need to the locale, just that you are having it). I know some events have shied away from doing them because of lack of budget, but even if you don’t have funding–it’s really just a good excuse for a networking event and a few adult beverages.
- On that note, start thinking of a speaker’s dinner location a couple of months out as well, it’s not easy to arrange for a big party on short notice, especially on a Friday night–I couldn’t get my first two choices two months out.
- Work closely with PASS–Karla Landrum is a wonderful resource and friend, and answered all of my questions (Usually by sending me a link I should have found) quickly.
- Always, always have a backup. I have a blog post two posts down about not having a backup, and it wasn’t the only time we almost got burned by not having a backup.
So thank you again to all of my attendees, speakers, and sponsors. Everyone did a wonderful job and I got nothing, but positive feedback. Who knows, I may even think about running this again! Notes–photos from the event are available here.