Things I’ve Really Learned From Organizing a SQL Saturday Event

This is a follow-up to my first post that I published back in June.  Back when the workload was still light and things were all roses and champagne.

Surely, you jest!  My name isn’t Shirley, but I do jest.  Things are still going well, but I have learned a few more lessons that I wanted to share on this blog.

Lesson #6 – Plans are good, but they never work

So far this event has had two speakers pull out leaving me with empty slots in my carefully crafted schedule.  On top of that, speakers have ideas about the schedule that differ from your own, and since they are giving up their day, I feel that any reasonable speaker request needs to be accommodated.  What started as a highly organized schedule broken into tracks with logical room assignments quickly de-evolved into a chaotic, knowledge rich conference.  While it’s not a bad thing, it’s definitely a lesson that I learned the hard way.  I am a natural planner so having the plan jump ship and drift away definitely took some getting used to.

Lesson #7 – You can’t go it alone

This might seem redundant to #5 in the first post, but that is because it is that important.  No one person can do all the work and keep track of all the action items unless it’s their full-time job.  If you have a full-time job where you get paid to organize SQLSaturday events, please DM me on Twitter –  I would be willing to hire you for our next one!

Lesson #8 – Just go with it

You have a vision in your head, and while you should do everything to make that vision a reality, there comes a point where you just need to relinquish control and go with it.  You can only prepare so much and put it so much time to make this event the best it can be and after that point, it’s up to whatever higher power you believe in.  Stressing over every minute detail will not help you but on a better event.  Just remember your purpose and do the best you can.

Lesson #9 – Your speakers and volunteers are your bread and butter

Take care of these people.  Bend over backward for them.  Without them, you don’t have a SQL Saturday.  Sure, sponsors are nice, but you can put on a SQLSaturday event for next to nothing if you have to.  For my event, we got the facility to donate the use of the facility to the event.  Lunch is optional.  We have a few sponsors so we opted for lunch, a basic attendee bag, and a modest speaker gift.  If I had to, I could probably put on a SQLSaturday event for less than the PASS sponsorship amount.

Lesson #10 – There is no such thing as over-communication

The number one thing that makes a SQL Saturday event successful is communication.  Communication between event admins and speakers, between event admins and sponsors, between event admins and volunteers, between event admins and attendees, and even just between event admins.  I recommended regular conference calls once you get to 30 days out from your event.  Be sure to send plenty of emails and set deadlines.  I would say 80% of the work in a SQLSaturday event is communication so get good at it.

And there we have it, five more lessons learned about organizing SQL Saturday events.

Do you have any lessons to share?

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