The PASS community showed their commitment by engaging in an active debate on a recent blog – Making SQLSaturday Sustainable. As a passionate and dedicated community, these discussions and debates are critical to our success and challenge the Board to look at the business decisions that need to be made. As we look back from the discussions from last week, we recognize that there were things we should have done differently. We have heard your feedback – which we are thankful for - and continued dialogue this week and are sharing with you the changes we are making based on the conversation.

We should have communicated earlier on the challenges many SQLSaturday organizers and sponsors were expressing to us. Some of these challenges were made public via social media, others were done quietly and directly to Board members and our Community team.

As the new criteria was evaluated, we failed to share our findings with the organizers of SQLSaturday and in particular those that could be affected by the changes. We’d like to explain why the radius was increased to 600 miles.

Currently, there is a 400-mile driving radius restriction that has been in place for the past four years. This means that no two events within 400 miles of each other should be hosted on the same day. This parameter was implemented in FY2012 to help keep two locations from competing for the same resources - speakers and sponsors.

By the end of FY2016, SQLSaturdays had doubled in size from FY2012. Since January of this year, feedback has been shared from sponsors (both local and GAP partners) on the number of overlapping events in a region, as well as organizers reporting they are struggling with sponsorship. We recognized that to prevent further sponsor exhaustion, and ensure the financial sustainability of SQLSaturday, we needed to look at finding an alternative that could provide support for both organizers and sponsors.

It is important to recognize that these changes are intended to protect the smaller events. They are designed to guide planning, not to limit events. As with the 400-mile driving radius currently in place, if an event requests a date that is already committed to by a neighboring city, we approach both organizers to ensure support. We will continue to be flexible with individual organizers to support and ensure their events are a success, as we have always been.

Hearing your feedback on the guideline, we will be piloting the 600-mile driving radius distance for events in North America beginning January 1, 2017. We will not include the back-to-back weekend restriction during this pilot, and ask for ongoing feedback from organizers, our sponsors, and attendees. We’ll share our findings with you once they are compiled and our recommendations for improving SQLSaturday events. Our commitment to you is to ensure the sustainability of all SQLSaturday events.

To get a better idea of just what this change would look like, below is an example of how it would still be possible to have 5 SQLSaturdays on the same date, all over 600 miles apart. With at least 20 non-holiday weekends in the calendar year, the growth of SQLSaturdays could continue here in the US; but if these events are to sustain, it’s going to mean organizers looking to see how they can manage their budgets more effectively at the local level to help across the entire community. Steve Jones brings up some very good suggestions in his post this past week, Slimmer SQL Saturdays, on ways of cutting costs, and more of these “best practices” blogs will be showcased in an upcoming series in the PASS Connector newsletter.

In an effort to ensure better communications, we are creating a dedicated distribution list for all SQLSaturday organizers to foster discussions (such as the introduction of the new radius) with you, so that we receive your feedback before final decisions are made. We realize this is long overdue – and we hope you will engage with us as we work together toward making our community (and surrounding events) successful.

While we begin to analyze some of the other suggestions around the larger events, these initial changes will be monitored closely to see if they need revisiting. We will continue the dialogue in the days and months ahead to ensure support and sustainability for our SQLSaturday events around the world. We want you to be a part of the conversation. Please reach out to us directly, reply to this blog, or send feedback to feedback@sqlpass.org.

Argenis Fernandez
Director, SQLSaturday

Karla Landrum
Community Evangelist