SQLSaturday #118 Madison Recap – Energy and Organization

The “Go Jes Go” tweet chanted by the SQL community whenever @grrl_geek Jes Borland [blog] goes on her daily run took on a new meaning last Saturday. That’s when Jes and her team hosted the first-ever SQLSaturday in Wisconsin to great reviews.

Not only was this the first SQLSaturday for this organizational team, but it was also the first SQLSaturday for many attendees.  When I asked at the end of the day how many were attending a SQLSaturday for the first time, almost everyone in the auditorium raised their hand. I was pretty shocked, since there have been several events in the Midwest region, including Chicago’s SQLSaturday just three hours away.  My initial thought was, “Wow, where have these people been?” Right behind that was, “How proud Jes must be at how the community embraced this opportunity” - a feeling all of us event organizers cherish.

Two words come to mind when describing this day: “organized” and “energized.” (You can read Jes’s recap of the day here.)The core team spent a great amount of time planning and coordinating the event, and it showed in the smooth flow throughout the day. All the volunteers - possibly the most I’ve ever seen for a first-time event - executed their assignments like pros. Volunteer team leader Gina Meronek  [twitter] was constantly moving or on her walkie-talkie, checking in with all the volunteers and making sure everything happened on cue.

This event used the recently implemented SpeedPASS for registration. SpeedPASS allows for a quicker flow at check-in, and eliminates some pre-event tasks like printing and organizing all the name badges and raffle tickets for attendees. Even with some attendees who didn’t print their SpeedPASS in advance, there were never more than two or three people in line waiting for their pass to be printed. Kudos to Leonard Murphy [twitter], who worked diligently the week before with the Manage SpeedPASS section of the admin site, even finding a bug that PASS IT fixed before game day. His attention to detail has now helped the next events that use this process.

The speaker lineup was a great mix of locals and seasoned pros, including former PASS Board member Chuck Heinzelman [twitter] of the Microsoft SQLCAT community team. Another key to the success of SQLSaturday #118 was the great venue… for FREE! The event was held at the local college in Madison, MATC, which was spacious and looked brand new. The team did a great job of utilizing the space appropriately, having sponsors near the meeting rooms, where attendees had to walk by if they wanted refreshments. The cafeteria was large and provided a great platform for the event’s “Cows of a Spot” tables, a local spin on PASS Summit’s Birds of a Feather luncheon. With a whopping 21 different topics for attendees to choose from, this was a great added value at lunch, featuring burgers and, of course, Wisconsin brats.  The end-of-day raffle was held in a large theatre-style auditorium, with glowing purple spotlight lighting up the stage.  And Jes did a great job covering all the PASS events and free resources beyond SQLSaturday that community members can take advantage of.   

As I reflect more on SQLSaturday #118, I think it clearly helps if organizers have been to other SQLSaturdays before planning one their selves. Jes and team clearly by-passed most of the usual obstacles you see at first-time SQLSaturdays. Jes has volunteered to help mentor other new event organizers, and I’ll be having her join me on some pre-event calls with new SQLSaturday organizers so she can share some of what she went through.  If anyone else is interested in mentoring event organizers, send me an email. The more the merrier!