This past weekend was the first SQL Saturday in Colorado, and it went very well. I think everyone enjoyed it, the organizers were pleased, and I’m hoping that we end up with 2, or more, events next year.
This was my 5th SQL Saturday of 2010, and it was interesting. This was the first one that was being held in a new type of venue. Most of the events have been at local colleges or universities, with the one in Charlotte at the Microsoft offices. However the Denver organizers secured the use of A church, Cherry Creek Presbyterian, for the day. They have a large center that they use fro school with a gym/cafeteria that was great for lunch, and lots of classrooms.
I was really looking forward to my event, with this being my home state, and I think the event ran great. A few impressions on the event.
Colorado is also the home of Confio, and they sponsored our speaker’s dinner at the Great Northern Tavern. I’ve been there before, and it was nice that we had a private room in the back to chat in. We had a waiter serving drinks while I had the chance to see people from Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Denver, in addition to the people from out of town.
I like having a fairly quiet place for the outside events since the primary purpose is networking, and when a place gets too loud, it’s hard to spend time talking.
This was a nice informal event, and an excellent meal. As I normally see, most people leave between 8 and 9 to go back and prep for the next morning. I left around 9 myself, heading home.
Being in a church for a technical event seemed a little funny to me, but I was willing to try it. The Boy Scout troop my son is in uses LDS churches for some events, and it always goes fine.
This was a large venue, using two buildings and a large parking lot. I knew where it was, but I am sure some people were wondering if it was the right place as the church signage is set back a bit from the street and you need to enter the parking lot to see it. I saw a paper SQL Saturday #52 sign once I turned in, but for people not in the local area, they might have turned into one of the 3 or 4 other churches on the same street before they found it.
There were signs all over the building, outside and in, once I arrived. There was also a whiteboard that listed all the tracks, sessions, and rooms. Apparently the church moved some rooms at the last minute, so good job to the organizers to post the sessions.
Four tracks were in one building, and 2 in the main building with the cafeteria. It was a short walk, and there were volunteers helping people find their way around.
The cafeteria was large, and had AV wireless microphones for announcing things. Most rooms also had microphones as well, and they seemed to work well. A few rooms struggled with sun leaking around drapes or in windows and made projectors slightly hard to see, but it was useable.
Only one strange room had the speaker sitting to the side and near the rear of the room. Other than that, the venue was fantastic.
Breakfast was the typical mix of coffee, muffins, and bagels. A variety of cream cheese, and plenty of it was available. I was disappointed not to see decaf, but I survived. Someone mentioned no tea, or milk, and I can understand that not everyone drinks coffee. However since this is a budget event, I think we need to surface the choices, or lack thereof, better.
Lunch was charged for, and catered with a sandwich and small salad (potato or pasta) in a bag. A mix of choices, including vegetarian entrees. there were apples or oranges and chips as well. Plenty of soda and water in tubs, and there was some left over at the end.
Since we were in two buildings, I was surprised to see tubs of soda/water in each building, allowing people to grab something no matter where they are. Typically things are centralized, but not here. There also was an afternoon snack for people. cookies, bags of nuts or trail mix, again in both buildings for attendees to enjoy.
Six rooms, six tracks, with a variety of speakers. I walked around and checked out a few of the sessions. It seemed that most of the sessions had between 10-30 people. With about 160 or so people attending, that made sense. It seemed that people were interested, and they enjoyed the sessions overall. Some of the feedback mentioned both more beginner and advanced sessions, and I think there’s likely room to hold events that focus more on either beginner or advanced sessions.
We had Kevin Cox from Microsoft, and a few people from Confio presenting technical sessions. It’s good to get a variety of speakers, and topics, and I liked the fact that there were a number of Professional Development sessions as well.
Only two vendors at this event, both getting tables in between the rooms and the cafeteria, so they had good traffic flowing. They both seemed to like the event, and that’s good.
We did two giveaways at this event. Since we had a large lunch crowd, after I did my mini-keynote at lunch, we drew about 10 names out of the morning evaluation sessions and gave away some books and shirts. In the afternoon we did the same thing, but had about 30 items to let go. We also let our two vendors draw names from their lists before we drew the rest of the names.
One minor issue here: we had both overall evals, and session evals mixed in the same box. Since some had names on them and some didn’t, it was hard to pull the paper from the box. Since that was my job in the afternoon, I was struggling to keep things moving. I’d like to see a consistent form.
I thought the after party was very well attended. It was at the Baker Street Pub, just about 3-4 blocks away and I would guess 60-80 people attended. Lots of speakers, but lots of other people. Jason Horner put together a mini-BINGO card that had a number of entries on it like:
- Has a SQL 2000 certification
- Has traveled over 100 miles
- Has used merge replication in production
- Has a > 1 TB database
and more. People were supposed to walk around and network, and I liked this. It helped to get people to talking a bit instead of just signing cards.
It felt like better networking at this party than a number of other after parties I’ve attended and I think having it close to the venue helped.
This was a great event, and I was thrilled to see if go over well. No major snags and everything seemed to run smoothly. There were a few advantages to using a church, and it’s something I’d like to see other people consider.
I also informally asked if people would like more events (2-3 a year) and perhaps weekday events before my keynote at lunch, and most people were open to them. Not many people minded a Saturday event, but then again, this is a self-selected group out on a Saturday.
One last note. I had prepped my keynote on a teleprompter, and in paper, but left the paper at home. It’s a little awkward to work with paper, at least for me. My machine managed to lock up near the beginning of my keynote, and I was forced to work from memory.
Fortunately I know enough not to ramble too long and cut a 15-20 minute speech down to 10 minutes. A lesson for me, have a backup plan.
Photos from Tim Mitchell’s photostream.