This past weekend I went down to Pensacola, FL for SQL Saturday #77. This was the third event in Pensacola, and my third time going down there. It was also the second time that I brought my daughter along for the trip. She had a great time the first time, and was good about spending Fri night and Saturday at the event in exchange for a couple days in Pensacola.
I arrived early, on Thursday, spending all day Friday with my daughter until the speaker party on Friday night. The opening event was amazing, at Hemingway’s Island Grill, just across the causeway at Pensacola Beach, on a deck looking out over the water. With a cool evening, we couldn’t have asked for a better setting where I had the chance to sit and talk with Aaron Nelson a bit, met Wayne Sheffield for the first time, and of course, sp
ent time with Karla Landrum as well.
The coolest shirts were available for speakers, me being above, and separate shirts for the women. My daughter, and Aaron’s daughter, got shirts as well, and you can see them here. My little girl loved hers and wore is as much as she could all weekend. I don’t think speaker shirts are necessary, but they are a nice touch, and I love the creative ones I’ve gotten at this event, Cleveland, and Baton Rouge last year.
The event was held at a local college, as it has the last three years. The entrance and building moved this year, mostly because the Mac user group refused to move their meeting or give up the auditorium they have, so boo on them. In any case, there was a motorcycle class happening in one parking lot, which caused a number of people to get confused as where to go. We suspect a few people were annoyed and left, which is something to be aware of. Ask about any potential traffic situations on the day of the event that might be going on.
I arrived a bit late, and the event was quiet. Everyone was in sessions except a few speakers and vendors were learning something. With sessions spread out across two buildings, it was definitely a calmer event than I’ve seen in the past. The vendors had a nice walkway through the entrance hallway, on the way to food, and they had good traffic at lunch and as people were leaving. However I’m not sure how well this layout worked during the day as people could go from session to session without moving past tables.
I realize that sponsorship is a tricky thing to balance with not annoying attendees but also allowing vendors a chance to get value for their sponsorship. I think I’d like to see vendors in between session rooms, giving people a chance to talk by, or vendors to show off some video or demos as people walk by.
My first session was just before lunch, in the far building, and I had good attendance. With my daughter laying down in front of the room with a DVD, I delivered my talk on Branding Yourself for a Dream Job – The Modern Resume. I had about 40 or so people in there, with a mix of people looking for work, looking for new work, and just interested. I got some great comments, and people said nice things afterwards, even though it was a quiet crowd, and hard to get them to interact with me.
I had a short break before a lunchtime Red Gate demo session, which was very well attended. Again, about 40-50 people watched me demo a few tools, showing them a few ways in which Red Gate tools make life easier. Right after lunch, I had a third session in a row, my Preparation for Disaster, a look at the types of things that need to go into preparing for things to go wrong with SQL Server. It’s a basic session, and perhaps it wasn’t well described as I only had about 10 people in there. However they seemed to like the session from the comments.
After that I left for a break, my voice tired, and my daughter wanting a chance to swim a little before the after party. We arrived as the party was getting going, walking in with a few other people. It was a Rosie O’Grady’s with the old fashioned fire truck out front in Pensacola downtown. I had the chance to chat with a few more people, eat some great BBQ, and relax for a bit. With the iPad in hand, my daughter and Aaron’s little girl occupied themselves for quite awhile.
I think I was expecting a busier event, but last year TechEd was the week after this event, and a short drive over to New Orleans, so there were quite a few more people I knew coming to speak. This year it was quieter, more restrained, but still a great event. Pensacola is a beautiful place, great beaches, and worth taking a day or two extra to relax on the gulf coast after some SQL Server learning.
My daughter is already asking if we can come back next year.