Is there a Difference in Virtual Events?

I’ve been to many SQL Saturdays across the last decade. I know I’m close to having spoken at 100 events, and I’ve enjoyed going to different cities, meeting lots of new people, and enjoy the local atmosphere. I love exercising at University Lake in Baton Rouge before their event. I’ve enjoyed wandering around Memphis to see sites, the music in Nashville is wonderful after a day of speaking. Getting up early and visiting Central Park in NYC or jogging through the city in Oslo are great memories. Evenings in Madison, San Jose, and Sioux Falls, and many other places have kept me entertained.

Above all the hospitality of organizers and attendees has been wonderful. I still get plenty of warm welcomes from organizers of virtual events, but the local flavor is gone. In fact, I’m not sure that there is a difference between SQL Saturday Salt Lake City Virtual and SQL Saturday Slovenia. Organizers are still sending out gifts, and doing all the things that I’ve appreciated in the past, but it’s not the same.

In fact, as both a speaker and attendee, I don’t see a difference between virtual events, and I wonder how many of you feel the same way. Are we just having events on different days of the week or different weeks and they all blend together? Is there any event that stands apart from the others, or do you just appreciate having events occurring constantly and weekend and being able to fit them in your schedule.

I’m torn as to whether there is value in more of these virtual events, other than scheduling. I certainly can see that having SQL Sat Slovenia and SQL Sat Minnesota on Dec 12 makes sense, as the time zones allow people to attend sessions when they are convenient. As a speaker, it would be neat to “speak” at a Slovenian event and a US event on the same day, something I’ve thought to try in the real world. As an attendee, is there a season SQL Sat Plovdic occurs the same day as SQL Sat Slovenie? I’d rather one of them be a week apart since they’re both in the same time zone.

I do like the accessibility of these events. Many more people can attend at that might not be able to spare the time, or make the trip to a live event. The cost to add more attendees isn’t something organizers worry about, and I could see there being a SQL Saturday on every Saturday throughout the year. That would be amazing.

It likely doesn’t matter if we allow organizers to link an event to their city, or differentiate it from other events. To me, whether it’s New Stars of Data, GroupBy, SQL Saturday wherever, or any other event, it’s neat that I have lots of chances to watch a live talk and interact with a speaker. It’s still lacking something that a live event has, but I do appreciate the opportunity to tune into a talk and try to learn something when I have the time.

I do think we need technology improvements to better deliver sessions, speakers need to learn to present differently when the entire screen might not be available, learning to explain what we’re doing, zoom in more, and use bigger fonts. I also think we need some type of mixed recorded/live/camera/chat evolution would make the experience better.

I’m am thankful that we can continue to run events during this pandemic and find plenty of people to speak. I am even more grateful that I have the chance to continue learning.

Steve Jones

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