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Building the Schedule

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Modified on 2011/07/26 21:38 by rad.tim Categorized as Uncategorized
Our goal for SQLSaturday is to have at least two tracks, giving attendees an option if a given session isn't what they expect. It also increases the chances they will attend - if you have only one track and a potential attendee sees two sessions in a row that aren't of interest they usually decide against attending.

You can designate tracks in advance (BI, Admin, etc), but it's usually more effective to just label the Track 1, 2, etc in the beginning based on the number of rooms you have available. Once you start to build the schedule, it makes sense to try to group related topics into a track, and often that means a miscellaneous track or two for the ones that don't group neatly.

As far as the total number of tracks, more is better to a point. We've had several events with 8 tracks and most attendees love the variety. It works if you have enough speakers and rooms to support it. It's a useful approach if seating in rooms is limited, gives you a way to increase maximum attendance. The downside is more logistical work; more rooms to clean, more door signs to make, more speakers to check on. Reserve a couple more rooms than you think you might need, but don't feel obligated to fill them all. We also recommend against scheduling any speaker for more than 2 sessions in order to fill tracks - speaking is hard work, and they deserve to attend a few sessions too.

Building the schedule is all about trade offs, it will never be perfect. Here are some things to consider:

General Scheduling Considerations

  • Determine if you are having a keynote.
  • Determine when raffle timeframe. 
  • Are you having post event? If so plan timeframe around location.   For instance if  post event is onsite it can be shortly after event is over.   But if it is offsite then consider travel time and parking when considering start time. 
Registration

  • Consider how long you think it will take to register you registered attendees.  If you have 100 verse 500 it may determine how long this take.  The number will determine how long it takes.   Typically registration time length is between 1 to 2 hours.  

Breakfast with SQL

  • Consider having a early morning during registration.  These session focus on entry level topic.  For example building a simple SSIS package.
Tracks

  • When developing a list of tracks you need to determine how to origanize.
  • Some go by numbers and other align by categories of contents (i.e BI, DBA, Development, etc). Name tracks once you get close to final
  • Your number of tracks will be driven by the number of speakers and number of rooms at event site.  
Speakers

  • Determine limit of session per speaker and don't feel compelled to give any speaker more than 1
  • Origanize abstracts by categories
  • Develop select criteria
  • Review abstracts and select sessions based on criteria
Scheduling

  • Determine length of each session, and number of sessions per track.  Keep in mind need have time for questions and answers. 
  • Allow breaks between sessions, for example 15 minutes.
  • Try to start the day with strong speakers & topics, and end the day that way too
  • Strike a balance between having some "big name" speakers on the schedule with a good mix of local/less well known speakers (we want to grow the latter)
  • Try to have a beginner/intermediate/expert at every hour.  Do not put beginner sessions at the same hour.  This allows for different experience level attendees to find a session to attend more easily.
  • Consider adding one mini channel at end of lunch, great way to give really new speakers a chance
  • Watch for part 1/2 sessions that need sequencing
  • Consider length of session and when they start and end.  You may want to have all session start and end at the same time.  This makes it easier for attendees to get from session to another.
  • Determine how long you need for lunch.  Also you could consider allowing vendors to present during lunch.
  • Once your schedule is built you can make it available on the website by clicking on "MISC" then "Site Settings". Scroll down until you see the check box for "Show Schedule".  Check the box to enable viewing of the schedule on the web.
  • You should send out an email blast to all speakers who submitted sessions letting them know the schedule has been posted.  If you couldn't schedule everyone who submitted a session it is nice to email those individuals directly to let them know they didn't make it prior to posting the actual schedule.
Special Accomidations

  • Out town speakers may want special schedule (speak early to make flight, or speak late so they can drive in same day)
  • Think about the location of sponsor when schedule rooms.  You want attendees to be pass by vendor location when moving between sessions. 
TODO: Link to the track management page in admin tools   

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