picking a date find out if there are any other events, holidays (religious or
otherwise) or celebrations at the same time.
book tickets for the speakers to give out that the attendees can redeem at a
A larger venue
is far better than a smaller one - large rooms, sponsor areas, registration
areas, etc...all allow for greater flexibility and less cramped quarters.
supplies is a good use of budget $$ - scissors, scotch tape, packing tape,
easel w/paper, highlighters, markers, etc...all can be handy the day of.
Borrowing from user group members is better (free!) and also a good way to get
coolers & extension cords, which are invaluable!
We were able
to borrow a projector & configure http://tweetwally.com to search for
“sqlsatmadison OR sqlsat287” tweets & project it on the wall in the sponsor
area. Proved to be a gathering/observation spot all day.
request a Microsoft mailing to publicize the event if they are sponsors. They
will do it, but only if asked.
If you are in
LATAM make sure you can transfer money from PayPal to your local bank account.
helped gathered people right from the start and provided better networking.
The one thing
we did different that went REALLY well; we have a 25 minute sponsor (coffee)
break before the last session. We did the raffle then. Far more energy,
sponsors loved it because it was earlier and they could book afterwards, I
loved it because I could then clean the café, and we didn’t lose many people.
The majority at the raffle went back upstairs for the last session.
Have an early
morning session on some aspect of 'Giving Technical Presentations' or 'Public
Speaking'; Follow up with actual 'Workshop' type sessions offering coaching
from multiple experienced Speakers, and then provide a 'Speaker Idol' type of
opportunity. Great for growing local Speakers.
Doing the SQL
Experts panel was a lot of fun and well attended. Made for a nice after lunch
session to keep folks energized.
the event the night before made the morning of the event much easier and
Signage, signage, signage! Not only in the venue, but on the
streets around it.
checklist, especially if this is not your first event.
advertise with local colleges and regional user groups
payments are always associated with a fee. These should be included in all
venue layout. Put GOOD signage up yourself (we were let down badly by our venue
who were supposed to have done this).
Do a very
detailed walkthrough with the venue coordinator, including where sponsor and
registration tables will go. This should also include the path participants
will take to get from the door to registration to the first session. Had we
done a better walkthrough, we would have moved registration to a different
location and removed a bottleneck in our traffic flow.
have a someone from the venue technical staff on hand the day of the event to
help deal with any issues that come up (projectors not working, wifi issues,
volunteer instructions cannot be simple enough. We laminate a page of
instructions with detailed steps (for example, who gives/collects eval slips,
books in the classroom) and a map on the back. This is invaluable to
volunteers, but we still end up finding things to add to it.
kids/teenagers as volunteers.
volunteers to assist the day of the event.
group of volunteers ahead of time and delegate pre-event tasks to avoid
becoming a bottle neck or be overwhelmed.
A reminder to
volunteers to count attendees in each session.
No matter how
well you plan, you'll need a runner to be ready to hurry out and grab ice,
printouts, coffee, etc...with little notice.
building a team can build trust and make for better events. We are looking to
start much earlier this year after issues with venues.
is important to grow local talent and nurture local speakers, we feel that we
should have done this in a more formal way for unknown speakers – not quite
lightning talks but definitely not billing them at the same level as
international experts… we would look at different ways of achieving this objective
going forward and look to work more closely with the UG to develop talent in
advance of a SQL Saturday in the future.
people who are committed to the cause. Don't choose people who are distracted
with other Events.
can only work with people who can be trusted or are willing to give themselves
to the cause (I made a couple of bad new choices this time).
Make sure all
tasks are well on the way months in advance and that mailshots and lists are
lined up in whichever tool you use. Event day volunteers to be fully ready and
prepped months ahead of time.
Farm out as
much as possible, such as printing, moving, and catering. We hired movers and
had FedEx Office do all the printing. That saved tons of time.
your sponsors to stay until the raffle. It got very confusing and frustrating
for our coordinators when half a dozen booth sponsors left before the 4pm
raffle and dumped their prizes and raffle tickets on us. This also looks bad to
In July, the last
user group meeting before our event, we had a special all-user-groups-invited
Networking Night meeting that was very well attended. We invited only Gold+
sponsors of SQL Saturday to give a talk in a recruiting context. This was
another thing to help separate Gold from Silver.
We sold out
on booth space and offered a discounted Silver level with a "small
booth". We may offer fewer full size booths and more small booths next
year as there was a huge demand for vendor booth space.
confirmation from each sponsor that they are attending, who is attending and if
any SWAG needs to be collected. Be firm on dates and don't be afraid to say no
to a potential sponsor especially if you are running out of room.
dates for sponsors.
sponsorship levels, we name the rooms after the sponsors for more visibility
and office supply stores will donate gift cards or goods if you ask. Some will
give special discounts on food/supplies as well.
relationships with potential sponsors well in advance is recommended as it can
take quite a bit of effort to get them over the line.
providing sponsors a 20 minute window for their presentations, a request was
made by one of the sponsors to have more time. We may consider providing a room
over lunch for each sponsor to provide them more time. It could be more
beneficial for attendees and provide sponsors stronger leads. This would be
something at the Gold or above level.
uncomfortable having to tell Silver level sponsors that they were not invited
to the banquet. Our banquet area needs to be big enough to host all 2 people
from each sponsor, plus all planning committee members and speakers. We'd also
like to invite all volunteers to the banquet but that has been too expensive in
Try to make
sure the sponsor area is part of the flow of traffic as attendees go from
session to session. If people don’t walk
through the sponsor area your sponsors may not return the next year.
intelligence around registrations and demographic info was fascinating to
attendees and helped draw attention to social media for us this year.
prize that's tied to printing of the SpeedPASS works really well.
We will NOT
use the wait list. Caused far too much confusion for the attendees and made
registration on the day of a nightmare. A lot more management of the attendees
is required with the wait list and with the email issues mentioned above it
made it even worse. We will just make sure to "build in" the 20-30%
drop-off into our numbers for next year along with speakers/sponsors.
familiar with SpeedPASS QR-Scanner process. Great addition
coat check on cold days.
We included a
Code of Conduct in our conference booklet this year, including a phone number
to text if there were any violations. We received no violation reports, but it
was good to have in place and we're glad we did it.
is lower than past try to compare attendee emails to see if there is a pattern.
We found two reasons - a leading company which sent many attendees had their
own in house training going on (which was not in any way in our control but at
least we found out),
attendees didn't like so much sessions over the day. Next year we will try to
make more rooms available to have more parallel sessions, but at least 5
sessions on the day sequence
We have begun
to collect a list of speakers we will not be accepting because of lack of
professionalism or negative speaker feedback from the anonymous survey. We had
no last-minute people backing out, though we have added people to our list
because of that too.
confirmation from each speaker that they are attending the event, as well as
shirt size and dinner attendance.
dates for speakers.
We had a
couple of speakers not be able to attend. We found out about a week prior to
the event. It is a good idea to keep a couple of alternate speakers in case of
speakers who might not be able to attend.
A forum for
sharing speaker evaluations could be useful. (Particularly bad feedback or
speakers who tend to cancel / not show up.)
consecutive sessions by the same speaker in the same room (if possible)
If a speaker
is giving multiple sessions don’t schedule them back to back without talking to
the speaker first. There are some
sessions that require the speaker to do some setup prior to presenting. Also, there are many times where attendees
will stay after a session to talk to a presenter and ask additional questions.
We also made
use of Survey Monkey to get the attendees to vote on their preferred sessions -
however make sure that you then keep 2 or 3 speakers on standby in case of last
can't be the first speaker
Make sure to
give all attendees good information about event evaluations.
Try to get as
much feedback on sessions as possible, both good and bad. Perhaps say it is
only for event organizers. (We had sessions with ok evaluations given to the
speakers, but heard very poor reviews directly from attendees who didn't want
to give bad reviews because they felt mean.)
has been a very cost effective way to gather post-event evaluations from
attendees in a way that gets us the data electronically. Well worth the $27 one
Have a large
space where everyone can sit for lunch (your gold sponsors will thank you for
allowing them to speak to just about everyone)
A menu of
pulled pork, macaroni and meatless sauce, salad and some go-withs seems to work
very well and pleases vegetarians and carnivores alike.
Having 2 sets
of buffet line tables with lines on each side (4 total lines) worked way faster
than just 2 lines.
universities have culinary courses and we took advantage of that, by making a
contract with them to provide the food and coffee for a very good price.
tempted to buy any more than 10% more lunches than what have been paid or
comped even if registration is much higher.
buffet lines for lunch to serve more people faster
Each year we
manage to buy too much bottled water. Not sure how we manage to do that, even
though we slash the order every year.
jambalaya lunch a little early, starting around 10:45. By 12:15 some of the
jambalaya boxes were no longer warm and this drew some complaints.
our anonymous survey was furious at us for not offering a cruelty-free lunch
vegetarian sandwiches from subway are still cruel. Cheese maybe?
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