I presented two sessions last weekend 1/29 at SQLSaturday #57 in Houston. Below are links to the slides and/or code for those sessions. If you were able to catch one of my sessions I would appreciate any feedback you can give by commenting on this post or on SpeakerRate.com.
SQLSaturday #57 was great. It’s only about a 4 hour drive from Dallas, so I headed out about 12:30 and picked up Tim Mitchell (Blog|Twitter) and Drew Minkin (Blog|Twitter) on the way. The weather was great the entire weekend which made for a pleasant drive. We arrived at the church about 1.5 hours before the speaker dinner to get the lay of the land and see if any help was needed. The Houston team Nancy Wilson (Blog|Twitter), Jonathan Gardner (Blog|Twitter), and Malik Al-Amin (Twitter) had everything under control so we headed to the hotel to check-in before the speaker dinner.
The speaker dinner was held at the Outback Steakhouse. It was a little cramped for space, but that was also a good thing because it meant a high attendance. The Houston group really took care of us by not only providing appetizers, but buying our meals as well. Thank you guys very much for that! The dinner was a great time where I was able to catch up with people from the SQL community I only get to see at these events. I also got to meet a lot of new people and put faces with Twitter handles. After everything was wrapped up, Tim and I went back to the hotel bar to have a beer with Patrick LeBlanc (Blog|Twitter). I’ve wanted to meet Patrick ever since I presented a SQLLunch session. We had a great time getting to know each other and some awesome conversations that will yield some future benefits for the community. If you want free training you absolutely need to check out SQLLunch.com.
Tim and I were up at 6 the next morning getting ready to head out and pick up some others from the Dallas crew that were staying at another hotel. I don’t travel much so I didn’t sleep well at all. I probably only slept for about 4 hours that night. Anyway, the venue was the Bammel Church of Christ and it was an awesome venue. I hope the Houston crew is able to use it for next year. The opening and closing ceremonies were held in the youth building which was huge and space was certainly not an issue. That room and one other room in the youth building were used for sessions. Everything else was in the main building. This building was perfect for a SQLSaturday because all the rooms for sessions were around the outside with a huge space in the middle. That space was awesome for networking between sessions as well as lunch.
Speaking of lunch, Houston stayed true to the Texas way by having BBQ catered. The lunch was fantastic. They also had Panera Bread bring in fruit, breads, juice, and coffee in the morning. To top it all off they had an afternoon snack of cookies, water, and assorted sodas. I would say they hit it out of the park on the food front.
At the end of the day, they had the customary closing ceremony and raffle. This was probably the only pain point I saw, and to be honest the raffle is a tough one to organize. One part of why this is a tough thing is that there are two facets (PBM pun intended) to the raffle. First you have the general raffle that includes items the user group has obtained like books and items from sponsors who only provided SWAG and had no physical presence. The second part are the sponsor raffles for those sponsors who took names at their table and had a physical presence. The sponsor raffle is an easy one because you have them pull the winners on stage themselves. The general raffle is the tricky part. Houston put raffle tickets in each attendee bag, which sounds low maintenance until you realize how much attrition you had. In addition to those who registered and did not show, are those attendees that only came for part of the day or left early. What you end up with is calling out ticket numbers one after the other with no one to claim it. Fortunately Nancy Wilson did a great job of improvising on the spot.
In Dallas last year we used speaker evaluation forms for the general raffle drawing. That seemed to work fairly well because those people willing to fill out evaluations were more likely to attend the closing ceremony. We still had “no shows”, but to a lesser extent. Tim and I talked about this at great length on our drive back and I think we came up with a good solution. If it works at our next SQLSaturday in Dallas, I will certainly blog and let everyone know.
Overall this was a very successful SQLSaturday, and my hat is off to the Houston Area SQL Server User Group.