What does it take to run a SQL Saturday?

To be honest, I have no idea what the organization entails, nor do I know what the SQL Saturday organizers have to go through.

The one thing I do know is that it takes volunteers. Just think about everything that happens on the day before, and the day of the event.
1) Coordinating the facility
2) Setting out signage
3) Admitting attendees, speakers, and vendors
4) Dealing with registration / FAST Pass problems
5) Handing out SWAG bags
6) Providing breakfast
7) Setting up vendor tables
8) Presenting
9) Room monitoring
10) Serving lunch
11) Clean up lunch
12) Technical troubleshooting
13) Speaker cancellations
14) Volunteer cancellations
15) Speaker dinner
16) Raffle drawing
17) After partying
18) Clean up Signage
19) Clean up rooms
20) Clean up vendor area
21) Clean up registration area
22) More that I haven’t thought of or experienced!

I had to the list off there, I honestly feel that with more than 5 minutes of thought behind it I could have gone on and on. Last year, I think it was my 2nd SQL Saturday I volunteered to help Registration since I was already in the area. This year I went to a few @MADPASS meeting when they started to plan the event and saw a bit of what it took to begin planning and I realized that I wanted to volunteer even more. For SQL Saturday #287 in Madison I volunteered to do Early Registration, Monitor 2 sessions, and help clean up. It still didn’t feel like it was enough, but I wanted to share my experience.

Early Registration:
Registration volunteers are the first faces guests will see, and we have to be ready for all of the questions from the SQL Saturday newbie, to the experienced presenter. For me it was important to think of what I wanted to know. Locations: Restrooms, keynote address, class rooms, speaker room, vendor booths, vendor coordinator, breakfast. Many people are coming to the event from far away and after a long drive will likely want to hit the restrooms and grab some coffee. I made sure to tell everyone I helped where these locations were, but I was also able to answer questions about the other locations as needed. As the Keynote Presentation drew near I began emphasizing its location so attendees wouldn’t miss it.

Benefit: I get to see a little of what happens behind the scenes. I also get to meet organizers, and what may be the most important benefit I got to meet some people without trying to come up with a reason to approach them. We’re all just standing there waiting to do our jobs, why not introduce yourself and have a few people to say hi to throughout the day!

Room Monitor:
I had it easy I will admit. The presentations I monitored were in the same room, and following each other. The equipment worked flawlessly, and the presenters kept their own time. Really all I had to do at the end was collect evaluations and give them to the presenters. However I was prepared to help in any situation. I had the phone number of the coordinator whom I could text should we have techinical problems. I introduced myself to the presenter and asked if they needed anything. These people are preparing their slides and equipment, as well as entertaining the room. If they need a drink or some food it’s the least I can do since I’m not willing to stand up and be the focus! I ensured everyone could submit evaluations by placing piles of the forms throughout the room and prior to attendess leaving I stood up and asked them to pass the forms to the end after they filled them out. This reminds them to take time to do it and lets them know where to put them.

Benefit: Hopefully you can monitor a session that interests you, and if so then when you’ve introduced yourself to your presentor you now have a relationship with someone that may know more than you about a topic you are working on. What a great resource! For example, I attended a session on using Ola Hallengren’s scripts. I already use them on my own Development machine, but haven’t implemented them into production because I didn’t have a great understanding of them. Jason Carter w|t was presenting on their use and although I didn’t get a chance to interact with Jason during the event, we were able to hang out that evening and I know I can not only email him re: Ola’s scripts, but I now have a good friend to visit when I go to Tampa!

Clean Up:
After everyone leaves rooms have to be tidied up, sponsor tables have to be broken down, trash cleaned up, signs recovered, and equipment carried back out to cars. It is a massive undertaking that is only eased by volunteers. The more the better. There is always something to do and organizers are greatful for help. Once the event is over, everyone wants to take a breath, and relax with food and a drink. The organizers who have given so much time already can’t until this last task is completed and so its very appreciated when people can step up to help them get it done and get to dinner!

Benefit: Again it’s an opportunity to meet people because you are performing a task with them. For the introverts that find it difficult to introduce themselves for fear of having to come up with “small talk” this presents an excellent opportunity to just talk as you work. Eye contact isn’t necessary and you can keep it simple and quick. But you may find it more appealing to attend the after party knowing someone that will be there. I am married to an introvert and I truely understand the difficulty for some to engage in these social situations. Volunteering is an easy way to integrate with the community!

After volunteering I feel a more solid connection to my Wisconsin based SQL Server User Groups (MADPASS w|t, WISSUG, FoxPASS w|t, BI Professionals – Wisconsin, and Western Wisconsin PASS w|t). I enjoyed volunteering, and as a result I offered to help with the organizing of the event next year. Volunteering is an addiction, and the best part is the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Jump in!

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