SQLSaturday

SQLSaturday Indy 2014 – Return of the Jedi

My first SQLSaturday organizer experience blog was called “SQLSaturday Indy Episode 2: A New Hope“.  The next year I just couldn’t resist and did “SQLSaturday 242 – The Empire Strikes Back“.  I have to finish out the trilogy thus the reason for the blog post name.  I’m sorry if you were lured here in hopes that there were gals in metal bikinis or Ewoks at SQLSaturday Indy.  Sadly there was nothing Star Wars related at all but I did Game of Thrones geek out with the room names.  To tie the title in though, I am getting better at this SQLSaturday organizer role so if you want to call me a jedi, I won’t be mad at ya.

***

I was again at the helm leading the organization of SQLSaturday Indianapolis.  It was my second year fully leading the effort.  It definitely was a little different this year, going in with last year’s experience under my belt.  I was a little more calm knowing how the whole process worked and didn’t have that fear of what I didn’t know constantly getting to me.  I also made sure to keep really good notes including some of the various communications sent out.  That was helpful as I didn’t have to start from scratch on many of them.  Most importantly I also knew early on to pull in some help.  I have a saint of a mother in law, Pam/Mamaw, who last year helped me as well.  What I didn’t tell folks though was that I called her in a panic Friday morning before the event last year.  She offered (or I begged, I can’t remember) to help again this year.  She helped with so many of the logistics of prepping the many materials and various other things.  There are many things take a decent amount of time that I underestimated last year.  They aren’t difficult but are tedious/time consuming.

Saint Pam/Mamaw
Saint Pam/Mamaw

Here’s a list of such things for any new organizers:

1. Stuffing of bags/packets for attendees

2. Preparing the gift bags for speakers

3. Printing the schedules

4. Cutting speaker session evals

5. Cutting event session evals

6. Cutting SpeedPASSes for speakers and preparing lanyards

 

The Recap

Friday I take off work so Pam and I start bright and early.  She had the good idea to wait to get drinks that morning so we only have to unload them the one time at the venue.  We do that and then get those and all the various paraphernalia to Indiana Wesleyan.  We get done and have some lunch while I go through my many lists of to do items.  I was a little uneasy at how smooth it was going compared to last year.  I even had time to head home for a bit and get ready for the speaker dinner.  Last year I was so rushed I had to buy a shirt on the way to the speaker dinner as I sweat through the first one.  Classy egh?

 

We had the speaker dinner at a local restaurant called Oobatz.  I had been working with the owner, Kirk, who was absolutely great!  As great as he was I had only visited once and had drinks.  Having not ate there made me a little nervous, you know me…want to take good care of my sql peeps!  I had NOTHING to worry about though.  The food was great and the service was excellent.  I highly recommend that spot, especially if you have a large party.  Tell Kirk I sent ya.  Having 29 beers on tap doesn’t hurt either though I mostly pushed my favorite local brew, Triton Railsplitter, on everyone at the party.

Speaker dinner at Oobatz
Speaker dinner at Oobatz

So Saturday starts bright and early.  My husband, Rod, and daughter, Ashlyn, came with me again this year to help.  I was working out some last minute schedule changes (thank you Kathi (Twitter|blog) again for taking another session super late in the game).  Due to that I was a little later than I wanted to getting out the door.  Rod was so great and talked me off the ledge while on the way there.  I was a bit on edge when I was trapped in the car.  I really love it that SQLSaturday Indy has become a family affair.  It just means the world to me that my family can be a part of it.  They may feel like SQLSaturday hijacks our life a bit but they don’t let on at all and I love them even more for it!  Us in the community understand SQLfamily and we know why we do these crazy things.  My family jumps in and helps not seeing that side at all.  They do it without question, just because they love me and are awesome people.  That’s family, right there!  Thank you all again from the bottom of my heart!

Family.
Family.

Where was I?  Ah so I was like 5 minutes late and I arrive and my volunteers and Pam are already at work getting drinks in coolers and registration setup.  I love my people.  Ok, enough love fest.  It’s a bit crazy getting setup and going and ready for the masses.  We can’t get in the venue until 7:00 and folks are set to show up at 7:30 so it’s a total mad dash.  We move like a finely tuned machine.  Katie, Aaron, and their boys (another family affair) help with checking folks in with others.  Brandon was awesome setting up coolers and other vital logistics.  Ashlyn and Mamaw/Pam are getting the sponsors all set.  I’m at the SpeedPASS printing table of shame and doing the directing.  Things are crazy but it went about as well as it could have.  I had more help than tasks and stuff got DONE!  I can’t give enough props to the team that helped!  You are all amazing and wonderful and all things great!

My wonderful, fabulous volunteers
My wonderful, fabulous volunteers

The day winds down a bit and able catch our breath.  The next craziness to make it through is lunch.  It went well I think but just takes time to feed the masses.  We had some good sessions going and think the word got out better than last year to disperse to other rooms.  Day moves on really well from there.  The last hurdle then comes with the raffles.  We had such great prizes from sponsors.  And not to toot my own horn but I thought prizes were good from the SQLSaturday group too.  We took the printer idea a little further this year and bought more items we needed for the day and raffled them off.  So we raffled off a printer (only used for printing SpeedPASSes and other items used that day), a couple nice monitors (Twitter feed/sponsor slides that never got setup in chaos), and a Keurig we had setup in the speaker ready room.  I just love the use and raffle approach on prizes.

This is what the thought "there's no way I pronounced that right" looks like
This is what the thought “there’s no way I pronounced that right” looks like
Aww there's a happy winner!
Aww there’s a happy winner!

We get cleaned up and out of the venue pretty quickly and then some of us head over to Scotty’s Brewhouse for some food and de-stressing.  Next is the after party.  I had setup for karaoke to start early for us at Tilly’s Pub and Grill.  Oh those crazy kids, how they love the #sqlkaraoke.  A really nice end to a great event, full of great family, great sqlfamily, great speakers, great volunteers, great sponsors.  It was all just…great!  I am really proud to be a part of bringing SQLSaturday to Indianapolis.

David and Wendy doing up some karaoke.
David and Wendy doing up some karaoke.
Frank doing his interpretation of Janet Jackson's "Nasty". Yes it IS as good as you're thinking!
Frank doing his interpretation of Janet Jackson’s “Nasty”. Yes it IS as good as you’re thinking!

Lessons learned this year:

1.  Don’t print the schedule until you are done messing with it.  I try to send in at least one my attendee communications to registered attendees to have them use schedule builder on the site.  It helps to get an indication of how popular sessions could be and can adjust those to have larger rooms.  Every year I think I know what folks want to see, but normally I have several sessions that surprise me and I’m WAY off.  I let my knowledge of the speakers cloud my judgment time and time again.  It works better getting some indication from outside parties.  I wish there was a way to get info from Guidebook but until then Schedule Builder works.  So the problem was that I printed the schedule before doing this check/room switch.  Wasn’t major issue but had to print them again and the tree hugging hippie in me cried a bit at the wasted paper/trees.

2.  A new thing I learned this year was that a SpeedPASS for a vendor will print even if they didn’t pay.  We had a sponsor sign up for 2 levels of sponsorship.  They paid one of them naturally.  I didn’t remove the unused sponsor entry assuming that it was harmless.  It wasn’t until very late that noticed they had 2 SpeedPASS raffle tickets.  I left them with 2 as didn’t want to have some folks with 2 chances at a prize, and some with one.  Figured more fair that all had 2 chances.  Not a very common scenario no doubt, but a tidbit for my fellow organizers.

3.  Make sure in the communications to attendees to have them print AND cut out their tickets.  We had many well intentioned folks who listened to my many emails pleading to print their SpeedPASSes but did not cut the raffle tickets.  So these folks were hung up cutting out tickets.  Also make sure to let them know the process for raffle tickets at the events.  We had some at the end of the day not knowing what to do with the tickets.

Kathi looks to be having fun in her session
Kathi looks to be having fun in her session

4.  I was trying to do a New Speaker buddy system that Nic Cain (Twitter|blog) referenced here.  I had good intentions but didn’t have the best organization with that portion.  Next year I will make sure to try to formalize that a bit more.  Speakers also make sure that you READ the communications organizers send.  I had many new speakers that I didn’t find out about that were first time speakers until the speaker dinner or even later.

5.  I knew in past and from experiences at other SQLSaturdays to try to have food set out to allow for at least 2 lines.  I would always hate to see tables lined up against the wall with food as it forces only one line.  We had the table where you could do that.  If you can set food to allow more (i.e. same food 2 tables, allowing 4 lines).  We didn’t have major issues but the faster you can feed that many people, the better. Looking back now I think we could have managed to setup more lines.

6.  Make sure to put in communications that the schedule has changed or is subject to.  It is just bound to happen, it’s just part of it.

I'll let you guys caption this one of Steve.
I’ll let you guys caption this one of Steve.

7.  Make sure to touch base with your sponsors at the event on how they want to handle raffle tickets.  Some sponsors will take tickets with them and scan them.  Others may want them mailed to them.  Others accidentally leave them.  And some just don’t care to keep them at all.  I plan to put some info on that to sponsors in communications next year.

8.  Never rely only on email communications alone.  Folks don’t read email.  Sure many do, but many also don’t.

Good times getting learn on at SQLSaturday Indy
Good times getting learn on at SQLSaturday Indy

9.  Get someone else to do opening/closing remarks.  I have just come to terms that I am not good at it.  I can chat folks up informally or in a session but when it comes to remarks stuff, I am just damn terrible.  I am frazzled and just worried about getting ‘er done.  I need like a host of the Grammy’s type person to do it up right next year.

10.  Check for duplicate speakers before making any orders.  There are some in the system as similar but different names.  I know I had some with multiple sessions and seems they were in twice.

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PASS Summit, Presentations, Uncategorized

PASS Summit 2013 – Part 1

Monday – travel day

Ah Summit time!  The biggest and best time to meet up with SQLfamily.  You always get pockets of SQLfamily at SQLSaturdays throughout the year but this is the time when EVERYONE is there for an all out SQLfamily reunion.  This year was a little special too…it was my first year going as a speaker!  Even on the way to the airport I could feel the difference, I had never left for Summit with presentation anxiety.  I had a one hour delay on the way to Charlotte but even then was much less time to get there than Seattle.  It was a nice change of pace too to be on the same time zone as home.  I get to hotel, drop my stuff in room, and immediately head out to try find people.  I was excited to start having those “heey, long time no see” moments.  I went over to Buffalo Wild Wings for the very end of the networking party hosted by Andy Warren (blog|twitter) and Steve Jones (blog|twitter).  I definitely found plenty of “hey” moments there.  You have to give yourself extra time to get anywhere at Summit due to those moments.  From there folks decided they wanted to try to do some sqlkaraoke and we walked a few blocks to try to find a place called Dixie’s.  We walk up to it and find it was closed, permanently closed so decided to head back go to Carolina Ale House.  We had amassed a fairly large group by that time and the folks at the Ale House were not prepared, staff-wise.  Maybe it was just coincidence in the locations we chose but for being in close proximity to the convention center, places seemed unprepared for such a large conference.  Next time the conference moves from Seattle it may help to make some calls into the local establishments for warnings if that wasn’t already done.  From there we just ended up having drinks at the hotel bars and hanging out there.

Room full of crazy/dedicated SQLSaturday organizers
Room full of crazy/dedicated SQLSaturday organizers

Tuesday

Wake up fairly early and head over to grab a crepe with my good friend, Colin Stasiuk (blog|twitter).  I then get registered and spend a little more time preparing for presentation.  After that I went over for the SQLSaturday organizers meeting.  It was a good meeting but it’s always hard to move mountains in meetings that large.  There was mention of some changes coming to the website.  If anyone has recommendations for changes they are collecting them now.  I was also intrigued by a mentoring program that was mentioned for organizers.  I have a circle of people I know who organize and I reach out to with questions so have created my own organic circle/support group.  I would be afraid there are folks out there floundering without one so seems like a great idea to me.  That and I always hated to be constantly bugging Karla (blog|twitter).

Quiz Bowl prep
Quiz Bowl prep
Amazes me every year the number of First Timers at Summit.
Amazes me every year the number of First Timers at Summit.

After the meeting I went through more prep for my presentation.  At this point I was EXTREMELY nervous!  Trying for so long to be accepted as a speaker at the Summit, the idea of it not going well just about make me sick to my stomach.  Going back and doing a run through and saying the words out loud in my room helped calm the nerves.  I did that until it was time to head over to convention center to prepare for the Quiz Bowl at the welcome reception.  I was very honored to be asked to participate in it this year by Tim (blog|twitter).  So we do some preparation and then head over to get ready to welcome the first timers.  Had some good conversations with my group even though I looked ridiculous donning a spinning beany hat.  They always try to help folks locate the volunteers and I’m sure someone somewhere had fun with the decision for those hats.  Then it was Quiz Bowl time and we had fun even though we didn’t win for our contestant.  Next I went to the volunteer party at Strike City, a bowling alley.  After catching up with folks there and a terrible display of bowling I went over to see how things were going at Fox and Hound.  Mr. Denny Cherry (blog|twitter) was hosting a party there sponsored by SQL Sentry and SIOS.  It was packed and had a good time watching folks do karaoke.  I set a decent curfew for myself that night so headed back fairly early.  No way I wanted to be super tired for my presentation the next day.

My view from Quiz Bowl
My view from Quiz Bowl
The very busy Fox and Hound SQLKaraoke party
The very busy Fox and Hound SQLKaraoke party
SQLSaturday, Uncategorized

SQLSaturday 232 – SQLSaturday in the Land of Tourists

I was a little later than normal getting this post out since I literally got a new job the day after getting back from SQLSaturday 232 (see post).  I didn’t forget you Orlando!  This was an exciting SQLSaturday for me.  It was the first time my husband went with me to a SQLSaturday outside of my local one in Indianapolis.  That one is a whole different ballgame since it’s one I organize and I put the whole family to work for me (evil slave-driver I know).  SQLSaturdays and SQLFamily are important to me so I was determined to get him introduced to these events and folks he hears so much about all the time.

***

We flew in on Friday.  I was half tempted to come earlier for some of the fantastic precons going on but decided better not.  We were already planning on staying a couple days afterward for some tourist fun.  We made it in town with plenty of time to get to Karla’s (blog|twitter) house for the speaker dinner.  God bless her, she was the main organizer of this SQLSaturday AND was brave enough to have the party at her house!  I love parties at houses, very intimate and laid back.  No way I am that brave/crazy though.

Look at all that orange!
Look at all that orange!

Next morning up early.  Not early enough to catch the early bird sessions.  They had some sessions that started at 7:30am!  That was the first time I had seen sessions that early.  I made it in time though to get situated before Jonathan Kehayias’s (blog|twitter) session.  I was on a mission to meet him and catch his session since he’s often my reference of SQL knowledge (“well I’m no Jonathan Kehayias but…”).  I accomplished both so was a happy camper.  He had a packed room for extended events session.  He showed some great stuff like how he finds the culprit of ASYNC_NETWORK_IO waits with them.

Jonathan Kehayias session on extended events
Jonathan Kehayias session on extended events

After his session was mine on spatial data.  I was anxious to get a practice run of my upcoming PASS Summit session.  It went amazingly well!  I had a really engaged audience and many who stayed late to chat more and discuss things.  I got some good feedback and some ideas to make session better for next time.  I wanted to answer all questions I had after my session so I was late to my lunch duties.  Andy Warren (blog|twitter) and the team in Orlando have a tradition of having the presenters help serve lunch which is a nice idea.

The lead chef, Andy Warren.
The lead chef, Andy Warren.
The speakers serving up the grub
The speakers serving up the grub

After lunch I went to Mike Davis’s (blog|twitter) session, “Complex DAX Functions”.  He ended up having a fairly new to PowerPivot audience so much of the beginning he had to go over basics.  He did get to some of the advanced topics such as creating a many to many relationship.  After that I went to meet Doug at the Confio booth.  It was kind of a crazy crossing of my two worlds a couple weeks earlier.  I found out one of my best friends from college had a brother who worked at Confio!  From there it was on to Mike Hillwig’s (blog|twitter) session on VLFs.  I had seen it before but well he’s just great so I went again.  I was glad I did as saw a lot of his progress on the session from before.  Nice job Mike, flow was much improved.

Mike Davis going over PowerPivot
Mike Davis going over PowerPivot
Mike Hillwig going over VLFs
Mike Hillwig going over VLFs

The last session of the day was from Tim (blog|twitter) and Amy Ford (twitter) and their experience with telecommuting.  I had been talking with BlueGranite for quite some time so I knew that telecommuting could be in my future.  I was anxious to hear what I could be in for with working from home.  I was lucky enough to get that job with BlueGranite, so have put some of them into action from the get go like having my own work space.  Next I witnessed the other tradition of Orlando SQLSaturdays which was the tossing of giveaways and swag from a decently high balcony. I forgot to ask Karla if they get extra liability insurance for this piece.  The organizer in me was squeamish at this!

20130914_163053
Tim and Amy Ford on telecommuting
Watch out now! Flying swag!
Watch out now! Flying swag!

The after party was held at 4th Street Bar and Grill where we had a nice outside section to ourselves.  After some beer and lobster mac n cheese, Karla was crazy/brave again and invited folks to their house for the after after party.  We had such a good time!  The hubby couldn’t stop talking about playing those drums for days!  Thank you to Karla/Rodney (blog|twitter) for the hospitality of your house both nights.  Thanks to Karla and the entire Orlando team for a great event!  So glad you all invited me to come speak!

PASS, Presentations

No Pity Party This Time! Selected for PASS Business Analytics Conference!

Got the best email ever!  I got accepted to speak at the PASS Business Analytics Conference!  I keep reading the email making sure I read it right.  There it is though, says “selected” right next to my submission!  It’s the first time I’ve been selected to speak at one of the big conferences!  And not for lack of trying and submitting to several over the years.  I became very accustomed to the Twitter woe is me pity parties.  No pity party required this time!

***

So I get this email and start to have a moment that felt a bit like one of those teenager movies.  I’ve been the awkward girl who’s likeable enough but always gets the response from the guys or PASS in this example, “It’s not you, it’s me”.  After much swooning and many SQLSaturdays, my time finally has come.  Jake Ryan, I mean PASS, picked me up in the Porshe and we had our moment where we sat on the table with a birthday cake between us.  Ok it’s a little bit of a stretch from a John Hughes movie but was what came to mind when I got that email.  I got accepted to speak at PASS BA Conference!  I’m so excited and so glad I finally get the chance to speak at one of these conferences.

***
PASS_BAC_I'm Speaking_Banner
Uncategorized

PASS Summit 2012 – Day 3 Recap

Wake up bright and early on the first day of the Summit, well ok it wasn’t super bright and early but early enough to try to make breakfast and still catch keynote.  My wonderful roommate, Julie Smith (blog|twitter),and I head over to try to grab a quick bite to eat before the keynote starts.  We had about 10 minutes but they shut down breakfast and the doors were locked…or so we thought.  We hadn’t gotten the lay of the land yet and assumed food was in the same place as last year, it wasn’t.  Doh moment #1.  Very much bummed about missing a meal we head to the keynote.  There were a few technical nuggets such as the next step in the road with in-memory solution Hekaton and the SQL 2012 sp1 update release.  The bright spot speaker wise was Amir Netz.  He did a good job again this year with entertaining demos and upbeat, enjoyable style.  Later there was the mention of “having a BI moment” which a Twitter did catch and run with as it very well should have.

The crowd ready for the keynote

After the keynote I was anxious to wander around and get my bearings on where things were laid out so I roamed for the first session slot.  Found the vendor area and the hub for the rest of the week, the Community Zone.  I then helped pass out maps for the chapter lunch which was entertaining.  Folks must have thought I was trying to sell them something as I had trouble with people taking free maps.  I only had to strong arm a few folks and after that went in to help represent my IndyPASS chapter.  I had some really great conversation with folks from my local area.  Many at the table were Indy locals who don’t come to meetings so was a good chance to run new ideas to pull new members by a perfect target audience.  Thank you guys for your feedback at my table that day! I also got a chance to encourage some of them there to start speaking technically after he mentioned a really exciting project one of them was doing implementing AlwaysOn.

***

Then I head over to catch a Lightning Talk session.  This one was done by Brent Ozar (blog|twitter), Amy Lewis (twitter), Mark Broadbent (blog|twitter), Rob Volk (blog|twitter), Robert Davis (blog|twitter).  Was a good thing I got there when I did…it was PACKED!  Dear PASS folks in charge of room selection, please put Lightning talks in a larger room next year.  I always try to go to those as they just aren’t the same on the DVD and better to see live.  Can’t see Brent Ozar dressed up like Bob Dylan on the DVD for sure.  I wonder how many folks are going to be super confused when watching that one on DVD now that I think about it?  “Who is this quasi southern accent raspy voice dude? Where is Brent O?”  Everyone did a good job in that session.  Mark Broadbent had some technical difficulties with the projectors but he handled it well and it kind of added to the fun of it.

Brent Ozar as Bob Dylan for Lightning Talk

From there I went to the Steve Jones (blog|twitter) and Andy Warren (blog|twitter) session on “The Mentoring Experiment”.  I love the mentoring aspect of my job so was intrigued by the topic.  Very interesting session on their experiences with the mentoring matchup program they started for SQL professionals.  A lot of tough hurdles in the process, such as match up process being handled manually by matching or random.  I gave my opinion that I don’t feel it really matters in that the match ups could be totally random.  I think mentoring is kind of like the friendship process in general.  I have varying degrees of friends and that process is a matter of chemistry that I don’t know could be formulated or worked out without interaction with the mentor/mentee.  I think if 2 people are paired up in a situation where folks want to be a part of the process, they will themselves make it as much a success as the relationship/chemistry will allow.  I always feel that there is something to learn from everyone and their experiences so no matter what good will come of the match.  Great job Andy/Steve!  That is really a great thing you guys are doing.

Steve and Andy discussing “The Mentoring Experiment”

Last session of the day I catch Jen Stirrup’s (blog|twitter) session on Mobile Business Intelligence Now.  I had never seen a session from Jen in person so was very excited to catch her.  I know she probably gets tired of folks talking about her accent but I just can’t help it.  SQL Server Reporting Services just never sounded so lovely as it does from her!  Very interesting information on how the eyes perceive information and using that to make your reports more clean/impactful.  Also had a lot of information on considerations for mobile screens.  Very good job Jen!

The just lovely Jen Stirrup

From there head for a bit to the Exhibitor reception for just a little bit.  Ran into a lot of folks and chatted up anyone who didn’t run fast enough.  They only had appetizers there so was necessary to move on to go get more sustenance.  Went over with Julie and Rob and joined in with Mark Broadbent’s group for dinner at the Tap House.  After carbo-loading on some crab mac n cheese we head over to Pragmatic Works karaoke party for a bit.  It was too crowded for my taste so I bailed to find a different scene.  Later I find out there was a roof top area that would have been more up my alley but didn’t hear about it until after already gone.  Found my way over to Pike Brewery and caught up with folks at the SQL Sentry party which was fantastic and continued to meet wonderful SQL people.  Peer pressure was high to continue on after that but I held strong out of exhaustion and called it a night after that.

Presentations, SQLSaturday, Uncategorized

SQLSaturday Indy Episode 2: “A New Hope”

Yes total cheese but after someone mentioned that title to me I couldn’t resist.  It’s very fitting though.  This was Indy’s second SQLSaturday and man it made a new Hope out of me!  I have been lucky enough to be part of a lot of SQLSaturdays but this one was my first in the role of organizer.  It was a very eye opening experience and I have so much more respect for anyone dedicated/crazy enough to do it.

SQLSaturday Eve

We were lucky enough to get Allen White to come to SQLSaturday and do a precon session.  We hosted it at PTI which was nice.  It gave us all a chance in the office to get giddy as school girls that Allen was coming to our home base.  I was a little worried though when I talked to him in Philly when he only 2 registered attendees.  I had nothing to worry about as he ended up selling out with even more folks trying to get into it.  It went really well and he did a fantastic job like he always does.  As I was in Allen’s session though I started catching tweets about the time zone difference tripping folks up (facepalm).  I didn’t even think to warn folks that Indianapolis was in the Eastern time zone.  Indiana has these weird lines for timezones and it’s super close to Chicago but we’re on different zones.  Ooops!

Allen and a full day of PowerShell…what could be better?

So right after his precon I pack up and head over to Western Bowl on the west side for the speaker dinner.  On my way I picked up a nice bottle of scotch for our main organizer, Caroline Bailey.  She deserved that and then some!  Shortly after I get there and the speakers start to show up.  We just had pizzas for dinner and then some bowling fun.  I hadn’t bowled forever and am really terrible at it but had a ball.  I felt pretty decent with the speaker dinner.  It seemed like everyone was having a good time.

Speakers bowling it up!

The Big Day

I get up extra early to get a quick workout in before heading over to the venue.  I had to navigate there like the pilgrims did as my phone decided to take a morning off from allowing me to get internet access.  I had to call my husband and ask him how to get to University of Indianapolis.  I get there and I was not prepared for the pandemonium.  Everything is going ok but with all the registrations going on with that many people in general, tends to give you the chaos vibes.  I try to get my bearings and then I begin to hear about issues with the hotel.  We had storms on Friday and apparently that caused the hotel not to have elevator service and hot water! Lovely no?!  I also hear how quality of it was not great.  My shoulders droop and I begin a long day of just feeling terrible, mostly about this.  The hot water and elevators were an act of god but quality of the hotel was on us.  I wanted to take care of all my speakers in my hometown and I felt like a giant failure.  Tried to swallow that issue and get through the rest of the day.  We then hear about issues with WiFi.  I begin trying to hunt down some IT folks to figure out what is going on without much luck.  We had some successes but WiFi was pretty much a no go and I learned to live with it.  From there I then hear about how someone is having issues with projector…of course they are!  I really begin to feel a bit defeated but carried on to the first session of the day.

***

I grab my stack of feedback sheets and head down to assist in Julie Smith’s (blog|twitter) “Data Quality Services – Finally!” session.  Just what I needed to help get my mind off all the issues, Julie’s great sense of humor and really great info.  This works for a bit and I am distracted wondering what type of a hat a data steward should have, because with a name like that you really must have a hat.  Then her session is over and she did a great job and I start collecting feedback.  I realize after that when I take the feedback up to the front area for prize drawing that I didn’t exactly tell hardly anyone to put their name on the sheet and it didn’t have a place for it.  Lovely…organizer reality comes crashing back to me.

Julie dropping knowledge on DQS

I then skip next session and try to get my bearings and figure out who needs help.  I probably was in the way more than I helped but that’s ok.  I talk with some of the speakers and do a lot of apologizing for hotel.  They were all pretty nice about it and tried not to make me feel bad, it didn’t work but was nice of them regardless.  I then catch up with my husband and daughter who came to help me out.  My hubby was going to take pictures of the event and my daughter was there so I could show her what mommy does when I’m out of town.

***

Ok then on to Shaun Watt’s (twitter) “PowerShell and PerfMon…Come on!” session.  We decided awhile back to make sure first time speakers had a friendly face in the audience to assist if they needed it.  I was that friendly face for his session.  This was his first SQLSaturday and had only given this session just the prior week for practice to the local user group.  I was glad to do this as was around the day of Christina Leo’s (blog|twitter) experience on her first time session. Nicholas Cain’s (blog|twitter) blog post on it stuck with me and took his suggestion.  Shaun did a great job on his session so didn’t need me but I felt better being there.  He does really well for being new to technical speaking.

Shaun doing his second live presentation ever!

Then on to the WIT lunch panel.  I always love going to these and honored when asked to sit in on the panels.  My sales partner in crime, Kandy Vicini, was the moderator.  On the panel I sat with Wendy Pastrick (blog|twitter), Eddie Wuerch (blog|twitter), Julie Smith, and my daughter sat with me.  She is severely shy so knew she wouldn’t speak but it was nice having her with me.  She is my own little WIT ideas in action and I at least exposed her to a technical world.  Everything went well and Kandy did a great job other than the failure of mispronouncing and not knowing who Roger Waters is of Pink Floyd.  She came armed with statistics and everything! I was very impressed with the job she did as moderator (and no not still sucking up after Atlanta incident).  The discussion turned more into one on community than women but that was OK.  It was still great conversation and a lot of information was shared with audience.

We all look amused except for Eddie.

Up next was Brent Dragoo’s (twitter) session, “Database Crime Scene Investigation”.  I was sooo looking forward to this as it was his first time doing a technical presentation.  I met and talked with him at last year’s PASS Summit and started putting that bug in his ear ever since then to speak.  He is one who is very passionate about the SQL community, well spoken, and technically savvy so I knew he would be great.  And he was and I was able to say I paid a little bit of that good karma forward for those who help nudge me along down this wonderful community path.  Even though he was an unknown speaker, his topic packed the room!  He did a good job and the symbolism he used was really great.

Brent and his first presentation ever!

Next I caught my bearings and chatted with Ted Krueger (blog|twitter) a bit on our session that was up last session of the day.  We had a speaker who unfortunately had a car wreck and was unable to make it to SQLSaturday.  I found this out on Thursday.  I had been toying with the idea of doing a professional development session for awhile on consulting.  Ted, who is inhuman for the amount of time he gives to helping folks in the community, agreed to help me with a last minute panel discussion.  So we quickly whipped up “Consulting – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly”.  For being such a rushed effort, I thought the discussion was really good and we got good feedback.  I can’t wait to do that one again and refine it a bit.  I really had a blast during that one!  We also pulled in Josh Fennessy (blog|twitter) to the session and Aarow Lowe (blog|twitter) provided a lot of great feedback as well.  Big props to Ted!  You are da man!  And thank you Josh and Aaron too!

See…this session was a riot!

Ok so then on to the awards ceremony.  That was a bit chaotic as well but worked out.  Kyle did well presenting closing remarks.  Eddie also stepped in as well to fill some time and provided a lot of comic relief.  Somehow he became the guy who you had to take a picture with when you won a prize.  By this time I started to become distracted with visions of much needed beers in my future.  One thing that I noticed though was that we did not have to re-call any names during the huge amount of prize drawings!  I thought that was really great and says a lot for the Indy tech community.  Either they are dedicated enough to learning to stay all day or really, really wanted that LANTech iPad.

***

Then on to the after party.  We were worried about funds so planned a very casual gathering for folks at the hotel restaurant.  The appetizers were good but being there in the blegh hotel just felt like salt in my wounds.  I had some good conversation with folks and many kept trying to build me back up.  Many times in the past when I have talked to organizers, they are very apologetic and I’m often confused wondering why.  I completely know how they feel now!  I kept saying “I’m sorry” over and over and folks looked at me funny and how great it was from their perspective.  They don’t feel the full weight of every little thing that went wrong.  We then moved on to a Mexican restaurant for some REAL food.  (See I learned my lesson from SQLSaturday Atlanta – never try to make a meal out of appetizers when drinking).  I think I pulled a muscle laughing so hard at dinner and mas cerveza helped me out of my down in the dumps demeanor a bit.  Some even more brave souls trekked onward to the lovely karaoke dive bar where we did have some SQL Karaoke.  My record of not singing is still intact but they put in a good effort to try to convince me again.

***

I had a great time with everyone who made it.  And again I am sorry for the bumps but as you can see I learned my lesson.  <in my best Scarlett O’Hara> And as god as my witness, speaker hotel will not be janky ever again!

***

Below are some more lessons learned as my first go as a SQLSaturday organizer:

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1. The internet is a damn liar!  Well except for this blog post of course, but I will NEVER EVER EVER trust only website photos for quality of hotel.  Always have manual inspection of hotel or only use ones people have stayed in before.

2. Always have a run through of sessions with the room proctors prior to the first session.  We didn’t have the process down for until after first session. At least have a quick huddle up with everyone to let them know of the process.  The absolute worst thing happened here due to this, at least one speaker I know didn’t get feedback.  Feedback to a speaker is like gold and should be treated that way.

3. Start early to get sponsors.  It is great that there are more and more SQLSaturdays for the community but organizers have to work harder and harder for sponsor dollars.

4. Talk to surrounding SQL Server community areas when you are deciding on dates.  Louisville’s SQLSaturday was the weekend prior to ours.  While it may have worked out for some speakers traveling, overall think we should have spaced those out better.  Also along these lines make sure someone is either a better race car fan or uses that mythical internet to verify major races aren’t the same weekend! (more facepalm)

5.  Make sure to consider topic as well as speaker for the projected audience size.  We had some rooms that were larger than others.  We miscalculated on some of the session crowds, BIG TIME!  I apologize to those who were sardines in some sessions.  An idea I had, if you are unsure, ask speakers for feedback on audiences for presentations.  There’s no guarantee with that still but better than a shot in the dark.  Also another idea I have from this is to have room proctors to get counts for future reference.

6.  Force help more on obsessed organizers.  Caroline Bailey is on our marketing and event planning team at PTI.  She plans a damn good event and did so again with our SQLSaturday.  Us in the SQL community (myself and Kyle) totally took advantage of her willingness to help and skill at event planning.  Make sure you don’t let passionate souls bear the more weight than they should.

7.  Again make sure since Indiana is weird timezone wise to remind folks that Indy is Eastern timezone.

8.  Get with the venue folks many times in advanced to check on WiFi status.  Stress importance of WiFi for technical audience and threaten life if necessary!

9.  May have been nice to have headsets to communicate with organizers.  Or at least some way to communicate via cell phones instantly.  There were several times I shrugged my shoulders to questions when could have/should have fired it off to Caroline or other committee members.  Oh the goofiness I could create wearing a headset too!

10.  Make sure to have plan B, C, and D in place for speaker fill in for cancellations.  Cancellations seem to be inevitable and need to make sure to have your backup plans in place.  Thank you so much to Wendy and Joe for doing two sessions.  And big thanks to Ted again for helping out super last minute.

***
Thanks again to all the speakers, organizers, committee, and volunteers who made SQLSaturday Indy a success!  Check out more pictures of it at http://www.flickr.com/photos/hope_foley/sets/72157630877966720/

Presentations

24 HOP…Pure Awesomeness!

Well I had to get away from everything being “da bomb” so awesomeness it is!  This past week was my presentation for 24 Hours of PASS.  The presentation gods were nice to me which was great.  Had a nervous bit in the beginning when Brett’s internet connection was acting up but that worked itself out at the last minute.  Karma keeping me on my toes I guess.  And thanks to the instant feedback I got on email and Twitter it seemed like folks dug it.  I had a goofy grin I think for the rest of the day.  I have watched so many sessions for 24HOP that it was really kind of odd in a great way to be on the other end of it.  To all the folks at PASS…thank you so much for the opportunity!  There was never a presenter who appreciated the chance more!

Here are the slides from the presentation.