February 18, 2015 by Mike Hillwig
I (not so) secretly love organizing SQL Saturday events. Something about organizing all of those details feeds my inner control freak. My OCD thrives. It’s fun to start out a year in advance with nothing more than a date and landing with an event that provides hundreds of hours of free training to my local user community. SQL Saturday Boston 2015 will be my fourth event. And in the four events I’ve run, one truth prevails.
I hate doing speaker selection.
Speaker selection is the most unpleasant part of organizing any event, and it never gets easier. At no point will everyone be happy. Our venue gives us the space to have at most five tracks. And when you break down an eight hour day into one hour blocks, including time between each session, and allowing for lunch, a keynote, opening, and raffles, you come down to having no more than 35 slots for sessions. For this event, we had more than 100 sessions submitted. Do the math. It’s not fun.
This year, I was incredibly fortunate. The people who submitted to speak were all exceptional, including more than three dozen MVPs, chapter leaders, Microsoft employees, and SQL Server bloggers. I knew that I wanted them all. That’s when I gave up the idea of scheduling them and just started circling the names of who would be speaking. The sessions would fall in line later. (And I hope they do.) Ultimately, I landed with 32 speakers that I knew I really wanted. Suddenly, it got a lot easier. I picked the best session from each of those speakers and called it a schedule.
Keep in mind that our event is the weekend before the Boston Marathon. We actually considered changing the date of our event because we didn’t think we could get speakers. Both hotels and flights are more expensive.
One of the challenges of dealing with speakers is that you get a lot of people who speak at multiple events. They get flooded with emails. And certain mail hosting platforms (Hello, Google!) are notorious for marking email from sqlsaturday.com as spam. Once I had my schedule, I had to let all of my speakers know they’ve been chosen. If I did it from the SQL Saturday tools, I knew a few would slip through the cracks. So I had to do it the old fashioned way. I printed my schedule, sent an email to everyone I wanted to speak, and asked them to confirm.
What you’re looking at isn’t a BINGO card, but it could be. When I sent the email out, I checked off every speaker who responded. As speakers responded, I marked them off. In the next few days, I’ll follow up with people who don’t respond.
SQL Saturday Boston 2015 is really coming together. My user community is going to have one incredible day of training. And if you’re looking for more inexpensive training, make sure you check out events that week from our friends at Brent Ozar Unlimited and Data Inspirations.