First, we had an amazing number of volunteers. I had just about 24 volunteers at my disposal, and they made quick work of a lot of things. Although the setup period was pretty hectic even with 6-8 people coming in around 7 AM to help, it would have taken a lot longer had I done it myself, and the quality would not have been nearly as good. I had plans for what the volunteers would do but left it to them to adapt, improvise, and overcome when necessary. And they did a fantastic job of that.
If you ever have a chance to run the volunteer committee at a SQL Saturday, I highly recommend putting together a checklist and assigning people before the event. I had proctors for every room, people who were available to proctor or help out, and volunteering veterans who could basically own entire sections of the conference, leaving me to float around, help out with the occasional crisis, greet people, and chat with friendly faces.
Total event attendance was somewhere around 160 people. That’s a pretty big drop from last year (approximately 240), but we had a few countervailing factors. The biggest issue was that we ended up being on the same day as Orlando’s SQL Saturday, and Orlando is a huge event. Our venue determined the date, as that was the only day they had available, and so we went forth with it regardless. I think we also scheduled a bit too close to PASS Summit, which hurt sponsorship a bit.
Speaking of venue, we were at William Peace University. I was afraid that the relatively spread-out room numbers would be confusing to people, but again, the volunteers really stepped up, hand-writing signs to help direct people to various places and guide people along the way. I heard great things about lunch—I ended up taking my wife and dad out to a restaurant a few minutes away from the university—and although there were a couple of technical glitches, the rooms worked out well for us.
On the sponsorship side, we had about 66% of our previous year’s sponsorship totals up until the Thursday before the event, when Microsoft sponsored us at a Platinum level. That gave us a huge monetary boost that we are going to put to good use. But because that came so late, we ended up not getting attendee t-shirts this year; maybe next year.
Lunch was very interesting, and I’m going to start asking around at other SQL Saturdays to see if this is the new norm. This year, we had 258 people register. Of those 258, we officially comped 28 lunches, although the real number was closer to 38 after adding volunteers. Of the 220 regular attendees who registered, 123 chose to bring their own lunch. We only had 107 lunches ordered, and approximately 79 paid for. In other words, more than half the people chose not to get a lunch. Maybe this is because we bumped the rate to $15, and because I’ll be in Charlotte next week, I’d love to check their numbers.
Last year, we ended up losing about $1000 or so on SQL Saturday. This year, we were able to cover all costs of the event, give out $1100 in raffle prizes, and still have money left over to invest in TriPASS. I’ll talk about these in a future blog post, but my rough estimate is that we’ll have almost $2500 to invest into the organization, a huge amount and way above anything I ever could have imagined.
All in all, I don’t think I could have been happier with the event. We put on a fantastic event full of great training, gave away a lot of stuff, and there were a lot of smiles on faces. I couldn’t ask for anything more.