Phew! It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m starting to feel relatively normal again after a few hectic days doing the final prep work for yesterday’s SQLSaturday #136 here in Wellington, New Zealand.
In the Beginning
Preparation for the event started 3 months ago with Rob Farley asking whether I’d be interested in organising a SQLSaturday event in Wellington, as part of a “SQLSaturday ANZ Tour” that he was keen to co-ordinate.
There were 5 sister–events planned across Australia, and over the following weeks and months all the various organisers had several catch-ups (voice conferences, online meetings, etc) to figure out things like branding, sponsorship levels, speakers, etc. It was quite useful having a range of opinions and view-points to draw from.
My first issue was finding a venue that wasn’t going to break the bank, and that would comfortably accommodate the 100-or-so attendees I was hoping to attract.
I’ve attended a few Code Camps and past PASS events at the Whitireia Polytechnic campus in Porirua, and a colleague of mine, Moana – who was my right-hand-(wo)man in organising this thing – was a former student of the Polytech, and so had some good connections to tap into.
We quickly found out that they were happy to have us back, and wouldn’t charge us a thing! Very nice. I honestly don’t think we could’ve found a better venue regardless of how much we had paid. Sure, it’s not in the central city, but the combination of spacious facilities, technical know-how, super-star staff willing to bend over backwards to help set everything up, and the free price tag made it a no-brainer.
The venue sorted, my next concern was being able to find enough quality speakers, and my fears seemed justified as the call-for-speakers went out and just 2 or 3 sessions dribbled in over the next week or two.
In fact, I think the speakers were just screwing with my sanity, because most seemed to wait until the call-for-speakers period was nearly over before submitting sessions.
I was pleasantly surprised at not just the number of sessions submitted for our humble little Wellington event, but also the quality.
I knew quite a few of the speakers, and had seen most of them present at previous PASS, Tech Ed or user group events, and so knew we were well sorted for quality sessions. My biggest concern now was choosing which sessions to cut (fortunately I could squeeze in at least 1 session from most of the speakers who submitted).
In the end we had (in alphabetical order):
- Clive Trott
- Dave Dustin
- Jannie Muller
- Kent Chenery
- Martin Catherall
- Paul te Braak
- Paul White
- Peter Ward
- Reza Rad
- Rob Farley
- Roger Noble
Massive thanks again to these folks for making the effort to prepare, and in some cases travel long distances, to present at our SQLSaturday event.
It was an early start, with me wondering why I thought it was a good idea to catch up with some of the speakers (and a couple of my colleagues) for a few drinks the night before. Next time I’ll definitely wait until the Saturday night before “unwinding”.
I had my 2 older daughters running around with me sticking up signs around the venue, while Moana and my wife organised the registration area. Before I knew it there was a queue of attendees lined up and collecting their name tags, raffle tickets, etc.
It was all on!
Moana very kindly did a quick welcome and house-keeping session outside in the atrium area, after which we jumped straight into the 1st sessions. We ran 2 tracks of 7 sessions each, one slightly more focused on BI-related topics, although there was some overlap. We didn’t hold back, and opened up with the big guns; Peter Ward and Rob Farley going head-to-head, with both getting good turn outs.
I ran around like a blue-arsed-fly (as they say) for most of the day, so didn’t spend more than 10 minutes in any one session, which was a pity since there were at least half a dozen that I would’ve loved to have seen!
By the end of the day we’d lost probably half of our attendees – it was a long day and perhaps I tried to fit in too much in too little time, but all good to know for next time. So apologies to Reza and Peter who were speaking in that final slot, and so had less of an audience than earlier sessions.
About 20 of us (attendees, volunteers, & speakers) headed to a local Asian Restaurant for a meal and a few drinks to celebrate a busy day.
I can’t report on any misbehavior because I called it quits by 9:30pm (my bed was calling me) – but I know that at least a few speakers were planning an all-nighter due to an early flight making any sleep pointless. I’ll need to make enquiries as to how they got on.
Yet another big thanks to everyone who made this possible; those who presented, attended, or helped in any other way. Thanks to my employer (Trade Me) for not only being a sponsor, but also for giving me the time to organise things – and apologies to anyone in the office who’s print jobs were held up by my many runs to the printer for name badges, tickets, signs, etc.
All in all an enjoyable event, and something I’d (probably) be happy to do again in future – if the attendees got value from it (guess I’ll need to review the feedback forms). If you are reading this and attended (or presented), and have any comments, feel free to leave them below or email them directly to me.