I’m heading out on a tour through Europe to speak at SQLRally Nordic and SQLBits London. Here’s what the schedule looks like:
- Weds, Feb 25 – fly out of Chicago to Frankfurt.
- Thurs – fly from Frankfort to Copenhagen.
- Fri-Sun – enjoy a weekend in Copenhagen and adjust to the jet lag.
- Mon – teach an all-day pre-conference class at SQLRally Nordic.
- Tues – teach a one-hour conference session.
- Weds AM – fly from Copenhagen to London, get to the conference hotel on the other side of town.
- Thursday – teach an all-day pre-conference class at SQLBits.
- Friday – teach a one-hour conference session.
- Saturday – teach another one-hour conference session.
- Sunday very early AM – fly from London to Newark to Atlanta to Augusta, Georgia for a client where I’ll show up Monday morning, jet lag be damned.
Here’s how I make a trip like this work:
The conference organizers help tremendously. The folks who run Rally and SQLbits coordinated their planning so that I could make the timing of everything work. We had lots of emails back and forth leading up to the event announcements so that I could make sure I could teach at both events. This makes the financial part way easier because…
European conferences aren’t sales opportunities for me. The vast, vast majority of our clients are US-based. I’m happy if I happen to pick up a client or two during a European trip, but that’s not why I go. I go because I get a weekend in Copenhagen (a city I really love), I get to see parts of two great conferences, and I get to catch up with a lot of European friends in the SQL Server industry. Therefore…
The trip’s numbers have to work. I lose a week of consulting revenue, plus half of the prior week. I’m really, really anal-retentive about the quality of my conference sessions, and I won’t present under the influence of jet lag. That means I’ll only fly business class (where a 6’3″ guy stands a chance of sleeping on the plane), and I have to fly over a few days early to acclimate to the time zone changes. Between the flights, hotels, meals, and revenue, I need to make at least $10k USD to break even. To do that…
I have to promote the trip to my readers. As a pre-con speaker, I get paid a fee for each attendee in my class, so a big part of making the numbers work is on me. I can’t just rely on the conference organizers – they’ve got an insane amount of work to do on their own, and they’re volunteers! I put a lot of thought into designing the right abstract and recording a promo video. Next, I launch it via our mailing list and our training class pages. Leading up to the event, I send monthly targeted emails to readers who are located within driving distance of the event.
On this trip, the numbers work great. I’ve got 150 attendees at Bits, and 110 in Copenhagen. Depending on the conference and the exchange rate, a speaker gets $75-$150 USD per pre-con attendee. It sounds like a hell of a lot – and it is – but this isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve worked hard to gradually build up a reputation and a routine to succeed. And it can all go wrong fast…
I expect travel mishaps and mayhem. Sometimes these complicated trips go horribly wrong. I travel with two days of clothes in a carryon so that if the airline loses my bag, I can still make things work with a combination of dry cleaning and a fast trip to the store. I bring two laptops in case one dies. On tight trips like this, I travel with a printed list of alternate flights and contact phone numbers so that I can quickly adapt to flight problems.
When things go perfectly, I’m ecstatic. When they go awry, I’m still pretty happy because this is what I get paid to do, and I love it.