Last weekend, I had the privilege of speaking at SQLSaturday Houston. Allen Kinsel, Devon Leann, Joe Hellsten, and so many more volunteers did a fantastic job of putting on a totally free event for hundreds of attendees.
I’ve never organized one of these events myself – I’m just not that ambitious – but because I get to see some of what goes on behind the scenes on event day, I want to give you a quick peek at just how much selfless work these volunteers do for you, dear reader.
Here’s just a sampling of the work they have to do before the event:
- Find a venue – which is surprisingly hard to find one space with multiple classrooms, projectors, WiFi, and keep costs as low as possible
- Announce a call for speakers
- Line up sponsors – companies who are willing to fork out money to pay for your free training
- Recruit volunteers who are willing to work leading up to the event, plus on the day of the event, and may not be able to even see the sessions they wanna see
- Pick the sessions, trying to curate a well-rounded agenda and foster local speakers
- Plan coffee and hydration for attendees, get a lunch caterer
- Get bags for attendees, and coordinate sponsors who want to put swag in attendee bags
- Deal with accounting/banking/paperwork for all this, trying not to lose money or go into personal debt for cost overruns
- Email speakers, sponsors, and attendees leading up to the event so they have the right travel logistics
- Decide whether to do online speaker feedback (which attendees rarely use) or print the feedback forms (which attendees use and speakers love, but takes more work)
- Help vendors ship their booth gear to the closest location, even to the volunteers’ houses and the volunteers drag the stuff into the event
- Stuff hundreds of attendee bags full of sponsor swag
- If there’s extra money, maybe do a speaker dinner or drinks
And then on the day of the event:
- Bring in the coffee, breakfast, water, snacks
- Coordinate with sponsors to set up tables and raffle entries, make sure the sponsors are happy campers and will come back next year
- Put signage around the venue so attendees know where to park (remember, hundreds of people)
- Put signage inside the venue showing which sessions are where
- Set up the speaker room and make sure all the speakers showed up
- Check in attendees, helping some folks print their entries, give them their bags
- Coordinate volunteer room monitors
- Help speakers who didn’t bring the right cables, or who have projector problems
- Find speakers who can cover for no-show speakers
- Help the lunch caterer set up and tear down
- Run a raffle drawing to help promote the sponsors
- Clean up the venue after it finishes
- If there’s extra money, maybe do an attendee party afterwards
If you’ve attended SQLSaturday, and if you got value out of it, you should think about volunteering to help put the next one on. SQLSaturday runs on the backs of regular people just like you. Speaking isn’t the only way to help – and in fact, I think the speakers might just have the easiest job at the conference.
Wanna help? Find a nearby upcoming SQLSaturday. The event page will have a call for volunteers. You should volunteer. You’ll be exhausted afterwards, but incredibly fulfilled. These people are just like you, and they make a huge difference in the SQL Server community.
They are the SQL Server community.