I wanted to get an idea of some good, bad, and surprise experiences that people had at everything from a SQL Server User Group meeting to PASS Summit. Things you found out right before, during or even after that you were glad you did or wish you did.
SQL Saturdays are similar to PASS Summit, but much smaller in scope and budget. Most SQL Saturdays have a twitter hashtag; follow it before the event so you can get an idea of who’s attending and make plans to meet some of those people.
If your SQL Saturday has an after-party, it’s usually not heavily attended as people tend to want to get home to their families (unlike Summit, where you’re already away from home). But I definitely encourage you to go if there is one! You might even find yourself invited to an after-after-party.
I can’t say I’ve had a bad experience at a SQL Saturday, although I have sat in on a session or two that didn’t really grab my interest the way I’d hoped. And unlike PASS Summit, it’s really hard to gracefully exit the smaller rooms at SQL Saturday mid-session if you decide it’s not really for you.
The biggest surprise to me after my first couple events was the inspiration that I had coming out of the event. After each event, I have new ideas for projects, changes to make at work, blog posts, and ways to give back to the community.
- Volunteer! If you don’t sign up before the event, talk to the folks at the registration/check-in desk and ask if they need any help. Every session needs a room monitor - just someone to get a headcount, help the speaker with timing (if they want), find help for A/V issues, pass out and collect session evaluations. You’re going to be in the room anyway. This is a great way to meet both organizers and speakers - folks who are active in the community.
- If there aren’t any sessions in a timeslot that grab your attention, skip it and read the next two items.
- Network with your fellow attendees. These are folks who live and work in your area. They may become your next job lead, or your next new hire.
- Talk to the sponsors! Make sure you thank them for sponsoring. If there are sponsors whose products you currently use, ask them questions about making the most of those products. Just don’t monopolize their time; they need to talk to new people as well to justify their sponsorship dollars. I’ve been known to hang out at the SentryOne booth on more than one occasion. I’m just a very satisfied customer and love talking with them about how I’m using their products.
- If you find a session particularly engaging or relevant to your interests, catch the speaker when the session is over and say “this is really interesting and I can see myself using it this way, can we talk later?” Ask if you can connect on LinkedIn; follow them on Twitter.
- Attend the after-party (if there is one)! It’s a great way to connect with organizers, speakers, and volunteers after the stress of the day has passed. It’s a smaller, quieter environment and easier to have a longer conversation.
After SQL Saturday
Remember those people you met on Saturday? Keep that conversation going. Make contact on LinkedIn or Twitter. Do they have a blog? Follow it! For example, I met Matt at PASS Summit 2017 and we haven’t seen each other since. But we talk regularly on Twitter and we follow each others' blogs. If you’re meeting more local people (which will happen at SQL Saturday), catch up at the next user group meeting, or arrange lunch sometime.