To recap SQLSaturday Baton Rouge in one word? Huge.
After exceeding our pace of 2013's registration – an event that surprisingly blew our doors off – SQLSaturday 2014 did not disappoint with attendance, which we've officially declared at 614. From a packed atrium to standing-room-only classrooms to a raucous and hilarious day-ending raffle that distributed two Xbox One's and a PS4, it was a packed gathering of regional IT professionals that went about as smoothly as it could have.
Sparkhound was one of two Platinum level sponsors this year, and like many sponsors it is not something they took lightly. From a big booth presence (including staffing with Baton Rouge directors), to nine speakers in various tracks across the schedule (including our COO Noah Boudreaux's keynote and Field Services Director Tom Allsup's CIO-level talk), to the lanyards in each of 600 attendee bags, my employer was a big part of the success. Sparkhound has been a top sponsor of SQL Saturday Baton Rouge since the event started in 2009, and has each year fielded a long roster of Sparkie volunteers, planners and speakers at the event.
An actual attendance of roughly 2/3rds the number of registered attendees is an expected ratio. Roughly 1/3 of attendees will register in the final week before the event. Doubling the registered attendees 30 days out has been for us a decent estimation of the number of actual attendees will show up. You can see in the included Excel PowerChart how our attendance the past five years has trended from March until our regular event date in early August.
I'm also proud to see that Baton Rouge-based attendance has been steadily climbing, a function of our best marketing device – word of mouth – plus our city's growing IT presence in the region. 2014 was the first year we had more folks from inside Baton Rouge register from outside the city. We also had attendees (not speaking!) drive to our event from all over the state of Louisiana, but also folks I personally talked to from Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Mobile. Our speakers came from all over the country – from Denver, Atlanta, Pensacola, Orlando, Dallas, Houston and Oklahoma City. Vendors staffed our booth with reps from California to the United Kingdom.
As chair of the planning committee for the past few years we've seen SQLSaturday rise from a sleepy 200 in 2009 to a standing-room only auditorium in 2014, and with a lot of momentum going forward. Each year we attract new volunteers who realize how unique and important SQLSaturday can be for Baton Rouge. New faces are there after the raffle past 5pm each year, stepping up to toss garbage and sweep folders and move tables. I can't understate how valuable each of our volunteers are when putting on an event for 600+ people.
I was sure to ask the half-dozen first-time SQLSaturday speakers to collect a well-earned round of applause at the end this year, as they proudly and successfully took the next step in their technical speaking career. Like many, I moved from internal work-related lunch presentations to local user group presentations and up to local then regional SQLSaturday events to further my speaking career, attending the Baton Rouge Downtown Toastmasters club all along. I'm not an expert public speaker, but developing my technical presentation skills via these opportunities has helped me become a more confident communicator inside and outside of work. So let's not ever downplay the importance of public speaking as a facet of personal and professional growth!
Meanwhile, the Baton Rouge SQLSaturday planning committee will soon have a postmortem lunch meeting to discuss our sixth annual event's lessons learned, review feedback from the public survey, and start the gears rolling for 2015. I can't wait to see you there!
MORE: A complete recap of SQLSaturday Baton Rouge 2014 registration velocity, attendance numbers, demographics and other information is posted here.