SQL Saturday #220 – Atlanta, GA:  

This was my 8th SQL Saturday, yet somehow only the first one I’ve attended near my home, Atlanta.  It’s pretty strange not having to drive for hours and stay in a hotel!

For anybody who has not yet had the pleasure of attending a SQL Saturday event in Atlanta, they’re known for being pretty popular events.  As such, not one or two, but five pre-conference sessions were offered for Friday before the main event.

I had a tremendously difficult time choosing between Stacia Misner’s (B | T) “Languages of BI” pre-con session and Bill Pearson’s (B | T) “Practical Self Service BI with PowerPivot for Excel” pre-con.  With both topics being interesting to me and both speakers being extremely knowledgeable it was a pretty tough decision!

Ultimately, I opted for Bill’s session, “Practical Self Service BI with PowerPivot for Excel” as I had yet to see Bill speak in person and the session was a little bit more applicable to a project I am currently about to undertake at work.  Given the opportunity though, I’d still love to attend Stacia’s pre-con!

We had a great crowd for the pre-con session.  The rooms provided by the Georgia State University Alpharetta building were very nice with plenty of space and great audio/video.  Bill provided digital copies of the course material on some very sleek Atlanat MDF USB drives as well as printed booklets of the slides for following along.

The session began with an overview of PowerPivot with how to get it properly installed and configured and then it was off to the races.  We went through an overview of the how PowerPivot works and when its useful in organizations and then proceeded through a number of scenarios building out a PowerPivot solution.  I found the information on using linked date tables for proper “Time Intelligence” of particular use.  After a great day of going through PowerPivot from top to bottom, it was time to head home and get some rest before the big event.

On Saturday, a record-breaking 571 people descended on the Georgia State University Alpharetta campus for the sold out SQL Saturday #220.  It sounds like this was a record attendance for a SQL Saturday, and I believe it — the venue was packed!

With the release of the new Star Trek movie the same weekend (or happy coincidence), the SQL Saturday Atlanta organizer crew decided to do a theme for the event.  This was the first time I’ve seen a themed SQL Saturday and I applaud the creativity!  The theme was Star Trek and all of the SQL Saturday crew wore various colored shirts, from volunteers in red to the captain, Geoff, in yellow.

The SWAG bags of course had a custom logo…and included a nice pin with the logo as well!

The one downside to such a crowded record-setting event is the throngs of people.  Due to fire codes and numbers of physical sets, both the total number of people allowed in the building was limited as well as the number of people able to attend each session.  As such, as soon as one session ended, it was a mad rush to get a seat in the next room!  This was a situation where planning out your chosen sessions in advance was very beneficial.  Fortunately, as the day wore on, crowding in rooms became less of an issue.

The venue map — converted from mild mannered building to ship!

Throughout the day, I attended sessions in all six time slots.  This was not an event for folks who get anxiety from tough decisions….there were a LOT of tough decisions in choosing which sessions to attend!  For each time slot I easily had two that I wanted to attend and in some cases three!  (There were a jaw-dropping 12 tracks…tough choices!)  Ultimately, these are a couple of the sessions which I attended which really stood out to me:

  • Best Practices for Implementing an Enterprise BI Solution” by Teo Lachev (B | T) — Teo is well known in the Atlanta BI group, so an opportunity to see him present on enterprise BI best practices was a great opportunity!  Among a treasure trove of great information, Teo also provided a very useful classical BI architecture diagram.
  • Jump Starting Your Career” by Bobby Dimmick (B | T) — As part of my goal to always attend at least one professional development session, I attended Bobby’s lunch session.  Bobby gave a very candid and entertaining talk on techniques for managing your career and being happy.
  • Advanced Charting Techniques in SSRS” by Jason Thomas (B | T) — Jason gave a talk on performing some of the more difficult tasks in SSRS.  Among them were tips for putting in trend lines  highlighting objects on a chart, and my favorite, overlaying graphs on top of each other to created interesting bar charts through creative use of the chart properties.
  • When a Strange Server Calls” by Jennifer McCown (B | T) — Sometimes you go to a session just to see a speaker in person.  This was one of them.  A great subject matter and great information for sure, my primary draw to this session was to see Jen present live, having listened to and watched a number of the MidnightDBA and other videos and presentation.  A great and entertaining presentation.  It was nice to have some humor at the end of the day!
After the conclusion of the sessions, we all met outside for the traditional raffling of prizes!  Fortunately, the thunderstorms that had been threatened all day had continued to hold off (as I’m not sure we would have all fit in one room inside!)  Great prizes all around, thanks to all the vendors!
With SQL Saturday 220 a wrap, the day was officially over and the after party and drinks at the nearby Alpha Soda commenced.  I dropped by for a little bit, being only my second SQL Saturday after event, and I was very happy that I did.  Great snacks, company, and conversation meeting new people.
Thanks to everyone involved in SQL Saturday 220 for making it such a success!  Can’t wait for the next one.
Teo Lachev presenting Enterprise BI Best Practices
Hi Jen!  Jen McCown presenting on When a Strange Server Calls
Geoff Hiten in the captain’s shirt speaking to a portion of the SQL Sat ATL crowd
The most fun freebie swag I’ve picked up yet — slap bracelet drink koozie!!!