This past Saturday marked the annual event that many of us look forward to all year long. Called by some to be the “Summit of the South,” SQL Saturday Atlanta is always a large and very professionally run event which draws hordes of SQL Server Professionals nationwide. Again, this year, the event did not disappoint. Despite the initial overcast and rainy weather which opened up the day, a record number of 590 attendees attended this awesome event!
For the second year in a row, I volunteered my time to help make the event as great as it could be. For the first time in the past few years, I was did not attend any of the event’s preconference sessions, which typically run all day on Friday. That being said, the sessions that were being given were excellent topics which were presented by some truly great speakers. I’m sure everyone who attended learned a ton and had a great time.
While I didn’t attend any preconference sessions on Friday, SQL Saturday Atlanta did still begin for me on Friday when I headed over to the site Friday afternoon to begin helping with prep. We had a great group of organizers and volunteers onsite to perform the bag stuffing and venue setup. Additionally, this year, the decision was made to pre-print all of the attendee admission tickets, name badges, and raffle tickets (rather than relying on attendees to pre-print their items at home prior to the event to bring them with). This allowed for nicer name badges and perforated raffle tickets to be used, but was a very laborious process collating and assembling the packets for the morning’s registration. I ended up spending all of my time Friday afternoon helping out with the registration packet assembly process.
Friday morning, bright and early, it was time for SQL Saturday Atlanta to begin. Due to some light morning rain, registration was moved from the spacious area outside which is typically used into the entry foyer of the venue. Once 7:30 AM arrived and the doors opened, registration was a madhouse, as can be seen from my spot across the room manning the Volunteer Registration table.
Despite the initial chaos of the first half hour of registration when way too many people crammed into a room that was probably a little too small, the chaos managed to clear as the time for the first session to begin neared and eventually, enough people had moved through the process that things began to flow smoothly. I spent the first sessions of the day helping out with Volunteer Registration so I wasn’t able to check out any sessions, but there looked like a lot of great topics being offered.
About 9:30 AM, it was time for me to head up to proctor my first session of the day, “Murder They Wrote” presented by Jason Brimhall (B | T). Jason presented on common SQL Server performance issues in a very creative way (styled after the game Clue) and did a great job of injecting plenty of humor into the session.
Session proctoring was a bit easier this year than previous years due to the change in session evaluations. Rather than passing out little slips of paper to fill out and then having to collect them at the end of the session, evaluations were to be performed online, which required a QR code or URL which was posted throughout the venue. Hopefully this was a successful change, however, I suspect that many fewer people probably filled out evaluations and probably with less detail than normal — I know I found my willingness to type comments in my phone after the session rather than writing them during the session to be much less.
Following Jason’s excellent session, I had a chance to drop by to see Mindy Curnutt’s (B | T) similar session on “TSQL Coding Techniques.” Mindy is a non-local speaker (Texas) whom I hadn’t yet had a chance to see present yet, so I was excited to see a new (to me) speaker present. Mindy did a great job presenting on an important topic to a packed-to-capacity room.
With the morning sessions concluded, it was time for the SQL Saturday Lunch (which is typically the only cost to attend the event). Lunch this year was similar to previous years, a boxed sandwich lunch or salad with drinks and cookies or brownies. I arrived a little late to the lunch process, but everything seemed to flow smoothly and I didn’t notice any issues…looked like plenty of food for the hungry crowd. As in previous years, a number of lunch sessions were presented which allowed attendees a place to sit and eat while watching a presentation. I attended the Cisco UCS Lunch Session presented by Tim Radney (B | T) which had plenty of seating available. Hopefully the other lunch sessions did as well (as over crowded lunch sessions have been a challenge at other events)
After lunch, I was proctoring again — this time for Thomas LeBlanc, presenting “Skills Needed to Transition from DBA to Data Warehouse Architect.” Thomas is a speaker I’ve wanted to see present for a while now and as a Business Intelligence professional, I always enjoy Data Warehousing and similar topics. Thomas didn’t disappoint with a fantastic and very informative presentation laced with humor and lots of smiling.
Following Thomas’s session was my final proctoring session for the day, Lindsay Clark’s (B | T) presentation, “TechGirlz How You Can Help Usher In The Next Generation.” Lindsay was originally scheduled to present on Indexing, but changed at last minute to try out a new presentation. Despite the last minute change, she did a great job presenting on a framework for teaching girls elements of technology and I was happy to get a chance to see her speak. I’ll have to find my way up to SQL Saturday Spartanburg at some point.
The end of day at SQL Saturday means its time to start breaking things down. With an event of this size, there’s typically a lot that needs to be cleaned up and put away, so we spend most of the last session (and sometimes the beginning of the raffle) getting everything taken care of. Break down this year went very smoothly and we were able to have everything wrapped up just in time for the start of the closing announcements and raffle.
Fortunately, the rain had cleared up a few hours prior so we were able to hold the raffle outside. Based on how hectic registration was, I was a little scared to see what the indoor raffle would’ve been like.
As part of the closing announcements, it was announced that likely SQL Saturday Atlanta would not be at the same venue again next year due to changes at the venue. While it has been a great venue, it has been bursting at the seams these past few events, so hopefully next year will occur in a venue with more capacity. Otherwise, the raffle went off smoothly and many great prizes were won (though sadly, none by me this year! Maybe next time…) Even without winning any prizes, it was still an excellent day full of fun and knowledge and the event gave out some excellent swag. My favorites were the hard plastic logo’d solo cup (which will go great in my growing SQL Saturday Cup Collection) and as always, the awesome SQL Saturday Attendee pin.
Following the raffle, it was time for the traditional after party get together at the nearby 5 Seasons Brewery for drinks, appetizers, and more socializing.
As always, SQL Saturday Atlanta was a world-class event which was executed very professionally and provided a day of (nearly free) professional content. As my favorite event of the year, I’m already eagerly looking forward to next year! Until next time…