Well folks, we’re just two days away from SQL Saturday – Tampa. Our venue is still the same (DoubleTree Suites – Westshore) and the DT and us are working hard to put together a good event. We do have one predicament I wanted to share to those who follow this blog. Arrive early.
One of the problems with free events is that people who have no intention of coming can sign up without recourse. This does two negative things for code camps: it causes us to have inaccurate counts for event goodies (including prizes, food, giveaways), and when registration cap is reached, it keeps people who want to come from signing up. This is a typical economist dilemma (on one hand, on the other hard)…….
We have over 380 people signed up for the SQL Saturday event and another 20+ on the waitlist. While experience has shown these kind of events to have about a 40% no-show rate, I made the decision to close off registration for a couple reasons. One, our event is set up to handle 200 attendees. We have lunches, seating, and prizes confirmed for about 200 people. We can handle more people, but at a certain rate we will bump up against fire code regulations and have to cut off attendance in sessions. If we don’t manage the crowd, our facility will and this isn’t good for us or attendees. We will be providing lunch tickets for the first 200 people to register and indicate they will be staying for lunch. Experience has shown us that people come and go during the day, so I expect that with 200 lunches we can handle maybe 240 attendees since some will leave early, some don’t want lunch, some want to go out, etc. There will be plenty of water and soft drinks for all starting at 11 AM.
We’re not having any keynote or closing session either. Prizes will be given out at the end of the day (3:45 PM). Just show up, go to sessions, spend a little time lounging around the pool if that’s your thing.
I’m going to give a little reasoning now why we chose to do our event at a hotel. This kind of venue poses unique budgetary constraints and would be a horrible choice had it not been for our great sponsors. Thankfully we were able to negotiate a rate that was comparable to the rates that other events have paid around the state and we’ll have a unique atmosphere. It’s going to be free, but the hope is that it will feel like a professional conference that people pay thousands to attend. I’ve attended the TDWI Conference in 2005 and our event will be very comparable on a micro level. Our venue is nice and professional, our volunteers are rehearsed and will present a uniform appearance. We were hoping to have speakers stay at the same hotel, but there was an issue with being able to do that so hopefully next time. We’re hosting the Day of Data on the Friday before, which allows a more specialized learning experience for those willing to pay a little extra.
To handle the ‘phantom registration’ problem, there are discussions going on around organizers about charging attendees a nominal fee $5 to $20 to hold a reservation. The money could be used to pay lunch, or more importantly, so people have ‘skin in the game’. Read my sister blog about economics to see what happens to a housing market when people have no ‘skin in the game’, but I digress. I’m not fond of charging to enter events, but I feel a small fee (closer to $5 than $20) is fair to hold registration and provide lunch. If everyone who attends SQL Saturday had paid just $10, we would have been able to provide a full day buffet for everyone. But it’s something to think about for the next year.
We’ll be paying close attention to speaker evaluations, but please give us some room to handle the crowding and food situation. Looking forward to seeing you at the events.