Volunteering at SQLSaturday #337 Oregon
SQLSaturday #337 Oregon was a great event, and I’m so happy I could be there and help out as a volunteer! Arnie, Paul, Vern, Sopheap, Rob, Theresa and everyone else who spent time working on this event, thank you so much. There were 52 volunteers helping out at this event. 52! That’s amazing. I hope you had a great time and I look forward to seeing you again next year!
Isn’t this one of the coolest name badges you’ve seen? Staff, speakers and volunteers all had name badges like this. Each group had a different color with their own pictures and text on it. The QR code takes you to a website where you can get in touch with the person. They were laminated and the same on both sides, so you didn’t have to worry about it flipping over. You didn’t have to worry about people not seeing it either, because it was large and very visible. I may have to borrow a few ideas from this name badge for our next SQLSaturday 🤓
My first and last assignment of the day was being a room proctor, but I didn’t actually get to see the session. There were quite a few people who arrived during the first session, so I stayed outside my room guiding them to where they wanted to go. It was nice that the organizers had put up maps of all the session rooms in the hallways, I could help attendees or just show them the map. A quick tip if you’re volunteering like this: don’t be afraid to walk up to people! A simple “hi, how can I help you?” if they look lost, or “hi, which room are you looking for?” if they’re staring at the schedule is all it takes. Most people are happy to ask when you approach them first, but they might not want to bother anyone or they might not even know you’re there to help.
Another tip is to hand out evaluation forms when people walk in and let them know that you’ll collect them at the end of the session. We noticed in Oslo that we got a lot more evaluation forms when we handed them out instead of placing them on the chairs, and it was the same in Portland. Feedback means a lot to speakers, so make sure you get them as much feedback as possible.
In the middle of the day I was assigned to monitor the speaker room, but speakers usually know how to take care of themselves :) I got to attend a session I wanted to see, and also tried to help out where needed. There was a great effort during multiple sessions and breaks to get all the SpeedPASSes printed, sorted and distributed. SpeedPASSes are a great idea, but they have been a major cause of headache at all the SQLSaturdays I’ve attended so far. Many people don’t know about them, many people forget them, and many people don’t have a printer available.
That means you will need a printer and scissors on-site and a dedicated volunteer to manage printing. The SpeedPASS files are named based on the registration number instead of the attendee name, so you will need to cross-check with your registration list to find the right SpeedPASS. There will most likely be a queue and attendees will spend time cutting their SpeedPASS instead of talking to sponsors or attending sessions. In Oslo we printed and cut the SpeedPASSes for all the attendees before the event. Unless I, PASS or SQLSaturday organizers come up with a better idea than SpeedPASSes, I will gladly spend hours next year getting blisters from cutting more SpeedPASSes - if that means that attendees get a better experience.
Turns out I wasn’t just going to be a volunteer that day. When we arrived a friend of mine was asked to do a SQL Excite presentation since they had open slots. These are 5-minute, fast-paced presentations with 20 slides set to advance every 15 seconds. I jokingly told my friend that it would be fun to do a Biml presentation, then I happily walked off to do my volunteer tasks and didn’t think much more of it… until I got a message that he had asked the organizers if I could present instead of him, they had said yes, and I would be speaking in 30 minutes.
I spent all 30 minutes creating a 5-minute introduction to Biml, and had literally just finished the last slide in the auditorium as I was called up on stage. The presentation was based on my 1-hour Biml session so I knew most of the content, but I had not prepared at all what to say to each slide until I was actually on stage. My timing was off on several slides, and it certainly was a challenge not being able to advance my slides myself, but it was so fun! I absolutely loved it 🥳
Thank you to the organizers for giving me the opportunity to speak. Thank you to my friend who didn’t give me the option to say no, and who also filmed so I could watch my presentation after I had finished. And thank you to the attendees who gave me evaluation forms! My cats seem to be popular.
I hope to see you next year, Portland! Maybe with a proper, prepared session 😁
About the Author
Cathrine Wilhelmsen is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP, BimlHero Certified Expert, international speaker, author, blogger, organizer, and chronic volunteer. She loves data and coding, as well as teaching and sharing knowledge - oh, and sci-fi, coffee, chocolate, and cats 🤓