Wow, what a month. On March 22, 2014, the SQL Saturday train came into Richmond VA (RVA). I was one of the organizers of the event, and what a ride we had.

The rough part of the ride started off earlier in the week. A freak spring snowstorm rolled through the region. Richmond was spared, but points just north of us (Washington D.C. for instance) had 6 inches of snow. This caused a few speakers to need to cancel as things got rescheduled for them. As we got closer to the event, a few other sessions canceled. Now when you are having an event with people coming to speak, and other people coming to see their presentations, this is not what you want to have happening. At one point, we had seven vacancies in our speaking schedule. But the fun wasn’t over yet – on Saturday, two additional speakers failed to show up. They didn’t even call or email anyone that they would not be attending. We juggled things around, coaxed speakers into doing additional sessions, and continued on.

On Friday, we had our first ever RVA precon. About 50 people showed up to attend an all day training in two precon events. One of the precons was conducted by Andy Leonard (SSIS Design Patterns), and the second precon was conducted by Jason Brimhall and myself (Murder They Wrote). Since I was busy with own precon, I couldn’t drop in and see how things were going in Andy’s session. All I can say about ours is “WOW!” What a day of learning. We have heard from several of our attendees since, and they have been busy implementing various things to fix problems. Some comments that have been made about our precon session are:

Feeling like a newbie with #SQLServer while attending @DBAWayne and @sqlrnnr precon at #SQLSatRVA. Great class!

It was an eye and mind opening experience awesome session!

Friday’s session went beyond my expectations for the day.

The information was very useful.  I sat down with my team yesterday to discuss what I learned.  I am certain that we will see implementation of a few items…

Needless to say, I’m extremely pleased to have this feedback. Now I’m eager to do this precon at other events!

Friday night, we had our speaker / volunteer dinner. It was great to reunite with several of my #sqlfamily, and to meet folks that I had never met before and bring them into my #sqlfamily.

After the precon all day Friday, Saturday morning came way too early. Shortly after arriving, the attendees started showing up. Even without coffee yet, there was an air of excitement all around! This was going to be a perfect day! The weather was almost too perfect – a beautiful spring day, and the temperature eventually reached 70 degrees. Just a perfect spring day. The speakers were showing up early; all equipment was functioning, registration / sign in was humming along, and breakfast was being efficiently served. Changes we had made from last year were really working out. The first sessions started, and we could take a breather. We had a few Microsoft Premier Field Engineers (PFE) down from DC, and they manned a “SQL Clinic” room to answer questions. I was really curious about how this would work out for us today.

The second session of the day, I was presenting a fairly new presentation – “Crazy Things Developers Do”. As is typical of my presentations, it has a lot of demos. And as I was setting up, I ran into a technical glitch. Even though this was the same room that I had presented in all day on Friday, my laptop would not sync up with the video equipment. It had worked just fine for the speaker before. I tried rebooting. The facility tech guys checked it out, and couldn’t find anything wrong. So… I ended up doing my presentation with no props. I talked my way through it. At one point, I had everyone gather around to watch one demo that I just had to do, but the rest was all talking, with no slides or anything. In retrospect, I should have used the whiteboard in the room – I guess that I was too stunned and shell-shocked to even recognize that it was there. The attendees said it was still a good session, and that they learned. But oh, how I wish the tech stuff would have worked. Luckily, everything worked out for all of the other speakers for the rest of the day, and this was the only glitch that we had!

Lunch time came around, and again everything went smoothly. Did I mention that it was a beautiful day outside? Most attendees took advantage of it, and ate their lunch outside. You just couldn’t ask for more. A nice spring day, relaxing outside, chatting with friends.

The rest of the day went by too fast. Before long, we were having the closing, and raffling off the prizes from the vendors. I checked in with the Microsoft PFEs, and found that over 20% of the attendees had stopped in and asked questions that they had been able to answer. AWESOME!

People come to a SQL Saturday to learn. Which means that we need people in rooms presenting topics that people want to see. I want to thank all of the speakers that came to SQLSatRVA to present a session or two. I especially want to thank all of the ones that came from outside of the RVA area! A SQL Saturday just can’t be done without these great folks – you are what the attendees are coming to see. Words alone cannot express my appreciation for the time you have spent preparing the presentation(s) that you have delivered, and the time and expense that you have incurred to come to RVA to do your presentation. Thank you so very much!

There is another recurring theme to this post… smooth functioning. This doesn’t just happen – it takes a lot of effort from a lot of special people – people that are passionate about SQL Server, learning, and helping others to learn. People that give of their time to help ensure that the event functions smoothly. Some do work ahead of time, in planning the event, getting sponsors, figuring out the logistics for the location and food, working with the sponsors for advertising and ensuring that their equipment is there ahead of time, and in organizing the volunteers. But this isn’t all… there is a lot of work being done the day before and the day of the event. From room monitors to ensure that speakers have what they need. Spouses that come in to help with registration and ensuring that breakfast, lunch and break times function smoothly. So, I’d like to end this post with a special THANK YOU! to all of these wonderful volunteers, and a picture of a some of them. Of course, with our community, you know it won’t be a serious picture…