Last month (August 2022) we had our 1st EVER (after covid) in-person event and it’s time to talk about how it all happened. This blog post is going to talk about our original plan, what we were able to deliver, and what worked well vs. what needs improvement.

After 2 years of virtual events, our goal was to finally have an in-person event. Whenever this is going to be a 300+ attendees event or small event, we were anxious to just have an in-person event. While running virtual events was better than having no events, we missed the energy exchange that frequently happens during an in-person event.

While we were originally targeting our regular event month, we had to give up on June 2022 due to venue unavailability. We were ecstatic to hear that August is available and booked Loyola Marymount University for August 13.

Running a PASS-free in-person event

Since this was our first in-person after PASS’s demise, we had to bring new tools to replicate and enhance our event experience. Unfortunately, sqlsaturday.com in its current form only provides us with the event listing. Luckily, our 2 past virtual events allowed us to master additional tools.

Tools used during this event:

  • Attendee registration – Eventbrite.com (+ Organizer mobile app to check-in)
  • Sponsor registration – custom-built Microsoft Form to enable sponsor sign-up, listing all available sponsorship tiers on the datadriventechnologies.org website, and PayPal invoicing to collect fees
  • Speaker registration/schedule/session management – sessionize.com
  • Event listing – sqlsaturday.com
  • Event/session feedback – custom-built Microsoft Form with QR code
  • Event raffle – custom-built Microsoft Form with QR code
  • Volunteer registration – custom-built Microsoft Form with QR code
  • Email marketing – Sender.net
  • Social Media marketing – buffer.com

Event stats:

  • 14 speakers and 15 sessions (3 rooms x 5 sessions)
  • 78 attendees with 209 registered attendees
  • 6 paid sponsors (4 sponsor’s tables)

What worked great

  • Using EventBrite Organizer phone app check-in option provided us with real-time exact attendance numbers (no need to count attendee bags)
  • Having Social Media Booth generated plenty of visual content for our Instagram account
  • Running raffle without any paper and relying solely on electronic data collected by Microsoft Forms
  • Inclusion of raffle gift cards for each paid sponsorship
  • Indulging our speakers with both t-shirts and Yeti mugs
  • Communicating via 5 attendee email campaigns using Sender.net
  • Communicating with 3 speaker email campaigns using Sender.net
  • Creating session PPT template
  • Buying enough food and beverages for breakfast and lunch
  • Allocating 30-minute long breaks between sessions

Things to improve

  • Choose an event date with no local conflicts (choosing August 13 for event data was a strategic mistake as we ended up competing with DataConLA which happened on the same day and affected our attendance
  • Create a printer-friendly Sessionize schedule (apparently, attendees preferred a printed schedule instead of a Sessionize PWA app)
  • Offer 2 Eventbrite types tickets (bring your own lunch and paid lunch) and collapsing paid into free few weeks before August 13 introduced complexity and confusion
  • Hick ups with the Eventbrite Organizer phone app
  • Automate raffle management
  • Perfect sponsor raffle QR codes
  • Improve keynote attendance

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