Jen’s PASS Diary: So what happened to SQLSaturday Edinburgh?

As always, I don’t officially represent PASS on this post (or any other).

I have been working on a lot of things, including attending a PASS Board Meeting, and doing a lot on the Business Analytics Portfolio. However, the focus of attention here is my failed SQLSaturday Edinburgh event. So what happened? The outcome is as follows:

  • SQLSaturday Edinburgh is cancelled
  • Edinburgh Power BI is cancelled
  • Three precons out of four have been cancelled.
  • I lost a few thousand pounds
  • My own precon is still going on; see previous point. I am trying to stem some of the losses

This has meant:

  • Cancelling the University of Edinburgh venue
  • Cancelling precon venue rooms
  • Many disappointed attendees – 51 people in all
  • Many disappointed potential speakers, who submitted 98 submissions from every continent in the world.

Why did Edinburgh fail?

Note that I’ve successfully gained sponsorships for the three past SQLSaturday Edinburgh events, SQLRelay, I’ve sent companies to SQLBits who eventually sponsored, and I’ve helped with sponsorships for PASS BA Analytics. Despite this wealth of experience, the stars were not aligned for Edinburgh.

I didn’t get sponsorship, apart from the fantastic CozyRoc. The CozyRoc team have been wonderfully supportive in my hour of need, and they have said that this won’t stop them supporting future events in Edinburgh, or me individually. I am hugely grateful for their support and I’d like to publicly thank them here.

Why didn’t I get sponsorship? Let’s look at the landscape of events:

There are also a bunch of other European SQLSaturdays which are in the lead up to my event. In one rejection email, one would-be sponsor pointed out to me that there are four SQLSaturdays in my area before my event, and explained that they couldn’t support Edinburgh because of the concentration of events around that time.

  • Kiev – event being held in 20th May
  • Plovdiv – event being held at 28th May
  • Krasnodar –  4th June
  • Rheinland – 11th June

If you look at the list, you can see that there are 7 SQL events between 2nd May and 11th June. This doesn’t include my failed Edinburgh event, which would take the total to 8 events in 47 days. That’s a lot, by anyone’s standards.

Further, this does not include the other events which take place after 11th June – Dublin, on 18th June, and Paris, on June 25th. This means that the total goes up to ten SQL events in the space of 9 weeks, three of which are major events – SQLBits, SQLNexus and SQLDay Poland.

I have been criticised for a number of things, and I will lay them out here:

– not responding to sponsor feedback . This simply isn’t true. I negotiated and offered to cut prices whilst giving more benefits. I bent and shifted and adapted to get cashflow in – hell, any cash flow. However, even offering sponsorship at rock bottom prices wasn’t enough. The answer was no, no and no again, and the same reasons given were the ones that I couldn’t do anything about – too many SQL events concentrated geographically and temporally. This wasn’t in my control.

– I am on the PASS Board, and apparently it’s a mark of my failure as an individual that I couldn’t organise a SQLSaturday. This isn’t true. I’ve organized a ton of events, and I do a lot for the community. Note the following points:

It does show integrity that I didn’t ‘pull strings’ to make being a Board member an advantage in some way, and I am clearly lost out in many ways, including financially.

I have seen, felt, and paid for, the ‘hard edge’ of being part of the SQL Server / Data Platform community. I have war wounds. This makes me a better Board member, I think, because I can speak for the ‘little guy’ and I am struggling and suffering due to this issue, and I think it can help me to empathise. I think I won votes because I ran successful events, partly. however, I think that the fact I have been there when an event fails, means that I can work to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

– I’ve been told that I shouldn’t have organised my event temporally and geographically near the behemoth SQLBits event. Liverpool is about 200 miles away from Edinburgh, give or take. The events were six weeks apart.  I did not know the dates of SQLBits until the last moment, and I acted without being given the data. I had been given reassurances that the SQLBits dates wouldn’t impact PASS BA; however, it then turned out that they are in the same week. Be very clear; If I had known the SQLBits dates, I would have postponed Edinburgh. Full stop. I wasn’t told, so I didn’t know. The reasons for the communication failure are still a mystery to me, but I do wish that someone had said something. They would have helped me a lot in many ways by speaking/emailing me to forewarn me. I would have postponed Edinburgh so that it took place later year. Happy everyone.

To summarise, the main reason for the failure of Edinburgh was the lack of sponsorship; one repeated message given to me that there are simply too many SQL / Data events and the growth of events is outpacing sponsors’ ability to keep up and they are having to make difficult choices.

I would hate it if another volunteer went through this again in the future, and I’d like to think strategically to prevent it from happening to anyone else. So what’s the call to action?

  • If you consider yourself a European Data Platform technical leader, please get in touch. I am working with Microsoft to set up a Yammer group that I will invite you to. We can swap ideas, event dates, and basically facilitate communication.My email is jen dot stirrup at datarelish dot com. I am findable! Find me.
  • I’d like to set up a European Twitter chat on the first Monday of every month. This will take place at 5pm UK time, 6pm CET. The hashtag will be #EUSQL. Let’s talk about anything and everything European and SQL. I will be ‘chair’ but I will need volunteer ‘chairs’ too. If this is you, get in touch.
  • I will set up a European Linked In Group for European SQL leaders and participants. I will release details in due course. I’d like help with this; if this is you, please email me.

I want to thank the following people for offering to help, in no order:

Brent Ozar

Andrew Brust

Mike Hillwig

Neil Hambly

Stephanie Locke

Jonathan and Annette Allen

Satya Janyanty

Niko Neugebauer

PASS team – Sonya, Vicki, Angie, Teresa

PASS Board – everyone 🙂  Adam, Tom, Denise, Wendy, Tim, Craig, Argenis, Ryan, Allen

my family – Andrew S (my brother)

Microsoft – particularly Jen M and Jonathan W

Let’s work together so that nobody else is in this same situation. Please help me – to help YOU – avoid this situation.

[ Update: original comment was removed. I believed that someone was having a go at me. I will just leave that here.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “Jen’s PASS Diary: So what happened to SQLSaturday Edinburgh?

  1. If you ever get in this situation again, please let me know if I can be helpful. Can’t make promises, but will do anything in my power to support you and the work you do for the community.

  2. I’ve heard US organizers talk about some of these same challenges, especially in the developer community. So many events each with a slightly different focus, like .NET, other languages, databases, cloud, startups, and it’s impossible to attend (let alone sponsor) many of ’em.

    The “solution” in our area was for the organizer community to get on a conference call every month. Needless to say, synchronous methods like calls don’t work for busy people like organizers. If only there was some kind of base for all of this data. 😉

  3. You did what you could with the data at hand. This is a risk as things get more popular, which in an interesting way is a good thing – more people want the kind of events you’re organizing. I do feel really badly for you losing cash – that’s a big ouch that I’m sure you don’t have the desire to occur. I had scheduling conflicts for your event as well – if it gets moved out, PLEASE let me know – I’d love to participate if at all possible.

  4. Great “lessons learned” post. Failure can teach us many things that success never will. Bummer that you had to be on the receiving end of this lesson. Good that it was you so you could distill the important parts and share them with us. Deep breath, relax a little, and try again.

  5. Hi Jen
    So sorry to hear to about the cancellation of Edinburgh’s SQL Saturday & the personal grief it has caused you.
    The SQL Saturdays are fantastic events only kept possible & alive by the hard work & dedication of community focused individuals like yourself.
    Please keep up the hard work – I only wish I had the capacity/focus/energy of people like yourself to help promote a vibrate SQL BI community.
    All power to you & the rest of the active community!
    Yours, an average SQL/BI guy who relies on knowledge sharers like yourself
    Steve

  6. Pingback: Online Calendars of Global SQLFamily events | Jen Stirrup

  7. Pingback: Online Calendars of Global SQLFamily events - SQL Server - SQL Server - Toad World

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