Running a technical community for the last eight years has always had its little challenges. From keeping the website up to date to getting refreshments organized to spreading the word; all coming with their micro challenges. But, organizing an event such as SQLSaturday is an entirely different thing.
I’ve always been overwhelmed by the amount of organizing that goes in for a SQLSaturday event,and the sheer passion that organizers and volunteers exhibit to make these events a success. My first one was in Toronto (SQLSaturday #93) in 2012, which was well organized and had some big names as speakers. This is where I met and got to know Edwin Sarmiento (b|t) – a positive side effect of attending conferences and events of this nature; you get to meet and make friends with great minds. This event had 4 parallel tracks, a lot of sponsors and a good number of attendees. As a community leader, I envisioned a time where I too could organize such an event in Colombo. But the amount of effort and planning that had to go into it, by the looks of it, was too overwhelming for me that my vision took a back seat.
The next year, I was surprised to see a SQLSaturday event in Nepal. In Nepal? Yes, in Nepal. In a country which has not much going on in the IT industry as much as India, or as much as Sri Lanka for that matter, it was indeed surprising. Doing a little more research I found out that Nepal, or the city of Kathmandu, had a small group of SQL enthusiasts and a PASS chapter that had been quietly going on there for quite some time, run by the steadfast Shree (in). And they had decided to organize a SQLSaturday (SQLSaturday #180).
Kathmandu wasn’t too far from Colombo, so with my company covering my travel, I submitted to speak and gladly got accepted – I was thrilled. After a couple of hiccups in initial travel planning I go there, set myself up at a little hotel, and was whisked away to the event the next day. Everything here was different from my earlier SQLSaturday experience. Just one track, half the speakers were online, and the location wasn’t that great. Funding was limited. There were only 80-odd participants if my memory serves me correct. Yet, the passion and drive from the organizers and volunteers was just amazing. The atmosphere of learning from the attendees was astounding, they all stayed till the end. There was food. There were goodies. They made so much out of so little.
I was inspired. I felt small. Back home, I’m sure we could come up with better funding. We could get enough speakers. We had a larger community. I had a vision. But somehow a smaller community with limited funds had got it done, what I had just pushed to the back seat of my mind. I finally got round to organizing a SQLSaturday in Colombo – two and a half years later.
The moral of the story is, organizing a SQLSaturday event, is only limited by certain things. A SQLSaturday need not be a big event with big named speakers. Just make use of the resources you have – campaign for funding as much as you can, and then organize to match the funding you receive. The focus, I believe, should be on delivering good content to as much an audience that you can garner. Then comes complementing with goodies, such as give-aways, meals etc. Don’t hold back due to what you don’t have – Just do it!
If you have more tips and experience that you can share, please feel free to comment. Lookout for a follow-up post in the future about the SQLSaturday that I finally got round in organizing.