I saved one of the signs. I know... 🙂

(Written the night of the meeting, edited and posted after)

Wow. I just got home from a really great night with a fun group of people. The first meeting (hopefully of many more) was a success (more on what that means from my point of view below) and we had an amazing turnout – By my count, we had at least 57 people there! A few ins and outs after counting but I was floored by the turnout. We originally had about 60 chairs, had to scramble to bring in another dozen or so from another room (not all seats were full, but folks don’t like moving up front when they come in late, apparently). We learned some lessons, had some successes and got some good data. A quick recap before I go to sleep and the excitement is drained away by a day in the office on Wednesday.

The Good

  • They Got It! – The crowd was following along, I saw some light bulbs going off, I saw some good questions and a lot of people taking notes and contemplating what they were being told. This right here is what I consider success. A topic that jived with a lot, a lot of people seeming to grab usable information. I mentioned when I gave the intro that I subscribe to the “All boats rise together” mentality and that is the major reason this group exists. I think I witnessed that tonight. Thanks, Grant!
  • Grant FritcheyAnyone who has seen Grant speak needn’t read further. He was great, as usual. Had the crowd laughing and speaking out loud in unison reiterating earlier points he made. I was approached by people afterwards who were impressed by his style, knowledge and excitement. A sysadmin colleague of mine told me after, “that guy was really excited about the product. I didn’t know a lot of what he was talking about but you could tell he was excited and really likes working with SQL.” The audience picked up that excitement and were glued.
  • Excitement – A lot of people wide awake and eager to be there and participate. I heard a lot of positive comments and asides.

    Vendor Discussion towards the beginning

  • Crowd – We didn’t get out on a lot of lists ahead of time but the turnout was great! Friends and friends of friends and folks on Alexander Technology Goup’s mailing lists were there and in force!
  • Survey Responses – We want to know who our membersare and what they want to hear about. I have a big stack of surveys to go through and will map it out and share some of the aggregated info in a future post.
  • Attunity – We need to work on our sponsor arrangements and sign-ups but the folks at Attunity were flexible, gave a great presentation about their product and covered a good spread of food.
  • Pizza – The local cafeteria at Great Bay College (our location) was the only option to use, they have right of first refusal. They are called The Green Bean and they make some great soups, breads and sandwiches. Never knew the did pizza and they did it really well. I don’t get a discount by saying so but they were great to work with and the food was fresh, hot and healthy. Grease free pizza 🙂
  • No Competition – There is a really awesome user group about 1.5 hours away from ours. Adam Machanic does a LOT of work keeping New England SQL Server Users going strong and he deserves a huge round of applause. I was worried that I might step on his toes or overwhelm folks with “too many” meetings. I asked about where folks go and by show of hands, the vast majority of the audience are too far to head down there. This is an audience that is thirsty for knowledge but a longer drive is impractical. That is great news! That tells me we are a good distance to provide an option without “stealing” members and we are sharing knowledge where it might not have been otherwise shared.
  • The Help – Like I said in the meeting, this is not “my” group. It is “our” group and a lot of folks helped put this together, especially the Vice Presidents of the group, Mike Kennie and Melissa Field. Thanks for putting up with me and helping out! We’ll all be busy keeping this going and it is good to know it doesn’t rest on one’s shoulders only. That’s good because with our new baby coming at the end of May, the June meeting will need some extra help 🙂
  • Great Bay CollegeFor now, our use of this space is complimentary. The service and help we got was as though we paid a lot of money. Jennifer from the university helped set everything up. Signage was all over the place. The room was setup for us and it will be rearranged for us. Everything worked the first time with the AV equipment. Awesome venue and a really great resource for the Seacoast with their educational offerings.
  • Alexander Technology Group – The folks at Alexander Technology Group helped us make introductions to the college and got this group out to their lists. They were as excited about what this brings to the area as we were and they kept us excited through the process of getting things going.

What Can We Do Better?

  • Space – The room got kind of tight kind of quickly, if we keep growing we may need to rearrange the space or move to a larger room. Good problem to have.
  • Timings – It was the first meeting, lots of housekeeping discussions. We will work on this over time.
  • Sponsors – We had a great first sponsor, now I need to get on the ball and reach out to more sponsors who want to reach an eager SQL Server community. Interested? E-mail me seacoastsql@straightpathsql.com!
  • What Else? Were you there? Let me know how we can do better to make your next meeting more enjoyable. I’ll be compiling survey results later in the week but any additional feedback (positive is always good but negative is really accepted – I like challenges better than pats on the back.)
  • There is a SQL Community? This isn’t bad at all. I don’t think life is all twitter, blogs and PASS Summit hangouts. But, when Grant asked about various names in the community not a lot of hands went out. I don’t care that folks aren’t reading blogs or know SQL Server authors by name. I do care, however, that some folks don’t know about some great resources. Yes twitter is a tool with the #sqlhelp hash tag. Blogs are some places to really learn about various topics (need to apply tests and empirical evidence to the data, obviously) and SQL PASS really offers a lot for folks. I hope to help everyone up on the Seacoast tap into these resources. Maybe I’ll do a presentation on the SQL Community sometime.

What Will Success Look Like?

I said this first meeting seemed successful. To me, the size of the crowd isn’t what is key. While we had an awesome turnout for a first meeting, I think success is bringing the right content to the right people. Watching people learn (learning myself in the process, hopefully) about topics relevant to their day jobs will be a great measure. We’ll see how this happens overtime but I think the group is off to a great start.

I am looking forward to a long run of the Seacoast SQL Server Users Group. Tonight’s meeting inspires me to keep working my tail off to make sure that happens – A lot of people to not want to let down now 🙂

Look for a post in the coming weeks about the survey results. You can subscribe to my feed to see that post.

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