Sunday, August 04, 2013

Recap from SQL Saturday Baton Rouge 2013

As the head of the planning committee for SQL Saturday Baton Rouge this year, I had the distinct pleasure of welcoming several hundred colleagues from around the world to Baton Rouge on August 3 for a day of free training, networking, professional development and fun.

The day-ending raffle in the Auditorium of the LSU Business Education Complex (photo credit: Cody Arnould)
from L-R: Mike Huguet, Justin Yesso, Seth Valdetero, Dave Baxter, William Assaf, James Coolman
According to the official website admin page, we had 750 people register for the event in total, a staggering and exciting number for us to prepare for.

But as any SQL Saturday organizer knows, the conversion from registered "planning to attend" and "on site" attendees is not 100%. This is a topic for a future blog post, but based on my experience over the past four years and watching the pre-registration trending, doubling the number of pre-registered attendees roughly 29-31 days away from the event is a strong indicator of actual headcount.

Our final headcount onsite at Baton Rouge SQL Saturday was 560, give or take a few stragglers, just 12 folks short of breaking SQL Saturday Atlanta's record of 571. This puts us on par with what we pulled in last year to Baton Rouge SQL Saturday as well.

With pride, I still can call Baton Rouge SQL Saturday one of the largest in the world, or in the universe, according to our keynote speaker Ob Soonthornsima, CIO and Chief Security Officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield Louisiana, our Diamond Sponsor this year.

Having spent countless hours over the past three months preparing for the event (with a lot of help from my friends), I breathe a sigh of relief but also of excitement. We were that close to breaking our record, and yet the fundamental parts of the event were in place to hold even more. LSU's brand new Business Education Complex is a fantastic host, with 15 classrooms of 60+ or more and a large auditorium for keynotes and raffles, all in very close proximity.

Sparkhound, home of my managers, coworkers and best friends, was our Platinum sponsor this year and led the charge with nine speaker sessions by Sparkhound Baton Rouge employees, at least one in each time slot, including back-to-back-to-back sessions in our CIO/CTO/IT Manager track from three members of Sparkhound upper management. 

Also huge thanks to my wife Christine Assaf (, who spoke twice, in the Career Track and CIO track, and also spent her free time between talks in nine 15-minute coaching sessions for attendees of her sessions. Christine and entrepreneur/author Tonia Askins each offered free one-on-one coaching for attendees via a signup sheet after their sessions on "Mastering your Resume and Interview" and "Exploring Entrepreneurship" respectively, a great idea that future SQL Saturday organizers should consider.

Also big thanks to Microsoft as usual, who was represented very well at our conference, including the entire speaker lineup of the Windows Server Infrastructure track with Nicholas Jones, Randy Nale, Steven Rachui, and Matt Hester. Mike Huguet of Microsoft was a member of the planning committee and also spoke three times, including a lunch session on "What's it like to Work for Microsoft?"

I want to extend a huge thank you to everyone on the planning committee to helped make this conference a great one this year, to our twenty one generous sponsors and to 560 of my closest friends and colleagues this past weekend at SQL Saturday Baton Rouge!

I received a lot of help from these good friends and members SQL Saturday Baton Rouge Planning Committee, in no specific order:
Mike Huguet of Microsoft
Laurie Firmin of Ameritas
Jacques Steward of Turner Industries
Stacy Vicknair of Sparkhound
Kenny Neal of Amedisys
Adrian Aucoin of Corporate Services
James Coolman of Sparkhound (and family!)
Justin Yesso of Blue Cross Blue Shield
Diann Kelley of Sparkhound
Cody Gros of Sparkhound
Beth Curry of Antares
Kyle Summers of Sparkhound
Christine Assaf of Waste Management Inc
Cherie Sheriff of GE Capital
Cody Arnould of Sparkhound
Paul Barbin of Amedisys
and countless volunteers as well, thanks!

See you next year!

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