Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The SQLSaturday pitch to host facilities

Not being able to find a good, affordable venue to host a SQLSaturday is a show-stopping problem that is common to a lot of events, especially SQLSaturdays getting started or having to relocate in their city. Let's talk about the sales pitch that we as SQLSaturday organizers can give during initial introductions and conversations with a new potential host venue.

I presented these ideas at PASS Summit's SQLSaturday leaders meeting on 11/5/2019.
  1. First off, to review typical meeting facilities:
    LSU Business Education Complex atrium, home of SQLSatBR
    • community colleges and universities, technical/trade colleges
    • training or conference centers
    • technology parks or business incubators
    • Microsoft Technology Centers
    • hotels as a last resort, because of the typically high cost
  2. Leverage PASS
    • Mention how PASS is an international organization that has hosted over a thousand of these events, include a link. This is a large, leading professional organization for data platform professionals.
    • Mention that SQLSaturdays around the world are hosted at major universities, include some that have happened in nearby cities, similar-sized markets, or their competitors!
    • Put an emphasis on engaging with the local community of potential students, clients, tech enthusiasts. SQLSaturdays are authentic opportunities to get involved in the local tech community, something that many public institutions of higher education desire.
    • Mention the local and (inter)national sponsors at nearby or recent events, and what locations hosted them.
  3. Pitching to universities
    SQLSatBR sponsor lineup, including facility host LSU
    and our monthly UG hosts, LTP and ASC
    • If going after a university or college, try first reaching out directly to faculty, especially faculty who teach databases, business intelligence, or analytics. By leveraging them internally, you can cut through a lot of bureaucracy if the event becomes internally-sponsored.
      • Many universities have master's or certificate programs in data analytics and cybersecurity these days. Try to reach out to that program's faculty personally.
      • Of course, use your alumni/alumnae relationship, or that of a fellow SQLSaturday organizer, to work inside the academic institution, bypassing red tape.
      • Now, if you're talking to someone who manages the facilities for rental, they probably don't care about any of that. They're probably just thinking in terms of rooms, fees, cleaning staff, etc. Try to talk to someone on the instruction or academic side.
    • Make sure to state that everyone can attend, not just user group members. The general public, including faculty and students, is welcomed, and that it is free. 
      • Universities, especially public institutions, will balk at charging admission.
    • Make sure to offer an opportunity for the host facility's faculty, staff, instructors, or experts can get involved to speak with guaranteed slots on the schedule. Worth it if you can get the facility for free!
      • Again, maybe don't talk to facilities or building management. If you're an alumni, or know an alumni, work that relationship for a meeting.
    • Mention that some other (admittedly, not many) get facilities for free because of the benefit to the academic institution for hosting such an event.
      • Being organized as a non-profit entity may help...
    • Operating or representing a nonprofit org cannot hurt. In the United States, this is a 501c3 or 501c6. Some organizations only give free space to nonprofits, for example, many public university systems only work with nonprofits, and public libraries do this too.
      • Incorporating as a non-profit is a different topic altogether with differences but if you can't figure out your local bureaucracy yourself, for help forming the organization, consider going to a law clinic at a University, or local services that specialize in forming and servicing nonprofits.
    • Gilda Alvarez added a great addition to this topic right after I spoke at the SQLSaturday organizer meeting: Work a relationship with a large company's recruiting as an in to the university. In Orlando, Gilda's organizers worked through Deloitte's recruiting arm to convince a university to host a SQLSaturday event, and it worked out very well.
    • Use your experience in the field to offer to speak to University clubs, such as AITP or ACM, or Women in Technology groups, or just as a guest lecturer. Consider also contacting and trying to get involved in departmental advisory committees. These are ways to meet faculty and start working on strategic partnership between the school and the SQLSaturday. 
  4. Get them involved directly
  5. LSU's booth at SQLSaturday Baton Rouge
    • Offer a top-level sponsorship and table to your host organization, free of charge, to help your host facility attract new students or clients.
    • Feature them and their message just like any other sponsor.
    • Offer a spot on your schedule to any host faculty.
    • Offer to put their students on the schedule to give a project showcase of their work.
      • Consider scheduling when students are on campus and can attend.
    • Mention that your event can help showcase their building, draw community attention to it. Especially if the building or a part of campus is new.
  6. Tips for good host relationship
    • Bring your own free-standing folding cardboard garbage bins and bags, making garbage cleanup fast and easy, and without overfilling the host venue's small trash cans.
      • If possible, haul the garbage directly to a dumpster for the venue, and recycling to the appropriate place.
    • Make sure your volunteers team knows that everyone's job is to pick up trash and clean up at the end of the day, and sweep all the classrooms for trash.
    • Be sure to thank the host facility at the end of day raffle, publicly, and invite them to join. 
    • Use easels or free-standing signage instead of taping signage to walls, doors, or glass. In general, don't tape anything to walls or doors!

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