Both groups met at a special joint meeting last night at Nova University, part of Operation Souza. Before I go into my usual notes, I want to say thank you to Mark Souza for traveling from Redmond for the meeting. He flew overnight to get here and had a 6 am flight the next morning, making for a long trip. Chapters don’t work without speakers and as much as we rely heavily on the great group of Florida speakers, it’s nice to have someone new added to the mix. Thanks also to the oPASS & MagicPASS teams for trying something new and making it work!

  • Nova was a great host facility, great room, great staff, great location. We’ll return there at some point I’m sure.
  • We arrived at 5 pm to set up. More setup than usual because we planned for a larger crowd than usual. All went well. Kendal had signs, made coffee, had extension cords and other extras, including a mouse when needed later in the evening.
  • There were already a couple people there and I was surprised to learn that one of them worked in the same building as I do (and even stranger, I recently met one of his co-workers in the elevator who recognized me from visiting ONETUG). Networking is good!!
  • We set up a table for the swag, Mark had stuff shipped ahead – hoodies, pen and pencil sets, some leather wallet thingies – ended up with almost enough for everyone to get something, and too much to plan on using the raffle ticket method – would take too long
  • We had 130 registered and no idea what the no show rate would be. We went a day-of reminder and that did generate a few cancellations (which we appreciate, helps get the food order right). I was hoping for 80-100, thinking to see 30% drop
  • Final count was 75-80. Not as much as hoped, but still a great turnout, and I would guess 2 to 2.5x the normal turnout of the combined groups each month
  • We printed the sign in sheet from Eventbrite, worked well. Dan Taylor staffed the sign in table for a while, thanks Dan!
  • Room had a projector and a rolling whiteboard, very nice to have the latter
  • We had some drive down from Tallahassee, over from Sarasota, Tampa, Clearwater, and Denny Cherry drove up from West Palm
  • We started just a couple minutes after 6 pm with probably 60 people present (the rest trickled in up until 7 pm or so)
  • Kendal did the usual (and fantastic) Chapter opening, working through slides on the groups, PASS, upcoming area events, ONETUG, probably some more.
  • That was followed by networking in my favorite form – talk to the person next to you. Always works!
  • Dinner was ready about 6:15 consisting of pizza, veggie trays, cookies, various soda, plus water and coffee.
  • We forgot forks for those that wanted them for the veggies (some turned up eventually)
  • We forgot our own lesson from SQLSaturday and only ran one food line, so it took as much as 25 minutes to get everyone through the and mostly settled. The room was set up with tables for food and we just used as it was. Not huge, but we knew better!
  • Mark had told me he had about 90 minutes of material, but he would run longer if the meeting was interactive. I asked about a break at the one hour mark, he said he would just keep going
  • AV worked, we found an extension cord, and he wrote 4 items on the whiteboard for discussion, then left blanks for items 5-10 (and sadly, he noticed when I was trying to add a couple topics to the list when he wasn’t looking about, shall we way…competitors?!)
  • Mark worked the room some starting at 5:30 and I noticed that he’s very good at remembering names – great skill to have
  • About 6:40 I did a quick introduction of Mark Souza, reminding attendees about the no photo/video/tweet rule during the presentation
  • He started off by talking about his career, back before Microsoft, why he joined them, starting SQLCAT, and more. Nice intro.
  • Then he explained his presentation. He had a bunch of slides, four topics he wanted to discuss, but he wanted everyone to go home having learned something they cared about. So what other topics did we want to hear about? He started handed out swag as people came up with topics until list had grown to 21 items, filling the whiteboard. Effective use of swag and an effective way to get them talking. That really set the tone.
  • I can’t write about the details, but he covered a lot of ground and delivered – easily – more than we had promised in the marketing of the meeting.
  • 90 minutes went by quickly and it felt like he was just getting started, so I was thinking 2 hours or a little more. Mark spoke to the audience for an astonishing 3 hours and 15 minutes! A few people had to leave at the end, but the majority stayed and seemed quite content to do so.
  • The final 30 minutes or was Mark going back over the list, crossing out the ones covered and trying to make sure everyone got an answer
  • The meeting ended about 10:15 and then did clean up (which takes longer with more people and more food), and called it a night around 10:45
  • We’ll be sending them a follow up survey and an invite to the next scheduled group meetings
  • Some thoughts for next time:

    • Two food lines is a must
    • We should borrow what MagicPASS does and run a Summit video, or have something else planned to keep them engaged while waiting in that pre-6pm window. Not a big deal, but every little bit helps
    • Every chapter should keep an extra extension cord, mouse, presentation remote on hand, just in case

    And one thought that I’m not sure about. Charging for lunch at SQLSaturday is a win because we don’t have to risk hard earned funds over-ordering food. I wonder if that model wouldn’t work for Chapters too? Set the price at $7 or $7.50 and order boxed meals. Those that want food pay for it, those that don’t would get chips and salsa or whatever. Better food, better logistics (other than the food order cutoff perhaps) and it would reduce the strain on Chapter finances. Would it hurt attendance? I’d be surprised.