Retrospective analysis of SQL Saturday South Island (#sqlsat614)

Now that SQL Saturday South Island (also known as #sqlsat614 on the Twitter) is done I thought it would be good to look back at an event that consumed me for 4 months.

If you haven’t already — read my post on how to grow a technical conference.

Back in October 2016 just before the PASS Summit Martin Catherall (t | b) and I agreed on a date that we’d run SQL Saturday South Island (SSSI). I would be the lead organiser and Martin would be on the organising committee – along with Rob Douglas (t | b).

Mention should also go to Nick Draper (t) and Sarah Harding (t) — who are on my User Group Committee who helped out with volunteering (and sponsorship (The Talent Hive)).

I was the only of this triumvirate who actually lived in Christchurch so it made sense that I’d do most of the setup work here. From January 2017 until April 2017 I would Skype Martin nearly every week (sometimes more than once) to discuss things relating to SSSI. I’ll give Martin kudos in that he put up with my nagging and OCD like ways very amicably and I want to acknowledge that without him being the calm listening ear to my hypotheses/rants then SSSI wouldn’t be the success it was.

The timezone difference meant that most Skype calls were at 9pm NZT and later and this did result in some humorous (awkward?) situations based on my nighttime attire that Martin no doubt got therapy for….

Summary of SQL Saturday South Island:

A.  We had 126 onsite attendees (up from 93 in 2016). Our venue limit was 150 people.

B.  We had 20 speakers in 5 streams across 4 tracks

Of those speakers:

1 from Singapore

2 from Brisbane, Australia

2 from Sydney, Australia

2 from Melbourne, Australia

1 from Adelaide, Australia

3 from Auckland, NZ

3 from Wellington, NZ

2 from Nelson, NZ

4 from Christchurch, NZ

Of those 20 speakers the were made up of 11 Microsoft MVPs and two Microsoft Certified Masters.

To put this in perspective the most we’d ever had before was 15 speakers (2016) and we had 50% Christchurch based speakers. I really wanted to have speakers from outside Christchurch so that attendees could see people they normally wouldn’t.

Thank you to our sponsors:

Without the generosity of our sponsors we wouldn’t be able to put this event on.

Jade Software


WardyIT (the first SQL Saturday outside of Australia that WardyIT have sponsored)

SQL Services Limited


Dave Dustin Consulting & Training


The Talent Hive

Ara Institute of Canterbury

Special mention should be made about Dave Dustin Consulting & Training — Dave (t |w) has been a long time supporter of SQL Saturdays in Christchurch. This year Dave was not only a speaker but signed up as a sponsor. This was very humbling for me – as that sponsorship meant we could do some more things — but more importantly was a higher % of Dave’s earnings/year than (say) Microsoft earnings/year…..

It meant a lot to me that we had someone who believed so much in what we were doing that they’d put their own money behind us. Thanks Dave – I hope you get some good consultancy gigs out of what you did for us.

OK, here is a summary of:

Things we did right:

Getting “remote” speakers:

Promoting Christchurch as a cool close knit community to speakers — every SQL Saturday or conference I went to in Australasia I talked about how friendly we are. It worked!!

Getting sponsors:

Approaching sponsors we didn’t think would sponsor us — they did!!

Getting great volunteers:

Asking for more volunteers than last year – we even had t-shirts for them!!

Promoting the conference:

Promoting across all forms of social media – this greatly helped our registrations.

Awesome Precons:

Having both Reza Rad and Warwick Rudd do precons for us greatly helped – thanks guys.

Things we could have done better:

Adjacent Rooms:

Our four rooms were split across the campus for the first time – one in N Block and the other 3 in W block.


Which made the DBA track in N Block somewhat disjointed. Thing is there was a spare room next to the other three so in 2018 we’ll have the four tracks all together.

Have a local 2IC:

Whilst Martin Catherall and I work together nicely– he is based in Melbourne. So I need someone local that I can nag as much as I nagged him 😉


Have more people than myself scanning speedpass tickets. In 2018 I’ll just have a scanning BBQ as well as a speaker BBQ on the Sunday.

More International Speakers:

I want some North American speakers. Because if the great precons we ran we have some $$ in the bank for SSSI 2018. So I am going to offer speakers the chance to hang out afterwards in Hanmer Springs for 2 nights on SSSI.

I’ll even take speakers diving in Akaroa or Kaikoura as part of “Come to Christchurch and experience Kiwi hospitality”.

If you want to know what Kiwi Hospitality is like  — read this post by my SQL bro Nagaraj Venkatesan (t | b):


We grew our registrations up to 158 this year from 123 last year, we had 126 people onsite this year compared to 93 last year.

In short – I can’t wait until SQL Saturday South Island 2018.

I’ve already started planning (and Skype calls with poor Martin Catherall) and my aim is to get some North American speakers out here.



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