As organisers of the SQL Saturday Exeter conference we are highly conscious of the resources needed to make these events happen, not least the good will and free time from all the dozens of volunteers but also the effort and finance that comes from the sponsors too.
We say it every time because it is true – we can’t run without them. We are however sensitive to the fact that there are lots of events running in the UK and that there seems to be ever more events that want to run. We risk reaching a point where we are spreading the sponsor funds so thin that event quality will suffer. We have seen this year that a couple of other events run in a loss-making circumstance and don’t want to see any event fail in this way. Budgets are not small for these events and it is a personal risk that the organisers take – if there is a short-fall in funds then we/they are individually liable to make up the difference.
There is also a pretty cramped calendar to contend with, once you remove public holidays, quiet summer months when people are on holiday, other events, personal calendar events then there are often not many options to run an event. Interaction between events cant be underestimated – attendees are generally having to negotiate their time at a conference with some other party, be it a family/home that needs their time or an employer that has a limited budget and a workload to get completed. Having every weekend full of conferences is going to mean that many conferences get poor attendance or that a few conferences get very low attendance. This makes them less attractive to sponsors and makes other attendees wonder if they made the right choice.
With all of this in mind for some time we have recently done some planning with our fellow South Coast user group in Southampton and have decided to become a bi-annual event. SQL Saturday Exeter and SQL Saturday Southampton will run on alternate years so that we can keep up the numbers of attendees, make better use of sponsor funding and ensure an absolute top quality experience at both events.
At least that’s the hope.
This isn’t a strategy without risk itself, will people adopt a 2-year cycle or will we lose attendees during our year off? I guess its going to take until at least 2018 to find out.
[Edit: Just to be clear, SQL Saturday Southampton is running in 2017 (date to be confirmed at this moment) and SQL Saturday Exeter will be back in 2018.