Are you a first-time SQL Saturday speaker? Congratulations!
Are you traveling to speak at your first SQL Saturday? Congratulations, again! You’re nervous, you say? That’s certainly understandable. Traveling for the first time to speak someplace you’ve never been can be daunting, but as I wrote previously, you need to step out of your comfort zone to get ahead.
I remember the first time I traveled to speak at SQL Saturday: Providence, RI in 2015. It was only the second time I’d ever spoken at a SQL Saturday; the first was within the friendly confines of my home town earlier that summer. This one was a little more intimidating for me; it was my first SQL Saturday (either speaking or attending) outside of New York state, I was in an unfamiliar town, and I was alone (I only knew one other person at this particular event). I was confident in my own abilities, but nevertheless, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous. If you were speaking at your first out-of-town event, I’m sure you would be, too.
Well, since I started speaking at SQL Saturday almost four years ago, as of this article, I’ve since spoken at nineteen (and counting) SQL Saturday events in ten different cities in six states (seven, if you include DC*). I think I can safely claim that I am now a seasoned veteran when it comes to speaking at out-of-town SQL Saturday events (yes, several people have been to more than me, but I digress). And I’ve picked up some experience along the way. Here are some things I’ve learned during my travels as a SQL Saturday speaker.
(*Okay, DC SQL Saturday was technically in Chevy Chase, MD. However, DC was literally across the street. See for yourself!)
Before we start, let me direct you to a previous article I wrote about what it’s like to travel to a SQL Saturday. That should give you a taste of what it’s like to travel to speak at an event.
Now that your appetite (hopefully) is whetted, here are a few things to expect when you’re traveling to speak at SQL Saturday.
You’re doing this on your dime. Keep in mind that SQL Saturday is an all-volunteer event — and that includes you, the speaker. The costs for transportation, lodging, and food are all coming out of your pocket. It’s possible that you might be able to have your employer foot the bill for your trip — for example, if your employer is a sponsor, it’s possible that they could foot your bill as a duly-designated representative of the company.
Unfortunately, not every speaker has this option. For those of us who don’t…
AirBnB is a wonderful thing. Often, a hotel costs more than I want to pay. If you’re only looking for a place to lay your head and aren’t picky about a front desk, room service, or a concierge, I’ve often found rooms on AirBnB for a fraction of the price of a hotel.
And of course, if you want to stay in a hotel, it pays to shop around.
I’ve also attended a number of SQL Saturdays in cities where friends live. I’ve often asked them if I could crash in their guest room, or even their living room couch. For SQL Saturday in Philadelphia, for example, I have a college friend who lives near the event site, and I’ve stayed with him and his family every time I’ve attended this event. I’ve done this often enough that I no longer need to use my GPS to find his house.
How are you getting there? So far, I’ve traveled to all out-of-town SQL Saturdays either by driving or taking the train. I have yet to attend an event that requires me to fly there. (I did set a goal this year of speaking at an event where it isn’t feasible for me to drive. I’m hoping that that event is PASS Summit. We’ll see!)
Why don’t I fly to these events? Well, partially, it’s because I don’t like the hassles that come with flying. But as for my primary reason, go back and read the above paragraph about doing this on my own dime.
Make it an experience! My wife has an open invitation to travel with me to these events. She doesn’t come to all of them, but when she does come with me, we’ll often make an experience out of it. When I was chosen to speak at Virginia Beach, knowing that there’s a lot of touristy-type things to do in the area, I told her, “let’s take a few extra days and make a vacation out of it!” We went to Colonial Williamsburg and went to the beach, and we had a great time!
Network, network, network! Nearly four years ago, I traveled to Providence knowling almost no one there. Since then, I see many other SQL Saturday speakers fairly regularly, and I’ve become good friends with many of them. Even to this day, I continually make new network connections whenever I attend these events. Take advantage of the networking contacts you make, and bring business cards if you have them!
Above all, have fun! There’s a reason why I keep applying to speak at SQL Saturday. I could write more about the networking contacts, the data training, and the boost to my resume. But above all, I love doing these events. I genuinely enjoy attending SQL Saturday! I would attend more if my schedule and my budget (and my wife!) allowed it, but I try to attend as many as I can.
So if you’re looking to present at SQL Saturday events, go ahead and apply to a location that looks interesting to you. Hopefully, I’ll see you at one sometime soon!