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GroupBy Live Webcast Notes & Lessons Learned

Whew – it’s over! The first live GroupBy webcast is in the books. A few things to know:

Now, let’s talk about last Friday’s event.

How Registration and Turnout Worked

1,758 folks registered. Here’s how attendance looked during the morning sessions (up to lunch):

GroupBy morning attendance

Attendance climbed and then held steady through the first 3 sessions. We closed the webcast for a minute at lunch because it makes it a little easier to deal with the GoToWebinar recording files when they’re a little smaller, and then reopened it immediately:

Afternoon attendance

Afternoon attendance popped right back up to 400 – the first hour was just lunch, so no meetings were happening – but then steadily trailed off through the day. We finished at around 7PM Eastern, so I’m not surprised that people left for their drive home. (International attendees talked about how early/late it was at their place.)

I didn’t schedule sessions based on popularity at all, but just speaker availability. I sent a poll to the speakers asking what times they couldn’t present, and then worked backwards from there, filling out the jigsaw puzzle.

I’d closed out registrations when we hit 1,500 because I was worried about banging up against GoToWebinar’s 1,000-attendee limit. We only had a 40% attendance rate, though, so we were fine. I won’t put a cap on registrations on the April GroupBy, but we’ll have to keep an eye on this.

How the Presentations Worked

The volunteer presenters did an incredible job. Great material, great demos, great delivery, and great job of making their materials available before the presentations were even over. I can’t thank them enough.

I got several comments about how the video & audio was great – that’s due to the speakers all picking up webcams and good-quality microphones as recommended in the Speaker FAQ. Again, fantastic job by the speakers there.

We did have one hiccup with one presenter’s internet speed – it simply wasn’t fast enough for a remote presentation with audio & video. I’m up for ideas on how we handle that – for example, should we require that presenters include a bandwidth test with their submission?

How the Attendee Interactivity Worked

Lively discussions happened in three places:

I do wish we could make it all happen in one place – it’d be more vibrant, and I’d really love to have it happen in a searchable, archived place – but that’s not realistic in early 2017. A lot of folks only want to use one communication method, and Twitter and Slack are blocked at some offices. For 2017 at least, being a co-host is going to mean having a lot of open windows and doing a lot of context switching.

How the Scheduling Worked

I went into this expecting to do a lot of co-hosting work. I thought I’d be filling a lot of gaps between sessions, talking to the audience, doing demos of concepts.

Talking PowerShell with Drew and Aaron

Nnnnnope. As Andy Mallon told me, sessions are made of gas – they expand or contract to fill all available space.

At the same time, I got a lot of feedback that the between-sessions casual banter between me, Aaron Nelson, Aaron Bertrand, and the other presenters was super-fun to watch. Attendees felt like they were going backstage.

So for the April GroupBy, we’ll run sessions every 2 hours. Speakers will still get a max of 80 minutes, then a 10-minute bio break, then 30 minutes for the next presenter to set up and talk shop. Other presenters can also have their webcams & audios on during that time. (Several presenters stayed online the whole day.)

This does mean we’ll have less sessions – only 4-5 instead of 6 – but I think the shop talk is valuable for a bunch of reasons:

  • It makes the presenters more relatable to attendees
  • It further builds the presenters’ brands and reputation in the community
  • It encourages an open discussion between the presenters (because we don’t get enough chances to talk to each other face-to-face)
  • It might encourage attendees to submit sessions and become part of this club

Anything else you think we should tweak about GroupBy so far?

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GroupBy April 2017 Open for Session Submissions

Wanna submit a session for the next GroupBy event? The time is now.

Submit your session. Don’t be scared to click the Submit button – your abstract is a living, breathing thing that will continue to evolve over time. You’re encouraged to tweak it based on community feedback.

A moderator will double-check to make sure there’s nothing offensive, and then publish it. You’ll get an email confirming its publication.

Readers will suggest tweaks to the abstract, and you’ll get emails each time someone leaves a public comment. You don’t have to do everything they say – but talk to ’em to get more details about what they’re thinking.

We’re here to help make this a fun event for you, and I believe it’s the easiest way to get started on a journey of giving back to the community that’s given you so much along the way. Let’s do this!

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Poll: Pick the Next GroupBy Conference Dates

With your help in a previous blog post, we narrowed down GroupBy’s next dates to these four options.

When should the next GroupBy conference be? Pick your favorite 2.

  • April 21 and 28, Fridays back to back (36%, 49 Votes)
  • April 27-28, Thursday-Friday (26%, 35 Votes)
  • April 3-4, Monday-Tuesday (13%, 18 Votes)
  • April 24-25, Monday-Tuesday (13%, 17 Votes)
  • I'm fine with any of these dates (12%, 16 Votes)

Total Voters: 89

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You can only vote when you’re on the blog post itself, and you must be logged in to vote. (The login form is on the right side of the blog post page.) Voting closes Saturday.

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When Should The Next GroupBy Event *NOT* Be?

For the first couple of iterations, we want to run one GroupBy per quarter. (Later, we may speed it up to monthly depending on demand.)

We’re thinking about the following dates for the next GroupBy:

  • April 3-4, Monday-Tuesday
  • April 6-7, Thursday-Friday (ruled out due to SQLbits, SQLSaturday Madison)
  • April 21 and 28, Fridays back-to-back
  • April 24-25, Monday-Tuesday
  • April 27-28, Thursday-Friday

Are there any of these dates that we should totally avoid? (Like is there a conference or an online meeting on those dates?) We want to avoid stepping on anybody else’s events.

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Sold Out! Registrations are closed.

The good news is that you’re really excited about the first GroupBy event, and over 1,500 of you have registered to attend the live webcast.

The bad news is that our webcast platform caps out at 1,000 live attendees, so we’re closing registration. We figure some folks won’t be able to attend on the day of the event, so we could go a little higher, but we don’t want to go any higher lest folks get angry on the live event day when they can’t get in.

We’d love to find a cost-effective platform with even higher capacity that still provides a great attendee experience. If you’d like to participate in that selection process, head on over to that forum discussion to read about the requirements and talk about other solutions.

If you didn’t register in time, no worries – if you’re subscribed to the blog or the emails, we’ll announce when the recordings are available in our YouTube channel and in our upcoming podcast.

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Want to Promote Your Community Project During GroupBy?

During the live online GroupBy conference, we’re going to be showing 3 things:

Your stuff – blog, scripts, user group, webcast – can be in the center square for free. Here’s a few examples of ads submitted so far:

All you have to do is create a 1000×1000 pixel image (or whatever, as long as it’s square and it will look good at high resolutions) and upload it here. (If you get an error, try another browser – we’ve heard of problems with Edge.)

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Session Submission Process: What Should We Tweak?

Now that the first round of session selection is wrapped, let’s talk about what worked well and what didn’t. I’ll go first because, uh, I’m the author.

What I think worked well:

Rapid feedback for speakers – there were over 200 comments left on 45 abstracts for an average of ~4 comments each. Some of ’em generated a ton of feedback, and presenters were able to refine their abstracts early on.

Attendees participated in the process – for this first event, we let both anonymous and logged-in users leave ratings. I was originally worried that we wouldn’t have enough logged-in user turnout, and that we’d need anonymous ratings to get a significant sample. That wasn’t the case – we got 2,788 ratings (average of 62 per session, mean of 50), most of which were from logged-in users. (That doesn’t mean the ratings process is the right way to go, though.)

The WordPress infrastructure worked – for a version 1.0 event, man, this thing worked pretty well. There’s a lot of small workflow improvements I wanna make over time.

What I think needs to be tweaked:

Let’s split session submission into 2 phases – this brilliant idea came from Adam Machanic in the forums:

Phase 1: Session Proposal Review – speakers can submit abstracts anytime they want (like even right now for future GroupBy events.) The goal in this phase is to help speakers refine their abstracts, and session editing is encouraged during this phase. Ratings on Topic & Abstract will continue, but only Good/OK/Needs Improvement, and a comment will be required to leave a review. Nothing will be done with these ratings – they won’t be shown on a leaderboard, won’t be shown during the next phase, and they’re just to help the speaker improve their craft.

On a certain date, we lock all currently submitted sessions and start….

Phase 2: Attendee Rating – no new sessions or edits for 2 weeks. Logged-in users can leave ratings (no anonymous ones per the forum discussion), and your name won’t be shown publicly with your rating. The top X sessions get into the event, as with this past round.

Now I need your help on figuring out a rating mechanism:

  • Option A, Star Ratings Qty * Score: what we used this time, but only give them one category (likelihood of attending). If we pick this, I know a lot of speakers want to make comments required when voting happens, but since the name & comment would be shown publicly, I’m not sure that’s a good idea. (Although it’d have an interesting side effect – if you didn’t like a session, you just wouldn’t vote for it.)
  • Option B, Pre-Registration: forget ratings, and let users just register for sessions. This way you can register for any sessions you’d want to attend. I don’t think this is gonna work – say we get two Power BI sessions on identical topics. Users will just register for both, and we won’t have a good way of knowing which one they want more.
  • Option C, You Only Get 10 Votes: you see a list of all the abstracts, and you only get to pick 10 that you want to attend. The sessions with the most votes win. (This is my favorite right now.)

I’m open to other ideas too. (Not average rating score alone though – someone with just a handful of 5-star votes could win, and that wouldn’t build a conference with widespread appeal.)

Next thing to improve – registration logistics – this isn’t an issue yet (Dec 19th), but it’s going to be fast. GoToWebinar maxes out at 1,000 simultaneous attendees on a live broadcast, and I know we’re going to hit that on some of these sessions. I want to make sure that if you voted for a session, then you’re going to be on the guest list for sure. That means in the rating phase, Option B and Option C are much more appealing to me than just pure 5-star scores.

Whaddya think? (I’m onsite with a client this week so I won’t be chiming in until after business hours, but folks can have a vibrant discussion here in the comments.)

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Announcing the GroupBy January Lineup!

With so many great sessions, we decided to run a two-day event – we’ll be webcasting on two Fridays, January 13th and January 20th.

Here’s the sessions you chose. Click on the time to see it in your local time:

Friday January 13th:

Friday January 20th:

Congratulations to the winners!

Wanna attend? Register now – space is limited to 1,000 attendees, and we’ve already got over 500 registered.

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Winter 2017 Group By Schedule

Hi folks! Here’s the schedule for the first GroupBy event:

  • November 1-30 – session abstracts, voting open
  • December 16 – voting closed, winners announced (not like it’s a surprise, the voting is fully open)
  • January 13 (Friday) – online event

Before abstracts open for the spring 2017 event, we’ll discuss what worked well during the winter event and figure out what to tweak for the spring schedule.

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