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RMOUG Training Days 2014 Followup

So I survived one more year as the conference director for RMOUG Training Days 2014! :)  There was some question to my survival as we entered the week before the conference, but I can say, I’m surprisingly intact and once I finish this post, it’s onto the next challenge!

If you’re unfamiliar with the conference, Rocky Mountain Oracle User Group’s Training Days has been an incredibly well supported conference by many of the best Oracle speakers, Oak Table members and ACE/ACED in the world.  I’m very proud to be a member, a board of director, as well as the conference director for a different number of years, depending on the role… :)  This is my second year as conference director and I’ve really enjoyed the challenge.

This year there were a number of additions and enhancements to the conference.  These included and weren’t limited to…

1.  Exchanged the first half day  ”University Sessions” which always were offered as a additional fee, with “deep dive sessions”  which were now included in all full registration passes.  The added benefit of these is that they decreased added electrical and AV costs from the convention center, saving us a lot of money in our budget.

2.  Single day passes were now available for those that were previously unable to take off two 1/2 days for a conference.  These passes were only good for the single, full day they were purchased for and no access to the deep dive sessions, but the percentage of registrations showed that they are something our members were thrilled to take advantage of.  The full registration was still the better value, but many had told us, it wasn’t the cost of our conference-  we have the best bang for the buck anywhere when it came to price-  it was getting the time away from work to attend.

3.  Extend the ACE lunches to both days and reserve a seat for the ACE/ACED that the table was for.  Yeah, yeah-  not fun to come to your table and not have a chair to sit down in.  I had wanted a red banner or napkin placed on the chair with a reserved sign, but hey, we’re getting there on how this RMOUG created opportunity for the attendees to speak with their favorite ACE/ACED!

4.  OTN and RAC Attack-  Laura Ramsey rocked the house with the help of RAC Attack SIG members Bjoern Rost, Bobby Curtis, Maaz Anjum,  Javier Ruiz and Leighton Nelson.  These guys made sure that the tables were manned at all times and folks had the help they needed to build a great DB12c RAC of their own! :)

5.  First Evening Welcome Reception-  We understood clearly that our members were often driving home and weren’t always interested in having drinks, so we added a coffee bar and will continue to enhance this event to give people the best experience.  I noted this year that  the new setup for the exhibitor area really seemed to keep the networking flowing and everyone had a great time.

6.  Speakers-  Our speakers are number 1 top knotch and we ensure this by using a large review team, close to 50 individuals, then use this rating system to score abstracts.  We do not limit any speaker opportunities by who they work for or how many are from what company, but we do limit how many top presentations are in per track and try to give new speakers a chance.  If we can’t at the regional user group level, how will you ever get a chance to hear these future great technical speakers elsewhere?

So if you’re curious how this works, we have trimmed down our conference after last year realizing that our days were simply too long and that we could either extend out another day, (not an option, remember, we’re having trouble with folks getting even 2 1/2 days off…) or could trim, so I went from 142 sessions down to 100 with shortened days and less rooms.

I build the conference by the percentage of each track that abstracts are submitted, so yes, our conference has the percentage of sessions you see for each of the tracks you view below in the spread sheet.  We had to choose 100 presentations from 343 abstracts submitted.

Type: PRESENTATIONAbstract Count: 343

Topic Count Percentage
Application Development       90   26.2
Business Intelligence       25    7.3
Database Administration       93   27.1
DBA Deep Dive       52   15.2
Database Tools of the Trade       30    8.7
Hyperion       24    7.0
Middleware        9    2.6
Professional Empowerment       12    3.5
Other        8    2.3

This ended up equating to most folks getting 1 accepted presentation each, with maybe a second one if they were considered a top speaker and had the scores to prove it.  With the ratings, you always know that speakers like Tom Kyte and Jonathan Lewis are going to have more that are in that top 5.0 rating, so you need to take their top 2 and simply understand, you can’t take more of their presentations or you won’t be able to give others a chance to speak.  I then come back in after the track leads have built their tracks out of the # of abstracts they are allowed that equate to the percentage you see above and “pepper” in the new speakers that we want to ensure to give a chance to.  Saying no is never easy and yet considering we are only able to say yes to less than one of every three abstracts, it still happens and it’s a difficult choice to decide who stays and who goes in the schedule.

7.  More Guidebook!  This mobile app was a hit last year and so we’ve enhanced some of the features and are still working on all the aspects we would like to see in the application.  The social media activity for this conference, especially on Twitter was incredible!  I had so may people emailing me and asking how they could ensure on attending next year just on the feedback via social media!

8.  Introduced RMOUG’s virtual WIT.  We now are going virtual with the WIT program as the first SIG to meet virtually.  We tried an onsite meeting each month or so and it was just too difficult for many to attend.  The Lean In and Mightbell site have offered us a great virtual location, along with Google Hangouts to have our monthly meetings!  If interested in signing up, just click here to check it out!

Ideas for Next Year

1.  A Virtual track or two that people can register for a lesser fee and attend.  This would take some planning, as anyone who works with virtual attendance software knows, it can have some surprising challenges.

2. Electronic evaluations.  I hate paper-  not sure about you, but I would love to “gamify” it and have it anonymously submit the evaluation, but register the attendee into a drawing for every session he does an evaluation for, (max of how many sessions per day…) towards a raffle for a great prize like an IPad or similar.  The amount of work this would eliminate would be fantastic.  Now I just need to find the folks that can build this for me into our conference app… :)

3.  More contests via Twitter and Facebook for during the conference.  Commonly I’m just toast by the time the conference comes around, so as it goes on, I’m unable to do these types of things, but I wanted to do a “picture with the convention center bear” contest and “best conference gif award” or “best conference lip sync” but never got to it….next year, next year… :)

Overall

I can’t share too much yet, as the conference just ended, but I can tell you that our numbers were up, attendees and speakers feedback has been fantastic so far!  I’m content that we are headed in the right direction to continue RMOUG Training Days as the conference that all others model themselves after!

A special thanks goes out to all the hard work and support to Team YCC and the Training Days Conference Committee.  I couldn’t do it without my peeps! :)

 



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