Anatomy of SPSPhilly 2013

By on May 6, 2013,

This post is as much for me a year from now when we begin planning the next SPSPhilly event as it is for anyone else.  It is my attempt at capturing what we learned this time around and helping it to make future events better.

We were shooting for 300 attendees and that’s what we got, so it worked pretty well to have folks inform us if they were unable to attend and then we could release a ticket to a person on the waiting list.  Our “no-show” rate dropped to about 15% because of this, though we should still stick with a 20% no-show rate for future events.


Here’s what we had:

  • Pepsi: 8 cases
  • Diet Pepsi: 4 cases
  • Sprite: 3 cases
  • Diet Sprite: 1 case
  • Iced Tea: 3 cases
  • Water bottles: ~300
  • Assorted Juice bottles: ~200

We had an extra case of Pepsi left over at the end and not enough water, juice or iced tea.  I would drop the extra case of Pepsi and increase others as follows:

  • Water bottles: an additional 300-400
  • Assorted Juice bottles: an additional 200
  • Iced Tea – an additional 100-150

We had WAY too much coffee as well.  We got all the coffee from Wegmans in the great big “Cambro” containers which kept it hot for 4-6 hours.  We had 150 cups for breakfast and an additional 150 for lunch.  Next time we’d probably be OK with 100 each for lunch and breakfast.  Wegmans provided all of the cups/lids, creamer, sugar, stirrers, etc.


Here’s what we had for breakfast:

  • 250 assorted bagels – was probably 100 too many
  • ~200 assorted breakfast pastries, individually wrapped – was a little too much but not too bad.  Consider reducing if the budget is tight next time

The bagels were from Wegmans and they provided cream cheese as well.  Were well received.

Here’s what we had for lunch:

  • 32 Hoagie trays from Wegmans:
    • 6 each of ham, roast beef, Italian and turkey
    • 4 vegetarian
    • 2 tuna salad
    • 2 chicken salad
  • 300 assorted cookies from BJs
  • 300 assorted chip bags from BJs

The hoagies turned out to be about right, but we might want to drop form 6 to 5 for the first set and increase to 5 vegetarian and 3 each for chicken/tuna salad.  If the budget allows it, maybe just increase the latter 3 and leave the first 4 at 6 trays each.  We asked Wegmans to keep each tray with just one type of hoagie on it to make it easier to restock as types got eaten.


All Wegmans orders were called in about 2 weeks ahead of time and picked up in the morning – 7 AM for breakfast, 10 AM for lunch.  Those times worked pretty well though getting to Wegmans at 6:35 was a waste as the order was ready right at 7.


There were a handful of other things purchased from BJs as well:

  • 600 large plates – could probably reduce to 400
  • 200 small plates – about right
  • 1000 napkins – could probably reduce to 500 or 600
  • 500 each forks, knives, spoons – way too much.  Needed less than 100 each
  • 30 table covers – about right – make sure to get the type with plastic backing and paper on top to absorb spills and protect the tabletops
  • 75 large trash bags – too many as the cleaning service provided their own.  Should probably reduce to 24 just to make sure we had some on hand
  • 6 rolls of paper towels – probably too many but need some, maybe 4 rolls would suffice.  Was nice to have the extra during the “great cooler flood”
  • Trash receptacles – ordered 10 medium (18 x 18) trash boxes with lids online about 3 weeks before the event from  Was a little pricy but well worth it.  Ended up throwing them out at the end of the day which was not the original plan.  Next time make sure to keep the shipping box so we can breakdown the trash boxes and save them for future events.

We ordered 21 tables and 90 chairs from Taylor Rental in Malvern which worked out well.  They dropped everything off on Friday afternoon and picked it up at 5:30 on Saturday, though we had to pay a little extra for the Saturday pickup.



For future reference, Sam’s Club allows you to order online for everything we need (BJ’s doesn’t do groceries online?) and pickup your order which would be a HUGE timesaver.  You can also save your order to start from next time.

The layout of the MTC and Malvern office can be a little confusing when there is a large crowd of people who have never been there before.  A map would be helpful to attendees.


Speaker Dinner

Having the speaker dinner in the back room of the Twenty9 Restaurant worked out great.



The SharePint was in a cordoned off area of the Fox & Hound in King of Prussia which seemed to work out pretty well.  We should include directions on the attendee information/agenda.  We had pushed back to a 6:30 start which was a mistake.  6 PM start would have been fine.

At-Event Registration

This seems to be the hardest thing to get right.  We moved the tables up to the front of the building lobby for the morning to try to catch people as they came in but it was a little crowded.  I think part of that was because there were already a bunch of people in the lobby before registration opened so we started with a line as soon as registration opened.  Other things to consider:

  • Don’t have sponsors register – send someone around to their tables with their nametags and such
  • Make sure the signs are visible above the tables so people in line can see that there are really 3 distinct lines – A-L, M-Z and Speakers.  We ended up with one slow moving line because people couldn’t see that there were 3 distinct stations at which to register.
  • Don’t put speaker gifts and SharePint drink tickets in an envelope to be picked up at registration.  Once again, lots of speakers missed that there was a separate line for speaker registration and so ended up with hand-written nametags and not getting their goodies.  We ended up throwing out about $200 in speaker gifts by mistake because they were never picked up and got mixed in with regular attendee nametags which were thrown out.
  • We moved registration back inside the MTC at about 10 AM and I don’t think a lot of folks found it after that.  We should find a good central location for it and leave it there all day.

Online Registration/Sign Up

Wow.  This was not expected.  We filled all 300 spots in less than 5 hours and kicked over into the waiting list, which we closed at 130.  Next year:

  • Have a distinct Event Brite event for sponsor people who will NOT be attending sessions to keep them from inflating the number of attendees we can have in-session (which seems to be the limiting factor).  If the sponsor folks are going to be coming and going throughout the day or mostly hanging out at their table, then they only need to be counted for food – not as regular attendees
  • Have a distinct Event Brite event for speakers as well.  They count for sessions, food AND general attendee space but they are guaranteed to show so there won’t be any no-shows from this crowd
  • Publicize the information about registration opening up well in advance.  We had some complaints about not knowing the event had opened up registration until after it was sold out.
  • Drop the “Booster” ticket.  We don’t need the money and it seemed to confuse some people into thinking this was a paid event
  • If we stay at the MTC, we can probably go up to 300 regular attendees and 50 speakers plus 3-4 people per sponsor.  We were at about 250 regular attendees and 50 speakers this year
  • Having people notify us ahead of time if they could not attend so we could release tickets from the waiting list worked well.


We had 13 sponsors who got tables (2 Platinum, 3 Gold, 8 Silver) which was OK.  It got us plenty of money to run the event but I think each sponsor still felt like they were getting a good value for their money.  I thought having the sponsor tables set up in the lobby of the building worked out pretty well but it might have been a little crowded.  We need to make sure that the table layout is conducive to getting traffic to each sponsor.

We had 2 swag-only sponsors and one social sponsor.  Giveaways seemed light this year.

Sponsors need to be told ahead of time that they will not have power at their tables.

Non of the sponsors used their “Showcase” rooms, so probably drop those.


Food Service

Next year, don’t use the counter at the MTC for the lunch service.  Instead, place 2 rows of tables each perpendicular to it and about 5-7 feet away to allow for faster service.  Place the coolers at the counter so they’re accessible to all lines.

Using the regular MTC counter for breakfast and afternoon snack was fine, augmenting with tables as necessary.




  • We need to stop using the site for anything other than a pointer to the site.  It is hard to use and confusing to attendees to have some information posted on one site and the rest elsewhere.  We also did a lousy job of keeping it updated.
  • Agenda should be posted a week ahead of time
  • Running the slides on the TVs didn’t work out at all.  Next year look into a projector somewhere in the MTC lobby.
  • Having 5 helpers worked out great – they could swing both registration and food service as needed.  They also picked up the food and more ice & water when we ran out.  They were available from 7:15 until 2:30, though 2 stuck around until about 4, which helped.
  • Pretzels were delivered at about 2 PM which worked out pretty well.  We ordered 300 soft pretzels from the Philly Pretzel Factory which was a little much.  We could have gotten by with 200-250

That’s all I can think of for now, though I’ll likely tack on more as I think of things.  If you were an attendee, speaker or sponsor and have any feedback that would help us make next year’s event better, I’d love to hear it so please add your comments below.

Tags , ,