Case Study: Organising an Award Winning Conference

21 January 2021

Award winning conference and corporate event organisers - it's what we do!

SQLBits is a conference created by SQLBits, supported by Sneaky Experience.

Two small teams with a shared vision, and boundless ambition and ability create a global event, that grows in hearts and minds each year.

In 2019, 2,500 of delegates came to enjoy more than 300 sessions over five days - making it the best value for money conference around.

In 2020, SQLBits supported by Sneaky Experience were proud winners of the 2020 UK Conference of the Year!

A Conference with a Difference

SQLBits is that rare thing - a conference that doesn’t feel like a conference.

Forget never-ending PowerPoints, dry lectures, sponsored workshops or predictable catering, this UK-based event has grown from an industry secret to a dynamic global phenomenon.

Created by data professionals for other data professionals, it’s a conference designed and delivered by the UK Data community it aims to serve.

Unlike other conferences, it’s famously friendly and fun - with education,knowledge sharing and community are its core.

Photo: SQLBits | Telford International Centre | 2017 (The Disco Themed Year)


Its small team of volunteers share a big vision and boundless ambition - and it shows.

Since its inception in 2007, SQLBits has become the largest data conference in the world; providing delegates with access to the sector’s best experts and thinkers - including those behind the Microsoft Data Platform.

It’s THE place to discuss best practice, explore and develop original ideas and enjoy some informal networking.

As a not for profit event, it’s an affordable experience too, designed to be accessible to tech workers across the spectrum - from senior executives to new entrants.

Photo: SQLBits | Manchester Central | 2019 (The Speakeasy Themed Year)

Our story

A maven team of 5 SQL Server enthusiasts alongside the unlikely conference producer, events company Sneaky Experience create SQLBits, the largest data conference in the world. SQLBits leads the market in its value for money, and loved for its fun approach, and friendly feel.

Photo: SQLBits superb volunteer helpers | Manchester Central | 2019


SQLBits are a dream client as they have a strong vision to create a conference with a difference, with customer experience at its heart, and throughout every last detail of the event production. Exacting standards are set, and together we move the bar a little higher each year. Customer experience is also the core of our business, where our purpose is to create unique and memorable experiences for our customers, making it easy for us to deliver this for SQLBits too.

Photo: SQLBits Networking Opportunities | Telford International Centre | 2017


Sneaky Experience events all have an element of surprise and a little bit of magic. Whether that’s outdoor cinema with walkabout acts, a food festival with live music, or participatory theatre for kids.

When SQLBits approached us 7 years ago to create the themed party for their conference, we jumped at the chance to create some magic for their audience too. Each year since, taking on more of the event production, where we now produce every element of the conference, from branding through to power and networks, and everything in between.

Photo: SQLBits Friday Night Disco | Telford International Centre | 2017


A learning curve for us over the years, and a very positive one, as our ambition alongside the client’s grows for SQLBits each year.

And what’s really interesting, is that as well as shared vision and ambition, both us and the SQL Bits team have day jobs outside of the conference, so we share mutual respect for that too – offering a flexible way of working that most events companies can’t.

The conference with a difference

SQLBits was born from passion about data and the SQL Server. A small group of professionals, wanted to share knowledge with as many people, and as inclusively as possible. Every element of the event is thought about with that purpose, right down to the smallest details.

Photo: SQLBits Celebrating 10 years 

The space:

Each year we source a venue at a different place in the UK.  An important requirement is that the venue has a large space that we can configure ourselves to ensure that the customer experience flows as we want it to. So new challenges each year, and in 2019 the key one was scale. Manchester Central, a former rail terminus with the second largest rail roof span in the UK.

Photo: SQLBits | Olympia | 2018 (The Magic Themed Year)


A central area with 15 surrounding rooms was reconfigured to 9 larger rooms for the last 3 days, and again for the one-hour keynote speech– one room to accommodate the whole conference was configured overnight, and impressively reworked into 3 rooms in just 15 minutes post-session. Planning and meticulous logistics on the ground meant that the required power, connectivity, lighting, and sound integrity were all met without a hitch in customer comfort and experience.

Photo: Keynote | SQLBits | Manchester Central | 2019



For flexibility, and to address feedback from 2018 about sound-spill, we worked with our AV partners to devise a system of floor to ceiling drapes on tracks – a step-change from the inflatable domes and flat-walled constructions of previous years. Double-draped between rooms to ensure sound integrity in each space, and around the central space to create walkways and further limit sound spill. An innovation that was a huge challenge given the scale of the space, but a key success factor for 2019 and so taking forwards into future conferences.


Photo: SQLBits | Manchester Central | 2019



Our catering reflects the dynamic nature of the conference. Complimentary breakfast, lunch and all-day refreshments are healthy and can be eaten on the move – maximising the networking and learning opportunity in-between sessions.


No-one misses out on over-subscribed sessions - we live stream them via wireless headphones and large screens, with large bean-bag seating in the central area if any of the rooms are filling up.

Photo: SQLBits beanbags -  yes they are as comfortable as they look!


Photo: SQLBits | Manchester Central | 2019


Custom built fully equipped pods were placed in the central area for ad-hoc collaboration sessions.

Charging stations and connectivity are available in all areas. And to ensure delegates stay connected, there’s a help-desk with tech support – key for a tech conference.

Photo: SQLBits | Manchester Central | 2019


Nothing wasteful is produced. Our goodie-bags are cotton, and contents all contribute to the conference experience. We sell event props to delegates at event close, like T-shirts and bean-bags, reducing waste, and in 2019 raising over £4,000 for charity.

Photo: SQLBits | Telford International Centre | 2017 (The Disco Themed Year)



Delegates complete feedback forms after every session, scoring on subject matter and learning outcomes, to comfort and catering. We review as they come in and address any feedback immediately where possible. Post conference they’re analyzed by a specialist and addressed at our optimisation meeting.


Forged genuinely by caring about the event as much as our client does.

Active members of their team – we’re bonded by creativity and commitment to high standards. And extended to event sponsors, to whom we now offer freight management – ensuring that wherever their collateral is arriving from, and however long it takes to pass through customs, we store, install and return to where needed.

Photo: SQLBits | Gold Sponsor, Microsoft | Olympia | 2018


Value for money

SQLBits is a not-for-profit organisation – where every penny is optimised to ensure the best learning outcomes for as many as possible. A free day is funded by the ticketing of other days, allowing SQLBits to ensure those on lower wages, or working with companies who are unable to invest in training, are able to attend. Tight budget management, tireless negotiations with suppliers, and spend justification is therefore a real focus for us and our client


Photo: SQLBits | Liverpool Exhibition Centre | 2016 (The Sci-fi Themed Year) 

Photo Credit, SQL DBA with a Beard



SQLBits gains momentum each year, in terms of audience, ambition and accomplishment. It’s become an annual event that’s hotly anticipated by the technology community - where no above the line marketing is needed. Delegates clearly feel a sense of loyalty and excitement about what is now a key fixture in the data calendar.


Photo: SQLBits | ExCeL London | 2015 (The Superheroes Themed Year)


This successful formula is reviewed and built upon each year, allowing us to now finesse what’s already a thoroughly well-received and well-loved conference, to one that’s even more sustainable, inclusive and engaging in years to come.

Don't take our word for it - click here to hear what SQLBits think of working with Sneaky Experience: