I recently returned from my annual trip to the PASS Summit. This week long adventure is always exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. Some thoughts on the Summit this year (in no particular order):
- Dining Hall / Community Zone / Exhibit Hall layout really worked this year. Abandoning the South Lobby was a great idea and eliminated the traffic jams of yesteryear. I think it was this way in 2012 but everyone finally realized that it just makes sense for traffic flow.
- Chapter Lunch on Wednesday. I am sad to see that this was killed off this year. This was the time each year that I could meet people from my hometown who did not attend the local user group. Historically, this has always been a good example of the disconnect between PASS and the local user groups. I’m sad to see the Board took the easy way out and chose to hide the defect instead of addressing it.
- Speaker Idol was a great idea by Denny Cherry and well executed. I sat in on part of one session and the judges were serious and offered constructive criticism and praise where it was due. I would have hoped that there be an official member of the Program Committee involved as a judge because there was a 2015 Summit speaker slot was up for grabs.
- Bring back Don Gabor. I heard that the First Timers Networking sessions were done by Board Members. Nothing wrong with that but Don Gabor is a professional networking speaker and conversationalist. He does a great job of inspiring people on the value of networking. Let the expert work his magic.
- Sheer Volume. It’s getting harder to see everyone as the attendance hit an all time high of 5,900. There were several people I wanted to talk to but didn’t run into for logistical reasons.
- Security more in evidence that ever before. There were a lot of rent-a-cops everywhere. I guess it’s a sign of the dangerous and paranoid world we now live in.
- Sessions per day. I only attended one or two sessions per day (including my own). The value I get from the Summit, at this point my career; is the face time, networking, and lasting relationships with other professionals. You don’t get that sitting in sessions. Buy the recordings and watch them during the Winter. That’s what I do.
- Board Q&A. Due to a last minute schedule change I was unable to attend the Board Q&A. I was looking forward to asking some of my friend Andy Warren’s questions plus some of my own.
- Networking Sessions should be expanded to anyone who wants to attend; not just First Timers. Have a session late Tuesday, say 4PM-5PM for people looking to expand their networking skills. Plenty of Alumni need help too.
- Idea: Networking Prep Session one month before PASS Summit 2015. I see value here, across the board.
- Come in early and relax a day before the carnage begins. This year I flew in Sunday and attended the Red-Gate SQL in the City on Monday. It went well as Red-Gate always puts on a good event. Tuesday I relaxed and worked on my presentations.
- Umbrella. It was rainier than usual this year and I was lucky to have my SQL Saturday Columbus umbrella handy this year. It fit perfectly in my pocket.
- Room usage. Room allocation seemed better this year. I don’t know if this was a result of Dev Nambi’s predictive analytics work or blind luck but it was better than last year in Charlotte.
- Business Cards. I continue to see 40-50% of people I meet who do not have business cards. This surprises me, especially many senior level people I ran across who did not have them. I have been banging on this drum for a while now. I guess I need to bang harder and louder. Business Cards are an awesome networking tool.
- Program Committee Lunch. I was invited to a quiet lunch with Program Committee Managers and Team Leads. This worked very well, as we were able to talk strategy for next year. Face Time counts for a lot here, even if for only an hour or so because most of the time we communicate via email.
- My Sessions. I had a lightning talk on Wednesday on Upgrading SQL Server. It went well. My session on Thursday was “Your Professional Networking Toolbox”. I had about 15-20 attendees, not bad for being up against Bob Ward with his 500 level session. The attendees I had wanted to be there and I could tell by the reactions and enthusiasm for the topic.
It was the best Summit ever and I can’t wait for next year!