Preparing for PASS Summit – Odds and Ends

This is the final installment in my series of posts which I hope will help you (and me!) prepare for the upcoming PASS Summit November 4-8, 2019 in Seattle, Washington.

Find Me!

Summit is only a week away now and I’m hoping to reconnect with friends and meet new folks. I will be all over the place all week – just look for the hat or ping me on Twitter or the SQL Community Slack at @ALevyInROC! A few things that are definitely set:

  • Networking dinner Monday night
  • Photowalk Tuesday afternoon
  • Welcome reception Tuesday evening
  • Facilitating the Performance and Troubleshooting BoF table at Wednesday’s lunch
  • Games Night Thursday
  • PASS Ambassador in the 6ABC Lobby (look for the sign in my hand and red vest)

Want a #dbatools badge ribbon? Find me and I’ll trade a selfie for one.

The Elevator Pitch

You’re going to meet a lot of people (I hope). Be prepared to introduce yourself by talking about what your company does and your role in it. Make it brief. You’d be surprised by the reactions! The last couple years, I heard “wow, I never thought of that as something that would even be in the software business!” This can turn into great conversations.

Hi, I’m Andy. I’m the lone DBA at <company>. We provide services X, Y and Z for other companies and right now I’m working on <tricky task>.

Birds of a Feather Luncheon

Kevin Chant (blog | twitter) rightly pointed out that I overlooked this topic when I first posted this. I think a BoF table is where he & I first met in 2018. Anyway, each day in the Quest Dining Hall (the main dining area), there are 16 tables set up for “Birds of a Feather”. Each table is set aside for discussion about a particular topic. You won’t get kicked out of the table for straying from the topic, but it’s a good conversation starter. Topics range from technical discussion to more people-oriented things. Try out a different table each day!

And props to the PASS HQ staff for improving the seating chart (PDF) every year. My first time at Summit, there was no indication of how to orient the seating chart so you were guessing where to find the tables.

Exhibitors

It seems impossible but you have to make time to visit the Exhibition Hall at Summit. This is where you’re going to learn about all the hot new software, hardware and services that you might want to bring into your office in the coming months. Check them out – you’d be surprised what’s out there!

Collect product information sheets and business cards, get your badge scanned so that you get into those mailing and phone lists. Ask questions. I have this setup at work and this challenge. What can this product do for me? Don’t be afraid to take notes!

But there’s another benefit to visiting the Exhibition Hall. You are probably already using products from some of these companies. This is your chance to get face time with folks from these companies, ask questions, and learn about new features or how to make better use of these products. Who knows, you might even end up on camera!

Swag!

Every exhibitor will be handing out swag. Large, small, it all adds up. Leave space in your suitcase for it all! If I come home from a PASS event without an Idera duck, my daughter gets upset.

More Free Stuff!

Nearly every exhibitor has a raffle as well – but you have to be present to win, so keep track of when those drawings are! You can win some really sweet stuff – I won a drone one year, but only because the first 6 people whose names were drawn weren’t present.

Downtime

You need downtime during Summit. If you’re in a session and so exhausted that you can’t focus, can’t make senses of what’s being presented, what’s the point of being in there? There is so much to do and see at Summit, you need to remind yourself constantly that if you don’t do everything, it’s OK. Turn in early one night. Make tactical naps a thing.

The Game Night events (Wednesday and Thursday) Kevin Hill (blog | twitter) and Matt Cushing (blog | twitter) are hosting are great for recharging in the evenings while remaining social. During the day, stop by the Community Zone and take a load off in the beanbag chairs.

The Trip Report

Before you leave for Summit, talk to your boss, your sysadmins, your developers, everyone who gets anywhere near SQL Server. Ask about pain points, wish list items, things they’re curious about. How to make the most of your storage solution, whether there are plans to move to a cloud platform or start running on-premises VMs, anything at all. Your goal? Get those questions answered at Summit – either in sessions, the Exhibitor Hall, or in the Hallway Track.

Fast forward to November 11th. You made it through Summit and all your extracurriculars, slept well on the plane, and unwound with your family over the weekend. Now it’s time to write up your trip report. This is where you’re going to demonstrate immediate value from Summit and start planting the seeds for getting next year’s trip approved.

Pull out your notes and start recapping everything. If you get just one actionable piece of information out of each session, you’ve brought a lot of value back to the office. Don’t just write up “here’s what this session was all about” – demonstrate relevancy to something specific. A problem developers are facing. A frequent performance issue. A new way to do things which will make life easier, speed up a process, improve your security posture, or save the company money. Go back to your devs and tell them “hey, I was in so-and-so’s session about JSON and they talked about this thing that I think will solve your problem.” And not just the sessions – write up the exhibitors’ products that might be of use to you and why, or even hallway conversations where you learned something. In 2018, I facilitated a Birds of a Feather table talking about SQL Server upgrades and migrations, and was able to come back to work and say “I talked to a half dozen people about our migration plan and four of them had done exactly what we’re planning, with no major issues.” This gave my team more confidence in our own migration.

Connect, Share and Learn

I hope this series has been helpful for you. Summit is an excellent experience and one of the most important things to take away from it is learning what there is to learn and who you can learn it from. If you’re new to PASS and everything this community has to offer, this is only the beginning of what you’ll discover. Make the most of this week, and then keep it going by keeping up with those contacts you made, start following the blogs of the speakers you saw, and get more involved with your local PASS chapter!

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