How to handle the PASS Summit.

About this time every year, there are a plethora of articles that offer advice on how to handle the upcoming PASS Summit. And well they should – it’s a huge event. There are thousands of people congregating there and so, so, SO MUCH to do. Special interest events and community mixers abound. And I’m not even going to touch the number of parties, both public and private, and the sightseeing and karaoke and… Oh, yeah – there’s a conference there, too. Tons of educational material, networking sessions, professional development opportunities, the MS CAT Team and…

Yeah – it’s a lot. Especially to try and pack into three+ days.

One of the things that I’ve heard time and time again is about the opportunities for networking. In fact, there’s a saying about that which I’ve heard used many times regarding this event. It’s, “If you’re eating dinner / lunch, etc… by yourself, you’re doing it wrong.” And to be honest, that kind of rubs me the wrong way.

While I try very hard to be friendly and approachable, I’m not exactly the most social person. Now, if you’re reading this and planning to attend the Summit, please don’t take this to mean I don’t want to talk to you. I most definitely do. Hey – if you read my blog on even a semi-regular basis, I consider you a BFF and will likely buy you a drink in appreciation. :-)

What I’m saying, though, is that I fit the current popular definition of an Introvert. Not a big fan of crowds, I don’t generally stay out that late, and really – I need time to myself to recharge. If you don’t see me running around during the event, it’s likely that I’ve slipped off to my hotel room for a cat nap or down to Pike’s Place for a solo walk by the water. I suspect that there are more than a few of you out there that fit that definition as well.  If so, then this post is for you.

If you’re eating a meal by yourself, that’s FINE.

Just here for the sessions? GREAT.

Want to go sightseeing alone after the day’s events? PERFECT.

Yes, there’s a lot to do there, but you shouldn’t feel like you have to do it all, nor should you feel like you have to jump out of your comfort zone in order to do it. Sure, taking a risk can pay off, and getting a little outside your comfort zone with a little professional networking is one way to do that. It has certainly paid off for me. But it’s hard. I get that. So don’t feel like you’re missing something if you don’t. Don’t feel bad. You’re fine.

And I hope to see you there. But if I don’t, that’s OK. :-)

Thanks for reading.

-David.

PASS Summit Thoughts & Speaker Idol Wrap-Up

Summit 2015. Where do I start? The Annual PASS Summit, as anyone who has been there can tell you, is almost always a whirlwind. But there were three specific things I was focusing on this year, and I want to talk about each of them in turn.

First, this year was a lot more about networking and meeting people than it has been for me in the past. I’m not the most social of people, though I do like some karaoke and hanging out with friends. So one of my main goals this year was to meet more people, and get more involved in different activities. Sadly this meant missing out on seeing some people I usually like to spend time with, as I wasn’t going to be at the usual or largest events. For that, I’m sorry my friends – but I will be in touch with you again, soon.

Second, I did not make many technical sessions last year, and wanted to make sure I saw a few this year. So I stopped by Paul Randal’s Mythbusters session, Jason Strate’s Plan Cache session, and Colleen Morrow’s SQL Audit session. All three were excellent, of course. No matter how much I think I may know about a topic, attending sessions, even ones I’ve seen before, always yields a few new nuggets of information that are extremely useful to me.

Third, I was a contestant in this year’s Speaker Idol. I want to spend the rest of this post on that, since that consumed the bulk of my attention this year. Of the 12 people who were originally picked for the event, 2 had to eventually back out. I was very disappointed by that and hope that all is well with them. I would really have liked to have seen them present.

I showed up on day one of the event, with a nicely prepared presentation that I had practiced several times and was happy with. Then I saw the first four presenters and said to myself, “Um… I better go practice some more. And work on my slides. And my demos… ”  I did so, and returned on day two and experienced much of the same sentiments. I was floored by the quality of the speakers. Everyone was very polished and professional. I got to go last on day three, which I think was an advantage. I took copious notes of the judges feedback over the first several sessions. I think that helped me to refine my presentation even further.

When it was my turn, I took the stage with a deep breath (sorry, audio tech) and simply presented things the way I had rehearsed them a couple of hours before. I took mental notes on the judges’ feedback, and thought hard about them. At that point, I was not thinking about advancing in the competition. What I was really thinking about was how to apply the feedback I received and studied over the last few days to future presentations. I really thought the competition was over for me. However, once the judges returned from deliberation, they declared their winner, and I was a bit surprised to find myself declared the wildcard for the finals.

Then, the penny dropped – the judges had come up with a new rule. The person who won the wildcard had to go first in the final round. So that meant I had roughly 30 minutes to come up with something new, or further refine my existing presentation. Yikes. The feedback I had was that the judges wanted to see a slide or example of page splits / fragmentation as I described it. I could have easily found a picture out on the web that displayed something “fragmented” but I didn’t think that fit the existing style of my presentation. So I decided to animate some little blue pages in a random fashion. I also thought about different ways to say some things, based on what the judges found lacking the first time around.

Despite the changes, I was a little more relaxed the second time I presented, and was able to engage with the audience a bit more. Q&A, or really any kind of interaction, is the best part of presenting for me. I love it and it’s what keeps me wanting to present. The remaining presenters went again in the final round, and like I did before – I had no thoughts of winning. Only thinking what a wonderful experience it was.

And then – I won. I honestly, truly don’t know how, but I did. And for that, I have some thanks to give.

THANK YOU: To Denny Cherry, Joey D’Antoni, Hope Foley, Mark Simms, Allan Hirt, Andre Kamman and Karen Lopez for giving us all both the opportunity and means to improve our speaking skills in this way. It was a ton of fun.

THANK YOU: To everyone who showed up, supported us, assisted us, and congratulated us. You are all my #sqlfamily, and it meant a lot to see so many friendly faces, even ones I didn’t know personally, in the audience.

Finally, and most importantly, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to the other participants in this year’s Speaker Idol. Twitter links provided here, so you can all follow them:

You were all awesome. It was you that pushed me to become a better speaker than I was, and for that, you have my undying gratitude. I sincerely hope you all continue to submit to speak at the PASS Summit for 2016. I would love nothing more than to each of us, up on stage, together. Sharing what we know, and learning from each other. Connect. Share. Learn. It’s what we do.

Thanks for reading.

-David.