Tag Archives: PASS Summit

Let’s Create More After Hours Events at the Summit

We’ve got a good handful of events listed for After Hours so far, but couldn’t we have more? A couple thousand attend, a few hundred will be at these events, so there are plenty more opportunities. There’s nothing wrong with exploring Seattle, dinner with new friends, or whatever else, but it’s nice to have some options if none of those seem right for the evening. I love that Pat Wright continues the Photo Walk, a reminder that mornings are also a time to share interests and ideas. Why not organize something? It doesn’t have to target hundreds or even tens, just something that you want to do and hope that others will to do to. I’ve debated a Veterans meet up of some type. Maybe a few people want to meet for coffee and chess? What do you want to do?

Some suggestions (I don’t make the rules!) for making it happen:

  • Use EventBrite to manage it, everyone is used to it and its free
  • Send a note to PASS to get it added to the After Hours page
  • Blog and/or Tweet about it once in a while, and consider personal invites to people you know will be at the Summit
  • In general I’d say don’t schedule opposite “official” PASS events, but if it’s a handful of people don’t sweat it

 

 

image

Speaking at the 2014 PASS Summit

Finally the email we’d all been waiting for arrived yesterday, the results of session selection for the 2014 PASS Summit. Good news for me, one session of mine was accepted, so I’ll be presenting “Turbocharge Your Career With A Learning Plan” this year. It’s a good topic and one I’m excited about. I’ve been presenting an early version of it already this year and will be doing more changes and practice before November. Below I’ve included the email so you could see the titles I submitted and the results. I didn’t expect to get two sessions (and I’m opposed to anyone getting two, so that we have max community involvement) but I’ll admit to hoping I’d also get a lightning talk.

 

image

 

I wasn’t selected last year, so I went back to re-read my post I’m Not Presenting At PASS Summit 2013. Here’s part of it, and note the part I bolded for this year:

 

The thing I know is that picking sessions is subjective. You can score them all you want, but in the end you do some juggling to get a diverse (people, topics, levels) yet balanced (people, topics,levels) schedule. It should be subjective,to a point. Use a system to get close, then a committee to fine tune.

Human nature – including me – is to ask “why didn’t I get picked”? It might be that the abstract had a typo, a title that was too cute or too blah, was too short or too long. Maybe it scored equally with someone with a track record of presenting the same topic, or with perceived better speaking experience. Maybe there are 18 people wanting to talk about indexes and we don’t need 18 index presentations. Giving personalized feedback on that in an official way is hard – there is enough work to do just evaluating them and picking the final schedule. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it’s more work with more complexities because now you’re telling people why they aren’t good enough, and being human, we’re probably going to disagree with the assessment!

Rather than feedback, I’d like to see PASS and the Program Committee do more to educate speakers up front. Do an updated webinar every year that reviews the process, talks about common mistakes and misconceptions, how to find and use peer reviews to increase your chance of being selected, and how to lay the ground work for being perceived as being ready for a national stage. I think that would dispel a lot of frustration. For example I had two sessions rejected as being repeats from a previous year. I didn’t know the focus was on new content (maybe I missed that) or I would have submitted something a bit different.

If you didn’t get selected, I feel your pain. Take a look at the final schedule, read the abstracts, try to be dispassionate while you consider if they had something that your submission didn’t. Reach out to a peer, or find someone that has spoken at the Summit and ask for their feedback. If you think there are changes you could make, go make them now so you’re ready for next year. If you don’t see changes and think it was just luck of the draw, start thinking about what you can do in the next year to increase your chances. Maybe you can present on the topic more often, maybe you can build a second or third presentation, maybe you can work on extending your network. There will be something you can do to increase your odds next time around.

I’ve been a proponent for years of forced rotation of speakers, something along the lines of making them sit out every third year (or something like that) to make sure we get new voices on the schedule. I sat out a year deliberately a couple years back and it was hard at first, but then it was pleasant. I had the freedom to just be an attendee, no practicing, no pressure. I remind myself that I’ll have that freedom again this year!

Both Brent Ozar and Adam Machanic have stepped up to fill the gap about “how”, Adam writing Capturing Attention: Writing Great Session Descriptions and Brent with Writing Better Conference Abstracts and Presentations. Great material, worth reading. I still wish for an “official” presentation from PASS (which isn’t to say we shouldn’t talk Brent and Adam) into doing it, I think it would be a great next step in evolving the biggest event in our community. Writing is good, reading is good, but I think this cries out for at least one video presentation.

Thanks to the Program Committee for all their effort, I know it’s a slog! Thanks also to all who submitted a presentation, selected or not.

As we move back into “Summit mode”, if you’re attending, I hope you’ll join me, Steve Jones,  and a couple hundred or more really interesting people at our fifth annual Monday Night Networking Dinner. It’s a nice low key way to start the week.

I’m Not Presenting at PASS Summit 2013

Last week I got the news that none of the four sessions I submitted for this year were accepted. Disappointing for sure, but not cause for despair. Because I’ve been lucky enough to have been accepted to speak many times in the past I don’t get too stressed out about it, I know that there are a lot of abstracts submitted and a lot of good speakers submitting them – now more than ever with the growth of SQLSaturday over the past few years.

The sessions I submitted are listed below. I was really hoping the one on PCI would be accepted. I’ve spent close to two years learning about enterprise security and compliance, and I think it’s a topic that needs for discussion. I was also hoping the half day workshop on professional development would be one picked. For the last few years I’ve taught a lot of people why they need a plan, now I’m working on the how. These sessions are ones that I’m interested in, knowledgeable about, passionate about – ones I want to present, not at all designed to be ones most likely to get picked.

CATEGORY

TRACK

SESSION TITLE

ROLE

TAGS

Regular Session (75 minutes)

Enterprise Database Administration & Deployment

PCI Compliance for the SQL DBA

Main Presenter

Not Accepted – Max Sessions Allocated for Track

Regular Session (75 minutes)

Professional Development

Getting Ready to Manage

Main Presenter

Not Accepted – Max Sessions Allocated for Track

1/2 Day Session (3 hours)

Professional Development

Building Your Professional Development Plan – The Workshop

Main Presenter

Not Accepted – Repeat Session from Previous Year

Regular Session (75 minutes)

Professional Development

Building Your Professional Development Plan

Main Presenter

Not Accepted – Repeat Session from Previous Year

The thing I know is that picking sessions is subjective. You can score them all you want, but in the end you do some juggling to get a diverse (people, topics, levels) yet balanced (people, topics,levels) schedule. It should be subjective,to a point. Use a system to get close, then a committee to fine tune.

Human nature – including me – is to ask “why didn’t I get picked”? It might be that the abstract had a typo, a title that was too cute or too blah, was too short or too long. Maybe it scored equally with someone with a track record of presenting the same topic, or with perceived better speaking experience. Maybe there are 18 people wanting to talk about indexes and we don’t need 18 index presentations. Giving personalized feedback on that in an official way is hard – there is enough work to do just evaluating them and picking the final schedule. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it’s more work with more complexities because now you’re telling people why they aren’t good enough, and being human, we’re probably going to disagree with the assessment!

Rather than feedback, I’d like to see PASS and the Program Committee do more to educate speakers up front. Do an updated webinar every year that reviews the process, talks about common mistakes and misconceptions, how to find and use peer reviews to increase your chance of being selected, and how to lay the ground work for being perceived as being ready for a national stage. I think that would dispel a lot of frustration. For example I had two sessions rejected as being repeats from a previous year. I didn’t know the focus was on new content (maybe I missed that) or I would have submitted something a bit different.

If you didn’t get selected, I feel your pain. Take a look at the final schedule, read the abstracts, try to be dispassionate while you consider if they had something that your submission didn’t. Reach out to a peer, or find someone that has spoken at the Summit and ask for their feedback. If you think there are changes you could make, go make them now so you’re ready for next year. If you don’t see changes and think it was just luck of the draw, start thinking about what you can do in the next year to increase your chances. Maybe you can present on the topic more often, maybe you can build a second or third presentation, maybe you can work on extending your network. There will be something you can do to increase your odds next time around.

I’ve been a proponent for years of forced rotation of speakers, something along the lines of making them sit out every third year (or something like that) to make sure we get new voices on the schedule. I sat out a year deliberately a couple years back and it was hard at first, but then it was pleasant. I had the freedom to just be an attendee, no practicing, no pressure. I remind myself that I’ll have that freedom again this year!

Congratulations to the 100 or so speakers that were selected. Thanks to all who submitted and weren’t selected this time. A special thanks to the volunteers on the Program Committee who sifted and sorted through a lot of abstracts to build the final schedule. I’m looking forward to seeing you all in Charlotte in a few months, enjoying a great event in an East Coast city!

SQLSaturday Philadelphia, Cocoa Beach, Orlando, and Charleston

I’ll be attending and presenting at SQLSaturday #200 in Philadelphia in June, then I’ll be attending the first ever SQLSaturday in Cocoa Beach in late July, and then I’ll definitely be at SQLSaturday Orlando on September 21st. No plans for April, in May I may drive up to attend SQLSaturday in Jacksonville. August I think will also be an off month. I’ve submitted sessions for SQLSaturday Charleston in October – I’ll be driving up from Orlando on the way to Charlotte for the Summit, we’re planning to stop in Charleston for a couple days to see the sites.

It doesn’t seem like much until I write it down, then I see that I’m staying close to my goal of doing one big event each quarter. Slowing down on the travel has been good.

PASS Summit 2012-Board Q&A

For the few past few years the Board has scheduled time to take questions from members at the Summit. This year I got to be on the question side of the fence which was a nice change.  It was scheduled for 9:45 on Friday. Not the best time because it was up against sessions, including one from Dr Dewitt, but to be fair there is no good time. There were at most 20 people in the room to ask questions or just listen. Room setup wasn’t bad, the Board members all seated on a slightly raised platform on high tv producer/director type chairs.

Now, on to some notes.

  • There was no moderator, so some questions seemed to last a long time. Valuable discussions, but with limited time a moderator is useful to keep things on track.
  • Both sides forgot at times that it’s not possible to get to a final answer or convince one side or the other of the rightness of an answer in 5 minutes or less. Moderator!
  • Lots of discussion about the global growth plans to assign Board seats to regions.
    • It was great that this was mentioned in the keynote and there has been as much communication on this as I’ve seen (good)
    • It was bad that we couldn’t get the proposed changes and read them prior to this. I’d have loved a dedicated session just for this one item.
  • We had an attendee who has asked for multiple years to volunteer at the Summit, but no one ever calls him. Supposed to get fixed this year with Sri taking on the newly rehydrated Volunteer portfolio.
  • The Board struggled to explain the target job titles for the upcoming Business Analytics conference. Some of that is not having a refined message rather than not knowing. Still, it’s concerning that a brand new event 6 months out doesn’t have that message done. [I have concerns about how successful the first event will be with such a short launch period, but we’ll see.]
  • It didn’t seem like the Board had reviewed the notes from the Q&A last year. Holy cow. This can’t be a night before review. This should be work assigned and worked on throughout the year and periodically reviewed.
  • I asked about why portfolios weren’t assigned in time for the Summit and got a so-so answer. Big reason we have pushed elections to be done before the Summit is to get those new faces integrated with the Board quickly. I know it’s hard to figure out where to put everyone, trying to figure out the matrix of skills, interests,and time left on the Board,but in my view this has to be done before the Summit. I think this will continue to be a problem until the Board formalizes a process to be applied and puts that date on the calendar as a key deliverable post-election.
  • I asked about the future of SQLRally and didn’t get a good answer at first – SQLRally alive and well internationally, but I’m asking about in the US. Board has agreed to put it on the agenda for January and make a decision. Also found out that rather than losing money the Dallas SQLRally generated a $29k profit. $30k one way or the other not the reason to continue or not in my view, but it’s nice to know (in particular for Team Dallas) that they didn’t kill the franchise by losing money. At the same time we were told the event reconciliation is still not done. So is it $29k or not? And why does it take 6 months to reconcile a 500 person event?
  • I asked the Board to announce before the 2013 Summit the criteria they would use for determining if it was a success, because that will get used to decide if the Summit ever moves out of Seattle again. I don’t think we have a definition of success for the Summit other than attendance/expo sales, maybe time to revisit that. In any case, if they do this it will be transparent – and we east coasters can engage to try to make it a success based on the criteria!
  • I asked about the state of financial reserves (also mentioned vaguely in the keynote) and didn’t get a great answer, but expecting a follow up that should fix that. Reserves are/should be money that is set aside for the long term health of the organization – basically to provide a fall back in case of disaster. Right now it seems like its on the order of $500k, which would cover perhaps one half year of HQ salary/expenses – not enough. Remember that the Summit funds everything, if one has to be cancelled due to storm or terrorism there is insurance, but it takes a really long time to get the check. Without sufficient reserves we might have to lay off key staff and with them all the experience/knowledge we rely on. I want to be able to look at the financials every year and see clearly that the reserve number going up. I’ll be following up on this because I think that number is lower than I expected. I also want to see a policy that requires the Board to vote to use funds explicitly tagged as reserves.
  • Question about 501c3 status for chapters. There is still no guidance on this, supposedly because its different in each state. I don’t care that its hard – figure this out. Figure out in one state and go from there. May I suggest Florida?
  • Question about being able to call it “SQLSaturday Connecticut” instead of “SQLSaturday New Haven”. Seems reasonable to me, was going to be worked on after the meeting.

Overall I thought it went well and that some valuable information was exchanged. I wish for more questions, more discussion. Part of that is getting done at the Tuesday Chapter and SQLSaturday meetings (grow those even more, they are powerful), but why isn’t every portfolio having one of those meetings? Why doesn’t each Board member schedule public time(s) to meet and take questions/ask questions? I wish for more attendees, but I know that there is no really good time that won’t have something more interesting competing for their time.

Hoping that we see the full minutes published and then follow up answers to supplement it.

PASS Summit 2012-Part 4

Thursday. Slept a little better but still waking up on east coast time. Not a lot to do in Seattle at 3:00 am!

Keynote was horrible. Well intentioned, not a matter of failed demos or anything, it was just…long. I try not to be hyper-critical, but they were selling us on integration and we all get that, we all want to do that stuff, but we – to generalize – are the ones that get to decide that. It was a very good idea to help us understand how it might work, it just somehow seemed ineffective.

PASS Board, I’ll say it again, for the nth year. Keynotes are incredibly valuable time, for the attendees and the presenter. Use that time well! The PASS portion was ok to good, deliver a message, move on to the show. I could suggest tweaks,but it as fine. Day 1 keynote was good,even better than good in places. Day 2, just not there. Keynotes are hard. It’s not enough to understand your topic, to be a good speaker, you have to understand your audience and their expectations. Don’t let anyone up there that won’t wow the audience, and there are many paths to doing that. I watched a LOT of people reading email on their phones because they were bored but polite.

Lunch was not as good as day 1. Green beans two days in a row? Someone got a good deal on the green beans?!

I did some more networking of the refresh kind. Looking at this trip so far its been more about reconnecting than making new connections. In part maybe because I’m just in low key mode, in part because I just needed time with people I trust to talk through where I’m at and thinking about going.

Dinner was at Farestarter with the Friends of Red Gate (thank you for inviting me!) and a very very nice dinner and good conversation. These events vary by vendor, this one has always been pleasant and comfortable. No sales pitch. Perhaps the most interesting was hearing that they’ve found it far – easier?- to build tools in the SQL Server space compared to Oracle because of the large community. They can get feedback, understand the various use cases. Isn’t that interesting how the ecology shapes and reshapes itself?

Then I joined the crowd walking down to the official after hours event by the Space Needle, then left there to hit one more late party before heading for the hotel sometime after 11pm. Long day, but good!

PASS Summit 2012-Part 3

Wednesday was a blur. I had breakfast at the Convention Center, mostly to see how it was – ok, muffins, cereal, bagels. Good enough to be fair.

After the keynote it was networking time, quite a few of the long slow conversations that deliver the most value combined with a lot of hand shaking as I ran into friends. At 2pm I sat down with Steve Jones to talk through our presentation scheduled for 3pm on The Mentoring Experiment.

From 3pm to 430pm we did the presentation. About 10 slides, just enough for talking points, and it was reasonably successful (its hard to know sometimes going in if you have the right vision for the presentation). It felt like the audience was fully engaged, that we got them to see the world a bit differently on a couple things, and they got us to see the world a bit differently too. It’s an amazing experience to have people come spend time, interact, listen deeply and share ideas. Thank you to all that attended!

More conversations after that,then dinner with Jessica,Colin, and Josh (and then quite a few more) at Von’s, and that was it for me, time to call it a day.

PASS Summit 2012-Part 2

Late posting this, has been a busy week!

Started the day at Top Pot, meeting up with Jack Corbett and some other friends. Good way to start the day.

Next stop is the SQLSaturday RoundTable meeting, the once a year chance to get most of the event leaders and key volunteers in a room to look back and look forward. I’m sitting at a table with leaders from Russia and the Ukraine! The look back, seeing if the overall goals are hit, is very valuable. As I look at the 2012 goals I wish we had done a better job of setting more measurable goals. Here’s an example; we had a goal of fixing signs at events, the number one complain from attendees is that they struggle to find the event. Did we do that? PASS bought signs, but between that and pushing events to do more signs, but did we fix it? Don’t quite know.

  • Nashua NH event bought a cheap laser printer to print raffle tickets the event, then raffled the printer!
  • One ask is for a SpeedPASS with raffle tickets that don’t have the name printed so events can copy and have attendees fill in on site (who didn’t print ahead of time)
  • Orlando had the “scissors of shame” for people that didn’t print and cut out raffle tickets ahead of time.
  • Speakers have option to say “I don’t want a shirt”
  • Look for suggestions about how to use (or if) QR codes on name badges and raffle tickets
  • Sending hand written thank you cards to speakers and sponsors, Orlando had post cards made
  • Lots of interest in having speaker dinners at organizers house – informal, low cost
  • One event is having Girl Scouts be the room monitors (and presumably selling cookies too!)
  • Idea to work at teaching attendees what effective feedback looks like

Overall I thought it was an effective meeting,except we don’t know who will taking over the SQLSaturday portfolio on the Board. This would have been not just a good time to do that hand off,it’s a critical time – time to build relationships, share and set vision. Much much harder to do via email later on.

PASS Summit Keynote-Part 1

Starting off with Douglas McDowell talking about the opening video that highlighted people from a lot of different countries, lots of diversity. Talking about how much PASS has changed in the past 5 years – I agree with that – and the revenue growth.

  • Summit is primary revenue (just about the only one!) source
  • Says financial reserves have grown, but not how much
  • Hired 2nd community evangelist this year (go Niko!)
  • Congratulating new board members (Wendy, James, Sri)

Now shifting to Tom LaRock, VP of Marketing.

  • Discussing volunteers, PASS does depend on and exist because of them
  • Amy Lewis and Jesus Gil are 2012 PASSion Award Honorable Mentions
  • Jen Stirrup wins the PASSion award
  • All board members now have a little black book to capture feedback
  • Registration open for 2013 Summit, Oct 15-18 in Charlotte
  • Charlotte tourism board has a booth at the Expo, that’s a nice touch
  • Party tonight at Music Experience
  • Dr Dewitt doing a spotlight session today that will be streamed as well