The 2013 PASS Summit Goes to Charlotte

Just in case you didn’t catch the news yesterday on Twitter, the PASS blog, or via the PASS Connector, we announced that the 2013 Summit will be held in Charlotte, NC. It’s a decision that has been a couple years in the making, with the final discussions beginning early this year with an appraisal of various potential sites to look at things like overall venue cost, availability of near by ‘after hours’ places, and the layout of the rooms.

We looked at a number of cities during this process and scored each city in a number of categories. It’s an attempt to make it objective, and it definite helped to be able to compare costs side by side. Comparing things like after hours is much, much harder. Our goal was to do the scoring and then use that to reduce the field to two, at which point PASS HQ would go back to those two cities and do additional research and dig into the pricing details.

The top two scoring cities were Dallas and Charlotte. Orlando was on the list but further down, and while I think (being entirely biased) that we could have a great event here,the favorable scores for those two cities were hard to argue with. PASS HQ did the research and gave us another deeper comparison,and while it was close, the costs for the facility and food were substantially cheaper in Charlotte. For me it was that plus a feeling that if we were going to move, we should move as far East as we could. There were tradeoffs in the decision. For example, Charlotte only has one facility that could hold all of our attendees for a nearby but offsite event. There is no right answer, you look at the options and pick the one that seems best. I think my only regret is I wish we had picked a city without a large Microsoft presence (they have CSS centers in Charlotte and Dallas) so we could test the ‘worst case’ situation, but that’s a small thing in the scheme of things.

It took a while for the Board to get to the point of making the decision to move. It’s not a simple decision, lots and lots of factors to consider, few of which can be quantified and few of which can be mitigated in a definite way. Still, in the end we made the decision to invest in change, and I think that will keep the organization healthy in ways that go far beyond just 2013.

This is also the first time that we’ve announced the Summit location more than a year in advance. Obviously the 2012 Summit will be in Seattle, and then Charlotte in 2013. The fear has been that attendees would skip a year if they knew that the following year would be in a better location. I think that fear is valid but minimal, and I’d bet it all washes out in the end. It’s also nice to have the ‘big announcement’ at the end of each Summit, but this was such a change that we felt it was time to set a new pattern, one I hope the Board maintains in years ahead.

In fact we’re already looking at plans for 2014 and 2015 and 2016, and we’ll probably decide on those in the new few months. We may delay announcing some of those for a bit, maybe the ‘big announcement’ this year will be the 2014 location, or maybe we’ll do it a different way. For those wondering, as our event gets bigger it’s  harder to find space to hold the event and competition gets intense for the space, not uncommon for people to book space five years out – especially for the events that always move to a different city each year.

I think the Board did a decent job of evaluating the cities and picking one for 2013, but I don’t believe we would have considered moving if so many of you had not voiced opinions both for and against. Leading is hard because whose opinion do you take? What do you do when there is an even split? How do you weigh the risks of moving against the wishes of some percentage of members? It’s not easy and it takes time, time that can be frustrating when you’re one of the ones hoping for change, but often change does take time and persistence.

So after a lot of discussion we’ve made a decision, now there are two things to do. One is to make 2013 astonishingly successful so that there is no future fear about changing cities every second or third year. The other is for those of you who have been so engaged on this issue to stay engaged. Look at the organization and think about other ways it could serve all the members better (more bluntly, not just how it could be better for you), and start talking to each other and the Board about the next change you want to see.