PASS Summit 2018 brain dump

Much like your paycheck, this post is two weeks after the fact. But also like your paycheck, it’s got a good deal of personal importance. I’ve taken a couple weeks to let the experience of attending my first PASS Summit marinate in my brain sauce, and now I’m ready to server up my thoughts.

You know what? Scratch that analogy. That’s a little too Hannibal Lecter.

So after fumbling the opening, here’s what I remember about PASS Summit.

Denny Cherry was right
For the last few years Denny has hosted and recorded an online session for first-timers. It was about an hour, and although I missed the live session I did catch the recording. It was tremendously helpful in letting me know where to eat, what to do in the evenings, and where all the session rooms were. My favorite tip turned out to be taking the $3 light rail from the airport to about a block away from the hotel. Not only did it save a huge chunk of change, but I also happened to meet other attendees before I even got to the event.

No tables
I’ve attended conferences before, but those all had tables for attendees with a laptop. Presumably because of the sheer volume of attendees, there were no tables – just chairs. And that’s fine, because it forced me to take notes more judiciously with my much slower hand writing. When I’m typing notes I’m also jotting other thoughts down so I’m sure I miss a bit of the session material, but handwriting notes for a session ended up making me even more laser focused.

Excessive friendliness
Throughout the conference center there are people everywhere offering assistance for directions, information, whatever you need. There are constant invitations to breakfast, dinner, or after hours events – not just in person but also online. One of the tips I had heard beforehand was to follow known SQL Server professionals on twitter and that was absolutely helpful in meeting some of the more prominent members of the community. More on that in a minute.

Constant events
This is a most unusual conference, at least among the SQL Server ones I’ve attended, in that there are so many non-session events. The kicker here is the more people you meet – be they presenters, vendors, or just other attendees – the more events you will get invited. You’ll definitely get to work on your time management skills.

Accessibility to anyone
Because you are here reading this post on a blog, I’m going to make a huge presumption that you are the kind of person who reads technical blogs. And in that case, attending PASS Summit is your chance to strike up a conversation with some of your favorite SQL bloggers, presenters, and otherwise internet-famous folks. On twitter one morning I saw a general invitation to breakfast with one of the most prominent bloggers, on another day I spoke with a few other popular individuals in the community zone. I had the opportunity to speak with many more in the vendor area, at scheduled events, as well as in the hallways between sessions. I even capped off the week by go kart racing with a few others because of someone I met at a session.

All my new friends
Meeting people you’ve read about or seen online is fun, but I also really enjoyed meeting people who do the same things I do. I met a few at the first-timers event where you get 5 minutes with 10 different people and have instant acquaintances for the entire event. I also met people at meals, exchanging thoughts and email addresses, and becoming resources for each other. There really is no dollar value on not only knowing folks who can help you, but also others you can help.

What about technical notes?
I realize I didn’t talk about the technical notes I took, and I will certainly incorporate some of those notes into future blog posts. But I knew going into the event that I was going to learn things from top-notch presenters, and there would be even more learning later when I get the session videos. What I didn’t realize is the sheer volume of conversations I would have, and all of the information I (or you) could get outside of a session. Put simply it was an incredible opportunity, and I can’t wait to go back again!

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