#PASSDataCommunitySummit — the last days, and the journey home

Well, on Friday evening, I watched workers take down booths and banners from the Seattle Convention Center, as PASS Data Community Summit 2022 came to an end. The circus had ended, and the tents were coming down.

I flew home Saturday afternoon/evening/night, so I’ve actually been home for a few days (I needed to recover from my trip, and life happens — what can I tell you?), so I’m writing this a few days later than I’d like. Nevertheless, it was fun and exciting, and since I’ve written about the first couple of days of Summit, it’s only fair that I wind it up!

Let me tell you about what happened since I last wrote. I mentioned that I was going to sit in on Kris Gruttemeyer‘s session about being on-call and work-life balance. Quite honestly, I thought his session was the best one that I saw all week. He focused on on-call personnel — as he put it, “being on call sucks. How do we make it suck less?” But in my opinion, his session was for more than people who were on-call. It applied to anyone to has been stressed about their job situation — which means a lot of us, myself included. I think his session is one that can benefit all of us — even those of you who are not technical — so when recordings of the sessions become available, I’ll make sure that I link to it.

I also moderated a session as well. This year’s Summit was actually a hybrid event — that is, it was both online and in-person. A number of sessions were not only being presented live, they were also live-streamed as well, and they required moderators to coordinate questions with the speaker. (Sessions that were not live-streamed did not require a moderator.) So I got to field questions from both online and the live audience, and I also passed along time warnings (per the speaker’s request) as to how much longer he had to speak. It was an interesting experience, and if you ever want to experience a presentation from another angle, it’s one I suggest that people do at least once!

I mentioned two other presentations from the day before. I attended Eugene Meidinger‘s session on dealing with depression. You could tell that this was a deeply personal presentation for Eugene, and I appreciate him presenting it. There is a stigma attached to mental health, yet it’s something that we all have to deal with. I’m of the opinion that all of us should have a mental health primary care provider with whom we should meet regularly, but that’s another conversation for another time.

I also sat in on a session on how to speak to developers. As a technical writer, it was something that immediately caught my eye, but it wasn’t really what I expected. A lot of his talk showed SQL code and explained, “this is what developers expect” or something to that effect. I was hoping to hear more about techniques when DBAs communicate with developers, but that wasn’t what I got, and I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed with the presentation.

My favorite part of Summit is reconnecting with #SQLFamily! I started speaking at SQL Saturday in 2015, and since then, I’ve met a lot of awesome people, many of whom have become some of my closest friends! I even made a few new friends while I was there. When I left, I had a few new contacts on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook that I didn’t previously have! The highlights of the last day included getting together for drinks after the event, and having dinner with a large group of people at the Crab Pot! A good time was had by all!

I also forgot to mention a special moment on Thursday night. My cousin and her husband live in Seattle as well, and I made it a point to get together with them. We went for dinner at a place by Salmon Bay. I haven’t seen them in years, and it was great to reconnect with them as well.

I flew home on Saturday afternoon, and arrived back in Albany some time after midnight. After five days, four nights, and an awesome Summit, I was home again.

They said the numbers were down this year; where the 2019 Summit had something like five-thousand attendees, this year’s event had about fifteen-hundred in-person. (I have no idea how many people signed in online.) But in spite of the lower numbers, there was a feeling there that you don’t — and can’t — get from an online event. There’s something about being able to shake someone’s hand, give someone a hug, or having dinner or drinks with friends in-person that just doesn’t happen when you’re online.

I love attending events such as SQL and Data Saturday, but there’s something special about PASS Summit. I already can’t wait to go to the next one!

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#PASSDataCommunitySummit — day 2 debrief, and thoughts about the last day

It’s Friday, and it’s the last day of the Summit! This has been an amazing week! I always enjoy attending events like this, and PASS Summit is no different. It has been a great week of seeing old friends, making new ones, and attending some great sessions!

I will be attending a couple more sessions today. I promised Kris Gruttemeyer that I would attend his session this morning. I had a drink with him the other night, he told me about his session, and it sounded really interesting! I’m looking forward to seeing it! If you’re stressed out about the pressures of being on-call, or just stressed out in general, this sounds like a really good session!

I’ve also been volunteered to moderate a session as well, so I’ll have to make sure that I’m there for that! We’ll see how it goes!

I also witnessed something amazing yesterday. While I was sitting in the speaker’s lounge (writing yesterday’s ‘blog article, in fact), Ed Pollack came into the room, saying there was a room full of about a hundred people and no one to give the presentation. Apparently the presenter was a no-show. (I won’t name the presenter in question, but we all hope he is okay, and it was nothing more than “maybe he overslept.”) John Miner, who was in the room as well, said “I know that topic. I can do the presentation.” He packed up his stuff, went to the room, and gave the presentation — all without any notice! As far as I’m concerned, John gets the superhero of the day award!

Most of the day was uneventful. I hung out with #SQLFamily, and attended a couple of afternoon sessions. (I’d talk about the sessions some more, but I’m short of time as I write this.) The highlight of my night is that I got together for dinner with my cousin, who lives in Seattle, and her husband! I have not seen them in years, and it was great to be able to get together with them and reconnect!

One of the things that strikes me about PASS Summit is how this event is international, not just national. I have heard many British and Australian accents. I have met many of those people, along with people from Canada. At Tuesday’s first-timers’ networking event, we had at least two (it might have been three) people at our table who were from Canada. I enjoy meeting all these people from all over the world, and it adds to an already-great experience!

At this time, I’m looking at the clock, and as much as I’d like to write more, I promised Kris that I’d sit in on his session, so I should probably try to go and find his room. I’ll try to write more later when I have a chance. (On the other hand, I fly back home tomorrow morning, so it’s also possible that this might be my last ‘blog article before the end of the Summit.) Hopefully, you’ll hear from me again before I leave Seattle, but if I don’t, I’ll write more when I’m back home!

#PASSDataCommunitySummit — day 1 debrief, and what I look forward to for day 2

Greetings from Summit day 2! This morning, I’m writing from the speaker’s lounge in the Seattle Convention Center, where a number of speakers (myself included) are busy looking at their laptops. I’m not sure what the others are doing — working on their presentations, maybe? — but I know that I’m here writing in my ‘blog and enjoying a few refreshments that are provided for the speakers who partake this room and its resources.

It probably makes sense for me to talk about what went on yesterday. My session was scheduled for the very first time slot of the three days of general sessions — and, unfortunately for me, that turned out to be problematic.

I did my presentation about networking, which happens to be one of my favorite presentations to do. I enjoy giving it, I get my audience involved (there is an opportunity for my audience to do some networking themselves), and I get the impression that my attendees enjoy it as well. A big deal has been made about networking for this event — indeed, I was told that about 40% of the attendees were first-time participants, so I was looking forward to a good turnout for my presentation.

It turned out to be a disappointment. Only five people showed up for my presentation.

I had two things working against me. First, I understand that yesterday’s keynote ran over time. Since my session was at 9:30 (and I intentionally waited five extra minutes, until 9:35, to start to allow stragglers to come in), it likely interfered with my (and others’) session. Second, my room was located in a relatively-new section of the convention center, located right across the street from the main convention center, and the room was a little difficult to find.

Now, let me be clear. It isn’t so much the low turnout in and of itself that disappointed me. I’ve presented to smaller audiences before (the smallest audience I had was two people — heck, I one had a session where nobody showed up). I couldn’t care less about stroking my ego. No, I was more disappointed in the fact that, at an event where networking has been emphasized all throughout up to this point, only five people got to hear my presentation describing how to network — information that I really felt could help many people throughout this event. I felt that I had a really good message to pass along — especially to the first-time attendees — and it only got through to less than 1% of the people who are here. I had seriously expected ten times that number to show up to my presentation. That, to me, was the big disappointment.

However, attendance numbers aside, those who were there said that I gave a really good presentation. And now I can say that I am a four-time PASS Summit speaker!

There was another disappointment before that. I had signed up to attend a vendor’s breakfast. I’m not going to lie; my main (in fact, my only reason) for attending was the word “breakfast.” For a decent breakfast, I’ll spend an hour listening to a vendor’s sales pitch. But it was not to be. When I arrived, there was no food left. Apparently, when they opened the doors, breakfast disappeared very quickly. I was told they were ordering more Egg McMuffins for attendees. Um, no. Lack of planning on your part does not constitute patience on mine (at least not in this case). No food, no sales pitch. I blew off the vendor’s spiel and settled for the continental breakfast they were serving in the dining hall.

But, enough of my disappointments; let’s talk about the good stuff!

After I did my presentation, it turned out that another session that interested me was in the room next door in the next time slot. Blythe Morrow did a presentation called “How to Write a Kickass Anything.” As someone who writes for a living, the session title alone was enough to pique my interested, and she did not disappoint. There was a lot to cover — too much for me to recap — but a couple of takeaways were to come up with your own professional branding (something that I’ve already done), and that “simplicity” and “clarity” are not synonymous. In regards to the latter, for most of my technical writing career, I’ve maintained a principle of KISS. When I told Blythe this, what she told me was along the lines of “making it simple doesn’t necessarily make it clear.” That was a huge takeaway for me, and it’s definitely something I’ll carry with me moving forward.

Getting together with #SQLFamily friends after the first day!

After I did my presentation, I’ve been joking that “now that my commitment to PASS Summit is done, I could technically hop on a plane right now and fly home.” But the thing is, while presentations and learning are a big part of Summit, they aren’t the only things. I’ve often mentioned the importance of #SQLFamily. It’s a real thing. In only a couple of days here, I’ve seen so many friends whom I love dearly and don’t get much of a chance to see, except when we cross paths on the SQL Saturday circuit or at other various events. These people are important to me, and I want to spend as much time with them as I can. Last night, after the day’s sessions were over, I joined friends for some drinks at the hotel across the street, then joined a few more at the Cheesecake Factory (also across the street). My friends are very important to me, so any opportunity I can get to get together with them is cherished!

I spent some time at the exhibitor hall, where the vendors have their booths set up. I’ll admit that I look for booths with good swag and prizes to win, but it’s also important to make sure you support vendors at events like this. They are, after all, a big reason why these events exist. Vendors are big supports of conferences such as PASS Summit and SQL Saturday; without them, many of these events wouldn’t exist.

One of the big booths was Redgate (of course; they’re the ones who are responsible for coordinating Summit), and they did an interesting promo. They handed out these little mini Lego Steves (see the pics below). If you took a Twitter selfie with Lego Steve, you had a chance to win a prize! I took a couple of selfies, including the ones you see below. Honestly, it doesn’t matter whether or not I win, but I thought it was fun to take these pics!

A Lego Steve, along with the contest instructions
Me, Lego Steve, and actual Steve! (Lego Steve is the one I’m holding in my fingers!)

This morning, I woke up at 4 am (local time), before my alarm went off. I got up, showered, dressed, and went to the convention center.

Bob Ward moderates the Microsoft Q&A breakfast

My first order of business was breakfast. I attended the Microsoft vendor breakfast — and yes, this time, there actually was breakfast. I got myself a good breakfast and listened to a Q&A with some Microsoft bigwigs. Bob Ward was the session moderator.

Now, a little explanation is in order. Bob Ward is probably the Elvis Presley of SQL rockstars. He is very well-known throughout the SQL community. He has written books, he has been on the front lines of SQL Server development, and people flock to his presentations when he speaks.

That said, he has one flaw. He’s a Dallas Cowboys fan. He’s such a big fan that he has been known to incorporate the Cowboys into his presentations. In fact, SQL Server 2022 was code-named “Dallas” because of him.

Because of this, I asked for the mic (I was the first to do so), and I asked this question.

“My question is specifically for Bob. What’s the over-under on the number of wins the Cowboys will have this year?”

Yeah, I know, but I had to ask. It got a good chuckle from the crowd!

After the breakfast, I attended the morning keynote, where a number of people from Redgate, including my friends, Steve Jones and Kathi Kellenberger, got to speak! I couldn’t tell you everything they discussed (I couldn’t remember it all if I tried), but Steve did mention (and I’m mostly paraphrasing here) that we are now living in a multi-database platform world, and that isn’t going to go away.

And now, here I sit, writing a ‘blog article. There are a few more sessions I want to attend, and they look like good ones! I’m looking forward to seeing what Day 2 brings!

Greetings from #PASSDataCommunitySummit day 1!

Before I get started, let me just say that I’m talking about my first day at PASS Data Community Summit, not necessarily the first day of the Summit. Although today is the first day of general sessions, the first round of pre-cons started Monday, and I didn’t arrive until yesterday (Tuesday).

Getting here was a long trip. I woke up at 3:00 am (Eastern time) to catch my flight, which left at 5:38 am. I had about a five hour layover in Detroit, where I got myself breakfast and took a bit of a catnap, before catching my flight to Seattle. My flight from Detroit to Seattle actually arrived almost an hour ahead of schedule, so there’s that! I checked into my AirBnB, dropped off my things, and headed to the Seattle Convention Center.

I didn’t expect much from my first evening here, but it ended up being quite busy! First, I tracked down my friend, Andy Levy. We chatted for a bit (while taking a little time to recover from our travels), and I suggested we go scope out my room where I would be speaking in the morning. It’s interesting, because since I was last here, there have been changes to this venue. First, there’s the name change. It used to be Washington State Convention Center; now it’s Seattle Convention Center. Second, it has expanded; there is now additional space where there wasn’t before, and my session is in one of them. I’m in a room called Skagit 3, which is located across the street from the main Convention Center. I just hope people are able to find my room!

I signed up to volunteer here, but communications have been both scattered and voluminous, and I’ve had a hard time keeping up with them. I did make it to the First Timer’s Buddy Event, which was an opportunity for first-time attendees to network and get together with veteran attendees (like me!). It was a great event, and tired though I was, I managed to catch my second wind here. I sat at a table with a few friends of mine and about five first time attendees.

It was here that I realized that I’d made a mistake. Those of you who follow my ‘blog likely know about my networking business cards. It was then that I realized that I’d left most of my cards back at my AirBnB (and I wasn’t about to hop back on the light rail to go back and get them). I did have a few in my wallet, so I handed out what I had.

There was also a networking slide presentation. I looked at the slides, and I’m absolutely convinced that Steve stole them from my presentation! 😀 Much of what was on those slides was material that I will be covering during my presentation this morning! With that, I did my best to promote my session! (I also saw my friend Taiob, who also told me he was promoting my session as well!)

The welcome reception followed. When I first attended PASS Summit in 2019, I was overwhelmed (in a good way!) by this event, and although the attendance numbers are down this year, I felt a very similar vibe this year! There were food tables serving a variety of items, along with drink stations (I’m generally not a cocktail drinker, but I decided to use my drink ticket on a Jack and Coke. Hey, if I have a free drink ticket, I’m going to take advantage of it!). I met up with a number of friends, including Ed Pollack, John Miner, Kathi Kellenberger, Grant Fritchey, Peter Shore, and several others whom I can’t remember right now. (Ed. note: I’ll come back later and edit this to include names I forgot and link their pages, if I can!)

I did have one lady at the reception tell me that she recognized me, and told me I was “internet famous.” Well okay, I’m not entirely sure that I buy that, but whatever! I also ran into a Kappa Kappa Psi brother from Northwestern State whom I’d met before, when I was last here in 2019! I made it a point to wear my letters cap to identify myself as a fraternity brother; you never know who you’ll run into!

I had signed up this morning to attend a vendor breakfast, but when I arrived, they had run out of food. I’m not going to lie; I signed up specifically for breakfast, not the sales pitch, and if there isn’t any food, what’s the point? Instead, I went downstairs to get the general continental breakfast that they were serving.

I’m writing this article from the speaker’s room at Summit. My session is in the very first time slot of the three-day session schedule for Summit, and as I write this sentence, I will be speaking about a little less than an hour from now.

Events like this are always a good time, and so far on my Day 1, this one has not disappointed! I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the week brings!

Well, I need to get ready to go do my presentation! Wish me luck!

Getting ready to travel to #PASSDataCommunitySummit

I’m taking the week off from work, as I prepare to head out to Seattle for PASS Data Community Summit! As I write this, I’m taking the day today to rest up before I spend tomorrow traveling, and to prepare!

I seem to be getting better at this conference travel prep thing. All I need for my presentation on Wednesday is to make sure I have my presentation slides on a flash drive, but that said, even though I don’t need my laptop to present (like I would for SQL Saturdays), it’s coming with me, anyway. You never know if there’ll be an issue with any of the equipment supplied, so always have a backup plan. There’s also a matter of making sure I’m packed for five days and four nights, but I don’t expect that to take too long.

Also, having my laptop means that I’ll be able to ‘blog about my PASS Summit experience, which I’m hoping that I’ll be able to do!

As I write this, I’m seeing some friends’ social media posts about Summit pre-cons, which are already in progress. I won’t be able to partake in any of the pre-cons, but I should be in town by tomorrow evening to take part in other programs, such as the buddy program for first-timers. (Note: I haven’t been able to find this link, but will update this article if I come across it.)

Events like these are always a good time. PASS Data Community Summit is a great opportunity to reconnect with old friends and make new ones as you build up your network!

See you tomorrow in Seattle!

Hey #SQLFamily, who would be up for a #SQLJamSession? #PASSDataCommunitySummit #Networking #Activities

When I saw Steve Jones at New Jersey SQL Saturday earlier this year, I made him a promise.

Steve knows that I’m into music. He said he wanted to hear me play sometime. I told him, “if you can find me a piano at PASS Summit, I’ll play!”

The other day, Steve posted a ‘blog article about creating a community event at Summit… and on my way home from work this evening, it gave me an idea!

I know I’m not the only musician who’ll be at Summit. I’ve occasionally told Deb Melkin that we should get together and jam sometime. And I know there are other musicians among the throng, whether they sing or play an instrument.

So Steve’s article gave me a thought: who would be up for a SQL jam session?

My thinking is that we find a place with a piano, we gather around it, and we play, sing songs, and just jam the night away! It would be a lot of fun, and it’d be a great way to connect with people!

Of course, there are some logistical challenges to this. First, we need to find a piano — preferably some place where we can enjoy food and beverage along with it. Second, people would need to bring instruments, and I’m not sure that people traveling to Summit are going to want to bring extra luggage with them. I know that I wouldn’t want to bring my sax or my clarinet with me.

But that said, I think it would make for a good time! Maybe someone might want to bring their guitar, or whatever instrument they play! Maybe people would want to sing along! And you don’t need to be an accomplished musician to join in! All ability levels, from beginner to virtuoso, would be welcome and encouraged to join us!

So, who’d be game? If you are, let me know in the comments! If enough people are interested, maybe we can work something out!

And Steve, if you’re reading this, can you help me find a place with a piano that I can play?

Less than two weeks until #PASSDataCommunitySummit! #PASSSummit #SQLFamily #Networking

November arrived yesterday (where did this year go???), and it only recently occurred to me that I will be in Seattle in less than two weeks, speaking for the fourth time at PASS Data Community Summit (or it’s equivalent)! On Wednesday morning, among the first sessions of Summit, I will be giving one of my favorite presentations: the one on networking. Come check it out!

It still amazes me that I will be going back to speak at this awesome event for the fourth straight year. Whenever I look through the list of speakers — several of whom have become very good friends through my association with events such as SQL Saturday — I continue to be in awe of the fact that my name and face is associated with this amazing group of data professional rock stars. I started speaking on the SQL Saturday circuit in 2015, and if you’d told me back then that I would be speaking at PASS Summit for four straight years, I likely would’ve asked what you were smoking.

And yet, here I am. I don’t consider myself a SQL Server expert — heck, none of my presentations even have anything to do with SQL Server — but nevertheless, I am still contributing to the SQL Server, as well as other technical, communities. I sometimes ask myself if I really belong in this same group of talented data professionals; indeed, I was even once asked how I’m associated with this group. I think that’s a very valid question, and I sometimes ask myself that same question.

But one doesn’t get to speak at PASS Summit four straight years unless you’ve got the goods. I once described PASS Summit as being the SQL Saturday All-Star Game. If you’re picked once, it’s a great honor. If you’re picked more than once, you’re a solid player. Four straight years? Now we’re starting to get into Derek Jeter territory.

Okay, I don’t consider myself the same caliber as Jeter. I’d consider myself more like, say, Ozzie Smith: someone with a long and distinguished career who didn’t hit for a high batting average. He stayed steady and just did his thing. And that’s pretty much what I try to do.

Hope to see you in Seattle in two weeks!

Upcoming speaking engagements (as of 7/12/2022) #PASSDataCommunitySummit #SQLSaturday #ProfessionalDevelopment #Networking #SQLFamily

As it turns out, I have a couple of confirmed upcoming speaking engagements! If you’re seeking employment or are looking to advance your career prospects, both of these presentations are for you.

  • Saturday, July 23 (a week from this Saturday as I write this): SQL Saturday #1027, New Jersey — This is the first (as far as I know) SQL Saturday being held in New Jersey, and my first live and in-person SQL Saturday since Rochester, just before the pandemic.

    I will be doing my presentation about surviving an unemployment situation titled, “I lost my job! Now what?!?” If you’re out of work, I’ll talk about coping with unemployment stress and emotions, the job hunt, and how to get through this tough time.

    I also talk about networking in this presentation. Speaking of which…

I also found out this week that there is a SQL Saturday scheduled for October 8 in Boston (well, actually, Burlington, MA). I’m on the fence as to whether or not to submit to it (mostly what’s making me hesitate is my busy schedule, but that said, that date is free on my calendar). I’m leaning towards submitting to it, but we’ll see how it goes.

So, that’s two confirmed speaking engagements, plus one that I might (okay, probably will) submit to. Now that things are opening back up, and virtual conferences aren’t necessarily the current norm, I’m looking forward to seeing people live and in-person again.

I will be speaking at #PASSDataCommunitySummit #PASSSummit #SQLFamily #Networking

I am pleased to announce that I have been selected to speak at the 2022 PASS Data Community Summit! This is the fourth straight year that I have been selected to speak at this event (or its equivalent)!

I am still in awe that I’ve been selected four straight years! To be selected once is an honor! To be selected four times puts you in elite company!

This year’s conference is hybrid; that is, it will be both in-person and online! Go to the link for additional details and to register! I will be making the trip to Seattle in November, so I need to make my travel arrangements!

This year, I will be presenting one of my favorite presentations: “Networking 101: Building professional relationships.” If you consider yourself socially awkward, have trouble with connecting with business professionals, don’t feel comfortable with breaking the ice, or just want to expand your network even further, then this presentation is for you! And PASS Data Community Summit is the perfect place to practice those skills!

I am very much looking forward to this event, and I’m looking forward to making the trip out to Seattle in November! Hope to see you there!

#PASSDataCommunitySummit 2021 — the debrief

PASS Data Community Summit 2021 is in the books (the last day was Friday). It was fun, educational, and tiring (as many conferences are). And now that I’ve had the weekend to recover (I think!), I can write up my impressions of the conference.

This year, the conference was entirely virtual — and free! This enabled many people who likely could not attend previous conferences to attend this year, and I believe it was reflected this year; although I don’t know the exact attendance numbers, I believe there were thousands more attendees this year. This morning, I checked my speaker’s portal, and at last count, 124 people had viewed my session. I should note that that figure includes people who watched my session replay, as well as those who attended live, so that number could go up. Speaking of which, if you registered for the Summit, you can continue to watch most session replays for another six months. (I’m not entirely sure what happens after six months; presumably, you won’t be able to see them on the Summit page, but there’s a possibility that they might be viewable on PASS’s YouTube site. And if you happen to check it out, my own Summit intro video is even on the site!)

The committee who organized this year’s Summit did a fantastic job of putting together a successful event! Here are some of my takeaways from this year’s Summit.

  • I have a new favorite online meeting app! Check out Spatial Chat! The PASS Community Zone made use of this technology (and I was told that Redgate uses this application in their office environment as well). Many of us have gotten fatigued by the same-old, same-old Zoom, Google Meet, and other similar applications. Spatial Chat, however, is a game-changer. It simulates the experience of actually being in a room — for example, the closer you are to someone’s avatar, the better you can hear that person — just like standing adjacent (or at a distance) from an actual person. It allows creating separate virtual rooms and customized backgrounds (many people “sat” in “chairs” that made up the background; it also provided a guide for areas within a room where people could congregate).

    I was amazed at the tool’s ability to host a large number of people within simulated virtual rooms without any noticeable degradation in video or audio.

    I even set up my own Spatial Chat using the free version of the app (the free version allows you to create up to three rooms and up to 50 meeting participants). I intend to use this application whenever I have a need to hold an online meeting, or even if I want to hold a “virtual party.” If you’re interested in checking this tool out, go to Spatial Chat’s website, use the free version, invite a few people to join you in a meeting, and take it for a spin!

    Of course, I would much prefer an in-person conference, but this tool made me miss the experience of an in-person event a little less!
  • There were many chances to network! Networking is a big part of any conference. Spatial Chat, along with my presentation, allowed me opportunities to do so (and Spatial Chat made it even easier). My LinkedIn contact list definitely got bigger over the course of this conference!
  • Missed a presentation you wanted to see? Not to worry! You can probably watch it later! I didn’t make it to as many presentations I would’ve liked. That said, it wasn’t too much of an issue. Registered participants can go back to watch whatever sessions they want for up to six months. (I’m not sure what happens after six months; I’m hoping to be able to continue watching them on PASS’s YouTube site, but we’ll see what happens.) There are a number of sessions that interested me, and I intend to go back to check them out later.

    That said, I couldn’t go back to rewatch all the sessions (more on that below).
  • I had a great audience for my presentation! My job hunt presentation is, in my opinion, one of my better presentations, and I feel like it went well — definitely much better than my first two times speaking at Summit. (I guess the third time’s a charm.) I had a number of good (and even interesting) questions, which told me that my audience was engaged and interested.

Of course, like any event, the Summit wasn’t perfect (no event ever is). Here are a few things that I think would’ve made Summit 2021 even better.

  • Spatial Chat should’ve had a room (or two) for the Exhibitor Hall. This was one thing that I found disappointing. As is the case for other large conferences, PASS Data Community Summit had pages for exhibitors and vendors. But in order to get to them, you had to go back to the attendee dashboard and click the links for the Expo Hall. To me, that took away from the experience; it made for additional links to open, and it was another step you had to take.

    In an actual in-person conference, you have to physically walk to the exhibitor hall. Spatial Chat has the ability to simulate that experience, and I was very surprised that a room wasn’t set aside for the vendor exhibition, where people could’ve easily attended and walked in from the Community Zone. I thought this would’ve been a natural setup for exhibitors, and I was very surprised that it was not set up this way.
  • The Community Zone wasn’t “open all night” (or even “open late”). I will confess that I became somewhat addicted to Spatial Chat; it gave me the opportunity to reconnect with #SQLFamily friends whom I don’t often have the opportunity to see. The trouble was that it shut down every night at 6:30 pm EST. In their defense, PASS organizers said they had to do so for legal reasons, ostensibly to ensure that the conference code-of-conduct was enforced. But there were attendees from all over the world and in different time zones, and I’m sure they could’ve gotten more volunteers to stay online so the code-of-conduct rule could be satisfied.

    Speaking of time zones…
  • PASS Data Community Summit was a great event to attend — if you were on the East Coast of the US. In this respect, I was lucky, because I am on the East Coast of the US. The Summit schedule was very conducive for anyone in the Eastern time zone. But if you were in other time zones — especially in other geographic regions such as Europe or Asia, it wasn’t as convenient. I remember talking to at least one person located in Australia, and he mentioned that it was 5 am where he was located. It was nearly impossible for those people to attend many sessions, many of which took place while they were asleep. It also prevented people from interacting with other attendees. Networking, after all, is a major part of conferences.
  • Most sessions are replayable — but not all. I mentioned above that I can go back and rewatch most of the conference sessions that I missed. Most, but not all. There were several Q&A sessions that I found interesting, but unlike other presentations, the Q&A sessions can not be replayed. I realize that you can’t interact with a recorded Q&A session, but in many cases, the discussions that did take place were good dialogue, and I would’ve liked to go back to them, or even check out sessions that I missed.
  • I would’ve liked a better way to engage with my audience. Anyone who’s seen my presentations know that I like to get my audience involved. I like doing interactive presentations. I feel that they keep my audience engaged and interested. When my session was scheduled, it was scheduled as a pre-recorded session (i.e. I recorded my session in advance, my presentation was uploaded, and people would see my recorded session).

    After my experience with last year’s Summit, I found that I had an aversion to pre-recorded sessions. Since my last in-person SQL Saturday, I’ve spoken at many virtual conferences, and have never had a problem with any of them. I know that there’s a concern with problems during a live session, but personally, it’s never happened to me. This is not to say that I’ll never have a problem (hey, it happens!), but I feel comfortable enough with my session that I would much prefer to do it live. I think every session slot should’ve had an option of live or pre-recorded, not just a select few (in fact, I thought at first that that was how it was done, but that turned out to not be the case).

    Additionally, when I did my presentation, I had no direct interaction with my audience. I presented via Zoom while the audience viewed it on another platform, and while my audience could see (and hear) my presentation, there was no direct way for us to interact. People would post questions to a chat, and the session moderator would relay those questions to me. As I said, I prefer interactive sessions. Fortunately, this particular presentation didn’t require a lot of audience interaction, but if I did do one, it likely would’ve been problematic.

Looking at what I just wrote, I realize that I wrote more about issues than what I liked. This is not to take away from this year’s Summit experience. Overall, I thought Summit was very well done, and I’m very glad that I had a chance to participate. A lot of hard work went into putting together the 2021 PASS Data Community Summit. Many kudos to the people who organized Summit this year!

PASS Data Community Summit 2021 exceeded my expectations! I hope that I am able to attend next year’s Summit, which will be a hybrid event. If the 2022 Summit goes as well as the 2021 virtual Summit, it will be a great event!