Getting ready to speak at my first PASS Summit

I’m speaking at my very first PASS Summit this year!

I intend to ‘blog about my experience with my first PASS Summit. Hopefully, my exploits will help others who, like me, are also preparing for the first PASS Summit. This represents the first of those articles.

As I write this, PASS Summit is still four months away. Nevertheless, preparations are in full swing. My flight and AirBnB reservations for Seattle are already set. It’s been a while since I was last in Seattle (I think my last trip was in 2005). Seattle is one of my favorite west coast cities to visit, and I always look forward to trips out to the Pacific Northwest. My only regret about this trip is that baseball season will be over by then, so I won’t be able to catch a Mariners game while I’m there.

I do not intend to rent a car for this trip. To be honest, I’m becoming more and more paranoid about driving a car I don’t own in a metropolitan area with which I’m only vaguely familiar. I did rent a car for SQL Saturday in Washington, and driving around the Beltway was a harrowing experience; during that trip, I became very concerned about returning my rental car with a dent. So for PASS Summit, I intend to rely on public transportation; all my stops — Sea-Tac Airport, my AirBnB, and the Convention Center — are all along the light rail line. If I need a car, I’ll bum a ride off someone, or I’ll contact Uber or Lyft.

Prep work for the event itself on my end is also rolling as well. I’ve gotten emails from PASS about what I need to do to get ready. I’ve registered as a speaker, and I put my presentation into a new PowerPoint template supplied by PASS (and in doing so, I think I made my presentation even better — a lot of the changes will likely end up going into my regular slides). They’re supposed to review my slides, so I’m waiting for them to get back to me as to what changes (if any) I need to make. There are some things about my prep I’m not allowed to discuss — per PASS rules, I’m not allowed to discuss some things until they’ve announced it first — so, alas, I can’t talk about all my prep work.

Last night, I was at Ed Pollack‘s house, helping to prep for this weekend’s SQL Saturday. Knowing that Ed has experience speaking at PASS Summit (he’ll be speaking at his fourth this year), I asked him what I should expect. He told me to “expect at least one question that you can’t answer” during my presentation — maybe something impossible to answer, something I don’t know, or even something that has nothing to do with my presentation. He also told me that PASS Summit would be very busy — apparently there are many activities around PASS Summit that take place. I have friends and family either in or near Seattle; we’ll see how much of a chance I’ll have to get together with them.

I also figure that Matt Cushing‘s advice will likely come into play here. A good chunk of his presentation revolves around activities at PASS Summit. I guess I’ll find out in November how much of it comes into play!

Another thing on my mind is room setups. Although I’ve spoken at many SQL Saturdays, even the largest room in which I’ve spoken pales in comparison to the rooms at PASS Summit. I’m not necessarily nervous about speaking in front of a large crowd — I lost my sense of stage fright a long time ago — as much as I am curious as to how it’s going to work. It’s not something I’ll need to be concerned about until I’m closer to the date, but it is, nevertheless, something that’s on my mind.

I did a Google search for “what to expect at PASS Summit” and came across some interesting links. Some of those links are below (admittedly, I’m listing these for my own reference).

It’s still four months to PASS Summit, but a number of things are already in motion. I’ll be writing more about my experiences as we get closer to November!

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July 20 — SQL Saturday, Albany, NY

On Saturday, July 20 (one week from tomorrow), the Capital Area SQL Server User Group (CASSUG) will host SQL Saturday for the sixth time in Albany, NY!

For those of you who are not regular readers of my ‘blog, SQL Saturday is a daylong conference centered mostly (but not entirely) around data topics related to SQL Server. It’s also a great networking event, and an opportunity to hook up with a number of data professionals! Check out the schedule to see what sessions interest you!

And yes, I am presenting, too! I will do a brand-new presentation about ‘blogging, as well as a lightning talk about business cards! I always look forward to doing presentations in my own backyard!

Additionally, there are three pre-con sessions on Friday, July 19. Unlike SQL Saturday, these sessions are not free, but they provide quality daylong training for specific topics at a decent price. Information about these pre-cons can also be found on the web site!

For more information and to register for the event, visit our website! Upstate New York is a great place to visit during the summertime! Hope to see you there!

Upcoming speaking engagements (as of 7/11/2019)

I’ve had several speaking schedule updates since my last update, so I figured another update was in order.

Here are upcoming speaking engagements for which I am confirmed.

I’ve applied to speak at this event, but I am not yet confirmed.

So it appears that I’m going to be busy the next few months. Hopefully, I’ll see you at an event near you!

Speaking in Providence, RI — August 24

I just got the official email saying that I’ve been picked to speak at SQL Saturday in Providence, RI on August 24!

For the second time in as many months, I will be doing my brand-new presentation about ‘blogging!

SQL Saturday is always a good time! Come on out and check out my presentation on August 24!

PASS Summit — I’ll see you in Seattle!!!

Yesterday, I received an exciting piece of news! (I wasn’t allowed to publicly announce this until it was posted on the site today, so holding back this announcement was a little like holding back a dam break!)

I found out that I will be speaking at PASS Summit!

For those of you not familiar with PASS and SQL Saturday, PASS Summit is a VERY big deal!!! I’ve heard it described as “the Super Bowl of SQL Saturdays” and “SQL Saturday on steroids.” Essentially, it represents a nationwide convention of data professionals all gathered in the same place for a week!

For my very first PASS Summit presentation, I will be doing… my very first presentation! I will do my presentation about talking the language of technology to non-technical people. This is my original presentation, going all the way back to coming up with the idea during a user group meeting in 2015. It’s come a long way since then!

Now that it’s official, I can start making my travel plans! I’ll see you in Seattle in November!

Business cards: the most important networking tool

At Albany SQL Saturday this year, I will be doing a lightning talk about what may very well be the most important item you could have for networking. This article outlines what I intend to discuss.

Why do I consider business cards — such innocuous little items — to be the most important item for networking? Let me lay out this scenario.

Let’s say you’re attending an event like, say, SQL Saturday. You manage to strike up a conversation with this person you happen to meet there. (S)he tells you that (s)he is a high-level executive for a company that hires people with the skill sets that you have. You tell him/her about yourself and what you do. (S)he becomes very intrigued. (S)he tells you, “let me get your name, number, and email, and we’ll talk!” You eagerly look for a pen and a piece of paper to write down your contact information, but you can’t find any readily available. (S)he says, “don’t worry about it. Track me down later when you have a chance to write it down.” Only that opportunity never happens. (S)he gets a call and needs to leave the conference before you have a chance to give him/her your contact info. A few days later, both you and (s)he have already forgotten each other’s names.

Opportunity knocked, but you didn’t answer the door. That could’ve been the job opportunity that kicked off your career — and you just let it slip through your fingers. If only you had a way to quickly and easily share your contact information — something that you can exchange instantly. Well, there is.

Business cards are small, simple, easy to carry, and easy to distribute. They’re much easier to carry than, say, copies of your resume. People don’t need to remember your name, email, or phone number. They also save the time of having to find a pen and paper or pulling out your smartphone and texting someone your contact info. Additionally, you cut out the extra step of having someone look up your contact info. The less you have to make someone work, the better.

Open up my business card, and you’ll see a little mini-resume!

Years ago, I decided to get creative with my business cards. One day, I came up with the idea of “baseball cards… business cards” and put the two concepts together. I had an old souvenir photo of myself in a baseball uniform that I used for the card photo. Flip the card over, and you’ll see my contact info (including my ‘blog, LinkedIn, email, and snail-mail addresses and phone numbers). Open it up (it’s a folded business card), and you’ll see my “career major league batting stats” — in actuality, a little mini-resume!

When I first designed and created these cards, I designed them in a MS Word template and printed them out onto business card stock. These days, I implement my design in a VistaPrint account and let them take care of the printing and card stock. I’ve found VistaPrint to be much more convenient than having to buy card stock and producing them myself.

To this day, I continually get rave reviews about my business cards, and I love the reactions I get when I pass them out. One recruiter told me that they have my card tacked on their “good ideas” bulletin board. A friend who was a (now-retired) career counselor asked me for a card so that he could show people, “if you’re looking for a job, this is the kind of thing you have to do.” Another person whom I met at a job fair told me, upon seeing my card: “I’m not in a position to hire, but if I was, I would hire you right now just because of this card!” Even Matt Cushing brings up my card whenever he does his networking presentation! My card is designed to do more than just provide my contact information — it shows off my creativity, that I can think out of the box, and it makes a good conversation piece. It makes me memorable, and ensures that I’ll be remembered in a good way!*

(*Well, unless you’re a Red Sox or Mets fan!)

Granted, you don’t have to create a baseball-business card (hey, my idea, darn it!), but don’t be afraid to get creative with your card design. You’ll more likely to be remembered. If you don’t feel like being creative with your cards, at the very least, have a basic card with your name and contact info on it that you can pass along.

A big part of networking is ensuring you can continue (or establish) a conversation at some point. Having business cards to distribute can ensure that the conversation — and possibly your big break — happens.

A SQL Saturday travel primer for first-time speakers

Are you a first-time SQL Saturday speaker? Congratulations!

Are you traveling to speak at your first SQL Saturday? Congratulations, again! You’re nervous, you say? That’s certainly understandable. Traveling for the first time to speak someplace you’ve never been can be daunting, but as I wrote previously, you need to step out of your comfort zone to get ahead.

I remember the first time I traveled to speak at SQL Saturday: Providence, RI in 2015. It was only the second time I’d ever spoken at a SQL Saturday; the first was within the friendly confines of my home town earlier that summer. This one was a little more intimidating for me; it was my first SQL Saturday (either speaking or attending) outside of New York state, I was in an unfamiliar town, and I was alone (I only knew one other person at this particular event). I was confident in my own abilities, but nevertheless, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous. If you were speaking at your first out-of-town event, I’m sure you would be, too.

Well, since I started speaking at SQL Saturday almost four years ago, as of this article, I’ve since spoken at nineteen (and counting) SQL Saturday events in ten different cities in six states (seven, if you include DC*). I think I can safely claim that I am now a seasoned veteran when it comes to speaking at out-of-town SQL Saturday events (yes, several people have been to more than me, but I digress). And I’ve picked up some experience along the way. Here are some things I’ve learned during my travels as a SQL Saturday speaker.

(*Okay, DC SQL Saturday was technically in Chevy Chase, MD. However, DC was literally across the street. See for yourself!)

Before we start, let me direct you to a previous article I wrote about what it’s like to travel to a SQL Saturday. That should give you a taste of what it’s like to travel to speak at an event.

Now that your appetite (hopefully) is whetted, here are a few things to expect when you’re traveling to speak at SQL Saturday.

You’re doing this on your dime. Keep in mind that SQL Saturday is an all-volunteer event — and that includes you, the speaker. The costs for transportation, lodging, and food are all coming out of your pocket. It’s possible that you might be able to have your employer foot the bill for your trip — for example, if your employer is a sponsor, it’s possible that they could foot your bill as a duly-designated representative of the company.

Unfortunately, not every speaker has this option. For those of us who don’t…

AirBnB is a wonderful thing. Often, a hotel costs more than I want to pay. If you’re only looking for a place to lay your head and aren’t picky about a front desk, room service, or a concierge, I’ve often found rooms on AirBnB for a fraction of the price of a hotel.

And of course, if you want to stay in a hotel, it pays to shop around.

I’ve also attended a number of SQL Saturdays in cities where friends live. I’ve often asked them if I could crash in their guest room, or even their living room couch. For SQL Saturday in Philadelphia, for example, I have a college friend who lives near the event site, and I’ve stayed with him and his family every time I’ve attended this event. I’ve done this often enough that I no longer need to use my GPS to find his house.

How are you getting there? So far, I’ve traveled to all out-of-town SQL Saturdays either by driving or taking the train. I have yet to attend an event that requires me to fly there. (I did set a goal this year of speaking at an event where it isn’t feasible for me to drive. I’m hoping that that event is PASS Summit. We’ll see!)

Why don’t I fly to these events? Well, partially, it’s because I don’t like the hassles that come with flying. But as for my primary reason, go back and read the above paragraph about doing this on my own dime.

Make it an experience! My wife has an open invitation to travel with me to these events. She doesn’t come to all of them, but when she does come with me, we’ll often make an experience out of it. When I was chosen to speak at Virginia Beach, knowing that there’s a lot of touristy-type things to do in the area, I told her, “let’s take a few extra days and make a vacation out of it!” We went to Colonial Williamsburg and went to the beach, and we had a great time!

Network, network, network! Nearly four years ago, I traveled to Providence knowling almost no one there. Since then, I see many other SQL Saturday speakers fairly regularly, and I’ve become good friends with many of them. Even to this day, I continually make new network connections whenever I attend these events. Take advantage of the networking contacts you make, and bring business cards if you have them!

Above all, have fun! There’s a reason why I keep applying to speak at SQL Saturday. I could write more about the networking contacts, the data training, and the boost to my resume. But above all, I love doing these events. I genuinely enjoy attending SQL Saturday! I would attend more if my schedule and my budget (and my wife!) allowed it, but I try to attend as many as I can.

So if you’re looking to present at SQL Saturday events, go ahead and apply to a location that looks interesting to you. Hopefully, I’ll see you at one sometime soon!