Next month I will attend my third PASS Summit in Seattle. I previously attended the Summit in 2006 and 2008. This year I am volunteering as part of the PASS Orientation Committee. Each member of the Orientation Committee has a group of 8 “first timers” that were randomly assigned to them. The idea is that we will reach out to these folks, help them get a feel for the conference, and (hopefully) enhance their conference experience by putting them on a path to getting to know other attendees, answering questions they might have, etc. I thought that the Orientation Committee was a great idea as soon as I read about it.
I am about to reach out to my group to introduce myself and thought it would be nice to have something to point them to before actually meeting them in November. I decided to write up a top 10 list of Summit tips (some specific to Seattle Summits). Here they are:
- Use the Gray Line Seattle Downtown Airporter to get from the airport to your hotel. The bus goes from the airport to downtown Seattle and drives around to all of the various hotels. You just jump out at your hotel. At $25 round-trip, the price is right. There is also a good chance that you will bump into a fellow PASS attendee or two on the bus.
- Bring your walking shoes and explore downtown Seattle. I found a nice walking tour guide of the area on an MSDN blog before I went in 2006.
- Arrive as early as you the day before the conference starts. Use that first afternoon to do any tourist type stuff you might want to do while in Seattle. In my experience, there is not much time or energy for that type of thing once the conference gets going. The conference days are quite long and draining. Evening social events will eat up most remaining time and energy.
- Talk to the sponsors. While I cannot vouch for all of them, I have met some very cool folks by way of chatting with the PASS Summit vendors. In particular, seek out the folks at the Redgate and SQL Sentry booths.
- Bring business cards. Many DBAs do not normally think to bring business cards with them. However, swapping cards with someone after an interesting chat in the hallway is much, much easier than jotting down contact information on your notebook. You will very likely meet someone at PASS with whom you want to exchange contact information.
- Get on Twitter if you are not already there. The PASS Summit is huge on Twitter. Follow the main hash tag #SQLPASS while you are at the conference for news, insights, and entertainment. If you are new to Twitter and want some tips on how it works, check out Brent Ozar’s free Simple Twitter Book.
- Put some thought into which sessions you plan to attend ahead of time. There are quite a few to choose from at every time slot. The fifteen minute break between sessions is not the best time to decide where you are headed next. Take the schedule builder for a spin and narrow your decisions down a bit ahead of time.
- When selecting sessions to attend, step out of your comfort zone now and then. While you certainly want to pick up some information that you can apply to your job as soon as you return, the PASS Summit is also a good opportunity to step outside your particular area of focus (if you have one) and mix it up a bit.
- Do your best to keep your focus on the Summit and not the little fires that break out back at your office while you are away. Neither you nor your employer will see a maximum return on your Summit investment if you are continually missing learning and networking opportunities due to other distractions.
- Socialize and network. For the most part, while you are at the PASS Summit you are surrounded by folks who enjoy working with, learning about, and discussing SQL Server. That is something many of us don’t find everyday. Take advantage of it!