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Aaron Bertrand

Aaron is a Product Evangelist for SentryOne, makers of Plan Explorer and a performance monitoring and event management platform for the Microsoft Data Platform and VMware. He has been blogging here at since 2006, focusing on manageability, performance, and new features, and also blogs at and; has been a Microsoft MVP since 1997; tweets as @AaronBertrand; and speaks frequently at major conferences, user group meetings, and SQL Saturday events worldwide.

SQL Saturday #71, Boston: "T-SQL : Bad Habits to Kick"

In Boston today I presented my "Bad Habits to Kick" deck to 66 people. You can download the deck and samples from the SQL Saturday web site or directly from

Like the Chicago event, folks were encouraged to submit feedback immediately after the session, by picking a random eval and giving the winner a token (in this case a RedGate sticker). They could take the sticker to the main lobby and collect a book of their choice - an option I suggested after learning they would pre-assign a book to each speaker. I thought it would be better to let the user pick from a collection of books instead of accepting the only book in the room, and while it caused a little bit of extra work, I think it was worthwhile.

Anyway, I'm mentioning all of this because I collected a huge stack of 66 evals. I hope attendees realize how invaluable this type of feedback can be for a speaker. At a lot of events in the past, we either haven't received feedback at all, or it's been collated for us and we just see the scores. Sometimes we have received the actual feedback sheets, but it can often be weeks after the event. I like this format a lot, because the session is so fresh in my memory, and that makes it easier to correlate the feedback to the time slot.

And again, like the Chicago event, the eval form was kept short and simple. There were four questions:

1. How would you rate the overall quality of this presentation? (1 is very poor, 5 is excellent)

5 - 42 (63.6%)
4 - 20 (30.3%)
3 - 4 (6.1%)

Average: 4.58

2. What is the best idea from the session that you plan to use?

There was a wide variety here. Some folks really liked my suggestions about using a numbers table, others liked my warnings about date range queries, and a few really liked the snippets feature in Denali. Multiple people liked my quick tip on dragging the Columns node in Object Explorer onto a query window to instantly expand the list of columns. My session covered 12 bad habits and it seems that every habit was mentioned at least once in response to this question.

3. What could this speaker have done to improve the overall quality score?

There were some interesting ones here, a couple beyond my control (mainly about the microphone - I tried very hard at the beginning to get my mic working correctly, but even I could tell that it was going in and out whenever I moved). One didn't find my color choice for SSMS very palatable - I think I will need to sit in a room with a projector and play with my choices. They look great on the screen (IMHO) but if the projector is dim or the lighting is not right, I think it will be difficult to find a good balance. Two people said I need to make it more dynamic, which I'll have to think about... I was going back and forth between slides and demos quite a bit, but I suspect they were talking about my being relatively monotone, or perhaps not soliciting enough conversation from the audience. And I was caught a couple of times answering a question without repeating it for the rest of the audience first - definitely need to get better about that.

One person suggested the session should be longer, which is probably true - there were plenty of bad habits I didn't even touch on, but could have with more time. Another suggested that I should cover 25 bad habits, not 12. And of course I received several suggestions for bad habits that I didn't cover - sp_ prefix, EXISTS / NOT EXISTS issues, and one even asked, "what about the rest of your bad habits from your blog?" Finally, someone complained that I didn't have print-outs. I don't think it's very typical for an event like this, since I have no idea how many people are going to show up at my session, and typically I'm still making last-minute adjustments right before I get up there anyway. :-)

4. Overall Comments:

Several compliments here, including knowledgeable, clear, very educational, useful, superb examples, interesting mix, good pace, great demos. Some negative comments as well: too obvious, need more examples (though this goes back to the time thing), and show more execution plan results. The last one is a great point... I actually did have a couple more of these to show, and they're in the download above, but I skipped them in the interest of time.

All in all I am quite happy with the feedback, and more importantly, quite happy that I can validate immediately how *I* felt the session went. As a whole, I think this SQL Saturday was quite successful, and anyone who was there should give a shout out to @AdamMachanic, @gfritchey, @mike_walsh and @SQLRockstar for putting together a great event!


Published Saturday, April 2, 2011 8:10 PM by AaronBertrand


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