I have only been to one PASS Summit and it was the one in November 2008. If you had asked me last year this time about attending a large convention like PASS Summit, TechEd or SQL Connections, I would have told you to save your money for something more useful. A few things conspired together last year that got me to attend Summit. First Microsoft decided to do the SQL Hero's Contest in conjunction with PASS Summit and the Extended Event Manager I wrote was selected as a finalist in the contest. Second, I got the opportunity to attend the Summit free on media credentials which meant that all I had to cover was travel and lodging. This meant that the entire event would cost somewhere in the area of $800 for me, which is still a bit of money but much less than if I had to cover the summit entry as well. It worked out that when I requested the time off from work to attend Summit, that my employer agreed to cover the $800, so I actually go to attend last year without any out of pocket expense.
So what did I learn last year? Well I learned that I really am not a good media person, but that is another point to cover. I actually learned that attending a large convention like PASS Summit or TechEd or SQL Connections is going to be as good as you make it. Now I happen to be a pretty social person, and I was somewhat established in the SQL Server Community in November last year, and I also was just awarded MVP in October, so my experience might be different than others, but I really thought that attending Summit was going to be something along the lines of:
- Wake up in the morning early
- Walk to the Convention Center and listen to sessions on SQL all day.
- Walk back to hotel room.
- Check email, go to bed
- Repeat for 3 days
It turns out that is really how a lot of people think about conventions, and it is also how a number of people actually attend them. In reality, if you are willing to stretch yourself a little bit, there is a lot that goes on at Summit outside of the normal sessions. SQL Server Central hosts a party one night and PASS has its own events after the sessions conclude that are geared towards getting people into a room where they can be social and meet new people. However, the more involved in the community you are, the more you find out about what else is going on after hours at Summit. The first night I was in Seattle I got to get together with the Moderators from the MSDN Forums in a meet and great coordinated by Arnie Rowland. I also attended a dinner with the MVP's before leaving PASS where we got to just sit and talk like normal people.
If you've never attended a major conference such as PASS Summit, I'd challenge you to not only attend one, but step outside of your box and try and meet a few people while you are there. If you don't know who to try and meet, the answer is really simple, everyone that you can. If you attend PASS Summit this year, I will be there as a speaker presenting a session on Extended Events titled "Opening the SQL Server 2008 Troubleshooting Toolbox: An Introduction to Extended Events". Come by and start with meeting me.
So what did I learn in a nutshell:
If you don't think big conventions are your thing, you might just be missing out and not even know it. I certainly was. Attending Summit is not all about learning new things. It is also about meeting new people and connecting within the community as well. Your Summit experience is going to be what you make of it, and the community is made up of people who are just like you. Rather than just attending sessions and heading to your hotel room immediately after, stick around, meet some new people and you'll be amazed at how different the experience of attending a PASS Summit can be.