SQL Teach - Jean Rene's conference that rotates around Canada, is quickly becoming my favorite event of the year, eh? The last one was in Toronto a couple weeks ago. The next one is in Montreal. Then next spring he'll be in Vancouver again. SQLTeach is 2 tracks of DevTeach which also has tracks for .Net, ASP, architecture, Agile, SharePoint, and Server/IT Pro, so while it's a smaller regional conference it packs in a lot of depth and draws the top speakers.
So here are my observations…
Getting there was an adventure. After circling O'Hare for 90 minutes and missing my connection to Toronto, American Airlines stranded me in Chicago. There was no way to fly me to Toronto on Sunday and I had a pre-con to present Monday morning. They offered to fly me to St. Louis and then try to catch a flight to Toronto from there, but the flight to St. Louis was so delayed that would just strand me in St. Louis. So I rented a car at 5pm and headed east for Canada. If you were wondering the boarder crossing is much easier at the bridge at 12:30am than at the airport during normal hours. The drive was 10 hours but easy until I got lost in Toronto looking for the hotel. I ended up getting to my hotel room at about 3:30 am. Whenever I fear oversleeping, I can't fully fall asleep. But wow, The Hilton Toronto has the best showers I've ever personally used. I want a Grohe shower in my new house.
My pre-con went well - I did a one-day version of my Smart Database Design seminar. I didn’t tell any of the attendees I was functioning on a minimal sleep. Toward the end I got a bit punchy and I'm sure they were wondering if I was really the speaker or some guy who got lost looking for ComedyCanada.
DevTeach/SQL Teach always hosts a great speaker dinner. This year Jean-Rena treated us all to Ruth Chris. I sat next a guy who writes the open source version of .Net with Novell. Smart guy. He out-geeked me on every geek test except the number of batteries I travel with for my notebook, and he showed us some amazing eye-candy on his open Linux notebook that makes Vista look like Windows 2.0.
I like the smaller regional conferences. There will always be a place for the mega conferences like TechEd and PASS, but the regional conferences have a more intimate feel. The attendees mention in their evals how much they liked spending time hanging out with the speakers and getting to know folks. And it's nice staying in the same hotel where all the session are happening downstairs.
Jean-Rene, who runs the conference has an excellent system for collecting evals and making the data available instantly. So it's fun to watch the evals come in and the speakers tease one another about who's ahead of who - all in good fun.
My other two sessions - 10 Top Database Development Blunders, and Key Database Trends - both had lots of interaction and the benefit of sleep.
During one lunch, I wandered away and explored Toronto, walking up University Boulevard; and it's a proper boulevard with a full tree-lined median. Toronto really is a beautiful city. In one park there was a small jazz festival with grilled food. Ummm.
And of course, one of the best things about a good conference is catching up with friends - Peter DeBetta, Adam Machanic, Jean-Rene, Don Kiely, Rick Heiges, Michael Lato, Randy Dyess, Joe Webb, and meeting new friends. And the highlight was talking Hawaii with Brad M. McGehee. His notebook name is BigIsland, mine is Maui, but he really lives there. I gotta figure out what he's doing right.
The next SQLTeach is in Montreal in this fall. I remember taking my new bride to a Montreal SQLTeach (she actually came to one of my sessions!) and loving the old Montreal and the little eateries. We rented a bicycle-built-for-two and rode all over old Montreal. It's one of the greatest cites in the world - French and friendly.
Maybe I'll see you there, eh?