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Rick Heiges

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Looking Back at PASS Summit 2013 - Location

Now that it has been a few weeks since the Summit, I wanted to look back at the location "experiment".

Convention Center - It seemed to work well for the conference.  There were quite a few areas in the area where you could sit down and get some work down or have a discussion.  For the larger welcome reception the first night, I really liked the different areas.  If you wanted to enjoy the Quiz Bowl, the ballroom area was set up nicely with big screens so that everyone could see and hear.  The area right outside the ballroom and the outside patio area were good for people who wanted to have a conversation among friends while enjoying food and drink.  The light rail system came right through the middle of the convention center.  I wasn't crazy about this becasue it meant some extra walking to get from some breakout rooms to others.  I also did not like being limited to two sets of escalators to get to/from the Expo Hall.  I really liked the wide aisles in the Expo Hall as it helped to prevent traffic jams.  The food provided here was in line with other convention center food.

Hotels - I booked my room late and had to stay a few more blocks away.  It was about 10-15 minute walk, but it was easy and good exercise for me.  Generally the prices for hotel rooms seemed fair for a downtown location, but an attendee could have a choice if booking the hotel early enough.

Food / Drink - Much of the time away from the Convention Center is spent in a restaurant / bar / tavern.  There were lots of choices within easy walking distance.  Our friends at SQL Sentry provided a shuttle for attendees to get to all of the "hot spots" in Charlotte.  I found the shuttle to be of great value and added to the summit experience.  Thanks SQL Sentry!

Attendees - Location also has an impact on where the attendees come from.  I know that I personally met quite a few folks from NC that would most likely not be at the Summit in Seattle.  I also spoke to a group of 7 folks from the same company that drove an extended van from Ohio to get to the Summit. I myself chose PASS in 2001 over several other conferences because it was scheduled to be in Orlando.  Location definitely has a big impact on where attendees come from.

Microsoft Involvement - I knew going in that the number of Microsoft Folks would be considerably less than in Seattle.  It just makes sense.  I still had some great interaction with MSFT folks, but I missed having off-beat conversations with developers who were just there for the day.  In the MSFT area in the Expo hall, there was an area for Chalk Talks.  I would spend more time here next year as I got to hear more from Conor Cunningham and David DeWitt at this venue.

IMHO, Charlotte is a viable option for future Summits.  There are lots of things to consider when selecting a site.  Looking back at the other non-Seattle Locations that we have been, I would put Charlotte at the top of the list.  I would probably shy away from the Gaylord properties like the ones we used in Orlando and Dallas.  At that point in time for the size of the Summit, those locations worked, but would be too small now.  The PASS Summit has conintued to grow each year.  It is not far-fetched to think that a larger venue like those used by TechEd will be the only viable option inthe future. I think this was good to get out of Seattle for a year, but Seattle should be the primary "home" for the Summit with an occasional alternate site every 3-4 years.

Published Monday, November 04, 2013 11:52 AM by RickHeiges

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Andy Warren said:

Rick, I agree that Gaylord type venues won't work any longer (not sure that they were great back then even). Also agree with returning to Seattle fairly often. I'd like to be away every 3rd year, four years just feels too long, though I would still like to see a west/middle/east rotation restored. As long as we move some I'll call it a win.

November 5, 2013 9:54 AM
 

andyleonard said:

Was this an experiment?

I heard Seattle was booked and PASS Leadership was forced to look elsewhere. According to the published votes, there was a vote taken to hold the Summit in Seattle in 2014 and 2015 immediately after the 2013 Charlotte Summit was announced.

November 5, 2013 12:07 PM
 

Louis Davidson said:

I really liked the venue/area, as it was a lot more comfortable feeling than Seattle. I also really liked the Gaylord venues (and the one in Nashville has a ballroom that holds > 7000 and 92 breakout rooms. http://www.marriott.com/hotels/event-planning/travel/bnago-gaylord-opryland-resort-and-convention-center/), but it does feel more prestigious to be in a conference center in a large city.

It seemed to me that there were quite a few people who were PASS newbies, and even more, there because it was in Charlotte.

November 5, 2013 12:10 PM
 

RickHeiges said:

Andy Leonard - Seattle was not available for 2013.  That is true.  And yes I believe that we did vote to book Seattle in 14/15.

I used the word "experiment" because it felt so different.

PASS is in a much better place financially than it was when I came on the board in 2003.  It seemed for a long time that when we did not have it in Seattle, there was a serious financial risk due to things beyond our control such as a hurricane or two.  We had to cancel the Monday Pre-cons in Orlando.  PASS was still financially weak from the poor financial performance of the 2000 London Conference.  These things make me risk adverse especially when dealing with the health of an orgnaization that I have put so much into.

Today, I would probably want to keep the Summit in Seattle for 2-3 years and hit an alternate location for a year if I was deciding.  And use other evennts like the BAC or Rally to hit other geographic areas.  

November 5, 2013 12:43 PM
 

Martin P said:

One more thing to take into account: For international attendees it's very important to have good international (direct) flight connections. That is defintely not the case with Charlotte. As the PASS Summit is an international event this should be taken into account...

November 5, 2013 2:50 PM
 

RickHeiges said:

Martin P - Good Point.  It is embedded in the search criteria.  Here is a blog post from several years back where I discuss some of the things we looked at for making decisions on Summit Location.

http://sqlblog.com/blogs/rick_heiges/archive/2010/11/18/future-location-of-pass-summit-2013.aspx

November 5, 2013 3:04 PM

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