PASS Summit - A Veteran's Guide
02 November 2012
There have been some excellent posts about SQL PASS Summit: more advice than you can shake a stick at. I'm going to focus on 3 topics: picking sessions, endurance, and follow up.
This will be my 5th PASS Summit. I have experimented with different approaches to picking sessions, and come up with a guide. Time is valuable.
- Go to Dr. David DeWitt's keynote/session. He is an intellectual powerhouse, and never to be missed.
- Narrow down your choices to the better presenters; don't filter by subject yet. A good presenter can turn a topic from dry to riveting. A mediocre presenter does the reverse.
- Pick a mix of relevant topics. As a database developer, I choose a mix of performance tuning, T-SQL tips and tricks, architecture discussions, and professional development. Again, only consider the best presenters.
- Don't judge a session by its level. 500-level sessions are always advanced; everything else depends on the presenter.
- Pick the session where you will ask more questions.
- Lightning talks are great. Go to them if nothing else awesome is happening.
- If nothing fits for a given time slot, take a break. Write down your notes, go for a walk, let your batteries recharge. Be social.
- The content can be hit-or-miss for Microsoft execs.
- After each session, take notes on whether you like the topic and presenter. Use that for future reference.
The week of PASS is grueling: 18-hour days of mental and social stimulation are common.
- Don't expect to remember what you've seen in a session. Write it down for later.
- Drink lots of liquid. I have a cup of coffee, a bottle of water before lunch, water with lunch, 2 bottles of water in the afternoon, and a beer with dinner.
- Eat lightly at lunch. Otherwise you will be sleepy in the afternoon.
- Get the session recordings. There are always conflicts where two great sessions are happening at the same time. The recordings are great for this. They're also a great deal.
- Use paper. Paper never runs out of batteries, is lighter than anything electronic, and is amazingly versatile when you want to draw diagrams.
- Chat with 2-3 new people each session. Learn a bit about what they're doing, their expertise and challenges. Write this down on their business card. By the end of PASS you'll have met a couple dozen people.
- Wisdom often sounds simplistic, obvious, or old. Don't dismiss an idea or technique for those reasons; the best ideas are simple and obvious in hindsight.
- Drink in extreme moderation. Few things are more pointless than attending a session with a hangover.
- There is always something happening in the evening. Check Twitter to find out what. Barring that, go to Tap House; it's the de-facto watering hole.
The week of PASS Summit is too much for anyone to absorb fully. So, don't expect to. A lot can be done in the following weeks.
- Go over your notes. Try out what you've learned. Doing something the next step in learning after hearing about it.
- Follow up with people you've met. If you know of a blog post or contact particularly relevant to their job, role, or challenge, share your knowledge.
- Watch the sessions with your team. Lunch brownbags are great for this. Bring popcorn.
I hope to see you at PASS.