PASS Summit 2013 – Part 3

Friday

The beginning of the end day at Summit began and doesn’t take long to start running into people leaving and the good byes begin.  It’s so nice catching up with people that you may only see once a year, definitely sad when it’s over.  I made it in time to catch Lenny Lobel’s (blog) session on spatial data.  He was such a vital role in my learning of spatial data, was very excited to see his session.  He concentrates more on the development side so nice seeing some applications involving spatial data.  And also one of his queries helped to trigger a potential method to help me with an interesting question I got while in Orlando.  After his session I went to the Birds of a Feather luncheon.  It’s a lunch where they have tables that contain topics and assign some expert resources to sit at them.  It’s a great one and I always have good conversation.  I ended up sitting with folks at the replication table.  Interesting hearing some experiences with it and some large applications using it.

PASS Board Q&A

PASS Board Q&A

After lunch I made it over for the PASS Board Q&A.  It is an opportunity to ask the entire panel of board members questions.  If you have any issues or concerns, it’s the one opportunity I know of to get them answered directly.  I didn’t have any grievances to air but it normally is good conversation and nice to hear the thinking behind decisions made.  It was very interesting to hear outcomes of the BA Conferences since it was a new endeavor.  Next I went to a session on Always On that was done by a customer panel.  I love hearing people and their experiences!  This panel contained people who have some very challenging environments.  Enjoyed hearing what they had implemented to assist in those challenges.  After that was the last session of the day and Summit.  I went to see my friend and colleague at BlueGranite, Josh Fennessy (blog|twitter) and his session on Excel 2013 for analytics.  It was an excellent session and I’ve already used some of the material I learned there.  Josh always seems so very relaxed in his sessions.  I knew he was a little nervous and it was almost sickening how it didn’t show AT ALL.

Always On Customer Panel session

Always On Customer Panel session

Josh in his session on analytics in Excel 2013

Josh in his session on analytics in Excel 2013

And then it was over!  I went over to the community zone again to make sure to say goodbye to as many as I could.  I then went with a large group of SQLfamily to a nice dinner at Fleming’s.  It was very relaxing to sit down to a great meal where they brought the food to me.  After that went to Dillinger’s for one last drink and called it an early night since my flight was fairly early next morning.

Warning: Mushy Content to Follow

<mush>

It was so great seeing so many wonderful SQL family members!  I have said several times that getting involved in this community has forever changed my life and career!  I couldn’t help reflecting on things at Summit since I got to speak this year after trying for so long.  I am honored to be considered caliber to speak at this wonderful event!  I am so grateful to the extremely long list of people in the community who helped encourage me to get out there and helped stop some of the negative voices in my head.  You know the ones saying things like “who wants to hear what you have to say when they have <insert super smart other speaker> out there giving sessions”.  I am still just amazed at the good nature of this community and I will keep making sure I do my part to make sure it stays that way.

</mush>

PASS Summit 2013 – Part 2

Wednesday

It may have been the nerves at work again but it seemed as soon I opened my eyes I was wide awake.  I got up in time to catch a super quick breakfast and get to the opening keynote.  It was a fairly tame and without incident keynote.  Watching Twitter it seemed the only large flair up was when “ask” was used as a noun.  The demos were good but I missed seeing Amir Netz (twitter).  I just love his demos!  After the keynote I spent the rest of the day chatting with folks and preparing for my session in the afternoon.  Had some great conversations at the chapter lunch.  For those unfamiliar with this, they have maps and tables setup for the local user groups so you can find groups in your area.  I met several people in Indiana that are a bit too far south to make it to IndyPASS.  There is some interest in potentially setting up a new user group in Bloomington.  If there are any others interested in this please let me know.  I would love to help this effort but need to make sure I have enough dedicated people to lead the group.

Great pic that Melissa got of us BlueGranite ladies

Great pic that Melissa got of us BlueGranite ladies

GO TIME!  Then comes time for my presentation and my room is very well filled.  I am always worried I will be presenting to an empty room but elevated a bit at Summit, especially when I know Bob Ward’s (twitter) is on at the same time.  It was true what others kept reminding me, different audiences want different things and a 500 level session isn’t for everyone.  I get started and think I did pretty well at hiding my nervousness.  I remember at BA Con I could feel/hear the nerves in my voice.  I didn’t notice that in this time.  It’s one of my favorite sessions with absolutely my favorite demo dataset, a database of microbreweries!  I know I can always tell when someone is passionate about the topic they are presenting, I hope that came through with my attendees.  I felt it went pretty well and had several stay and chat and ask questions after my session.  I had some very positive feedback afterward which some comments were just so good it just about floored me.  It felt so good to be done and it go well!  Could just feel the weight come off my shoulders.

Picture Rob Kerr captured of people staying for questions after my session

Picture Rob Kerr captured of people staying for questions after my session

After floating around on cloud 9 for a bit, went to the Exhibitor Reception.  This is where they get folks in to talk with sponsors with the enticement of free food and drinks.  I made several rounds to make a meal out of the appetizer stations but little easier with hearty items like shrimp and grits.  Ended up leaving fairly early to head to Prohibition to get a table for the Pragmatic Works karaoke party.  Oh the SQL people and their karaoke!  It was a really nice party and some very memorable displays like Colin (twitter|blog) and Patrick (twitter|blog) yearly performance of “Forgot About Dre” and chicken appearances from Jorge/SQLChicken (twitter|blog).  From there went to SQLSentry’s party at the Ale House.  It also was a very great party and was honored to be invited.  The highlight was meeting and talking with Paul White (twitter|blog).  I was shocked at how nice, humble, and gracious he was in person.

Patrick and Colin and the tradition of "Forgot About Dre"

Patrick and Colin and the tradition of “Forgot About Dre”

Who doesn't love that chicken?!

Who doesn’t love that chicken?!

Thursday

I again surprised myself by waking up in time to catch some breakfast, I mean bread before keynote.  My list of complaints is small from this year’s Summit, but breakfast this year was disappointing (I know, I know…I like food).  Every day was the same very bread laden meal.  The only other options to pastries/bagels was oatmeal or yogurt.  I know logistics of feeding that many people is tricky but would have been nice for some other options like there has been in previous years.  The keynote was Dr. David DeWitt which is always a great one.  I was super distracted during it though since was planning to try to take a certification test.  They had half price certification testing going on at Summit.  Knowing the keynote was going to get deep I ended up leaving early to go try to take 70-465.  I was planning on doing the normal course and starting at 70-461 and go on up from there.  I’m not sure what possessed me to take this particular test.  I had been solely focused on my presentation so went in completely cold, and came out with….a better understanding what I will get into next time.  Can’t win them all and I felt better keeping focus on presentation and getting my win there.

***

I made it back just in time to make it to the WIT luncheon.  I am involved with the PASS WIT VC program so would have been very upset to miss it.  The panel consisted of Erin Stellato (twitter|blog), Rob Farley (twitter|blog), Cindy Gross (twitter|blog), Kevin Kline (twitter|blog), and Gail Shaw (twitter|blog).  There was good conversation there but it ended up being initially very lop sided in who was speaking.  That worked out better in the second half.  And honestly it seemed to be missing some of the fire in belly moments that drove me to be involved in WIT.  Erin ended up saving me from missing out totally on that with her exchange with a member of the audience.  A woman mentioned a comment being made to her that she had all the traits stacked against her success in IT in that she was an athlete, foreign, and a woman.  Erin’s response was that she should have responded with “How am I not going to succeed?”.  Thank you Erin for that highlight of WIT luncheon in my opinion!

The WIT Luncheon

The WIT Luncheon

From there I was excited to finally go to my first technical session.  I took too long to get to a session over PDW and was denied entry as it was full.  Doh!  The next session I decided to head over for morale support to Colin’s session on policy based management.  He was a first time Summit speaker and was very nervous as well.  I hated seeing when I got there that he was having some technical issues with the projector.  It was something I had run into before too where you couldn’t see on the laptop and only on the projector.  It’s a workable situation but makes it VERY difficult during demos.  They ended up getting him a second monitor and it worked out fine.  He handled it much better than I would.  My face started to flush a bit with speaker sympathy symptoms.  Was a great session and I learned about EPM Framework from Lara Rubbelke’s (twitter|blog) team that extends capability of policy based management to SQL Servers across environment that is available on Codeplex.

Colin presenting like a boss while tech guy works out issues.

Colin presenting like a boss while tech guy works out issues.

Next I made sure to get to the BI Power Hour session.  I caught it last year and was one I definitely didn’t want to miss.  When I’m figuring out sessions at Summit I always try to think about which sessions will lack full impact on recordings.  This is very high in that category.  They aren’t moving mountains admittedly with technical content but have a damn good time with the BI tools and is just fun.  Did learn that Power Pivot was “just so metal that it caused the split in the name” from Matthew Roche (twitter|blog).  Also Matt Masson (twitter|blog) showed how he impressed his kids with business intelligence and how vast his knowledge is of My Little Pony.

The wonder that is the BI Power Hour

The wonder that is the BI Power Hour

After catching up with my youngins back home I made it over to the Nascar Hall of Fame for the Community Appreciation Party.  This party was good but I am little biased to the party last year at the EMP.  I’m not exactly a Nascar fan so the material around at the hall of fame wasn’t getting the oohs and ahhs but that’s just a personal preference thing.  Only complaint that I had was the space was a bit smaller so was cramped in some areas.

A view of the masses at the Community Appreciation Party

A view of the masses at the Community Appreciation Party

PASS Summit 2013 – Part 1

Monday – travel day

Ah Summit time!  The biggest and best time to meet up with SQLfamily.  You always get pockets of SQLfamily at SQLSaturdays throughout the year but this is the time when EVERYONE is there for an all out SQLfamily reunion.  This year was a little special too…it was my first year going as a speaker!  Even on the way to the airport I could feel the difference, I had never left for Summit with presentation anxiety.  I had a one hour delay on the way to Charlotte but even then was much less time to get there than Seattle.  It was a nice change of pace too to be on the same time zone as home.  I get to hotel, drop my stuff in room, and immediately head out to try find people.  I was excited to start having those “heey, long time no see” moments.  I went over to Buffalo Wild Wings for the very end of the networking party hosted by Andy Warren (blog|twitter) and Steve Jones (blog|twitter).  I definitely found plenty of “hey” moments there.  You have to give yourself extra time to get anywhere at Summit due to those moments.  From there folks decided they wanted to try to do some sqlkaraoke and we walked a few blocks to try to find a place called Dixie’s.  We walk up to it and find it was closed, permanently closed so decided to head back go to Carolina Ale House.  We had amassed a fairly large group by that time and the folks at the Ale House were not prepared, staff-wise.  Maybe it was just coincidence in the locations we chose but for being in close proximity to the convention center, places seemed unprepared for such a large conference.  Next time the conference moves from Seattle it may help to make some calls into the local establishments for warnings if that wasn’t already done.  From there we just ended up having drinks at the hotel bars and hanging out there.

Room full of crazy/dedicated SQLSaturday organizers

Room full of crazy/dedicated SQLSaturday organizers

Tuesday

Wake up fairly early and head over to grab a crepe with my good friend, Colin Stasiuk (blog|twitter).  I then get registered and spend a little more time preparing for presentation.  After that I went over for the SQLSaturday organizers meeting.  It was a good meeting but it’s always hard to move mountains in meetings that large.  There was mention of some changes coming to the website.  If anyone has recommendations for changes they are collecting them now.  I was also intrigued by a mentoring program that was mentioned for organizers.  I have a circle of people I know who organize and I reach out to with questions so have created my own organic circle/support group.  I would be afraid there are folks out there floundering without one so seems like a great idea to me.  That and I always hated to be constantly bugging Karla (blog|twitter).

Quiz Bowl prep

Quiz Bowl prep

Amazes me every year the number of First Timers at Summit.

Amazes me every year the number of First Timers at Summit.

After the meeting I went through more prep for my presentation.  At this point I was EXTREMELY nervous!  Trying for so long to be accepted as a speaker at the Summit, the idea of it not going well just about make me sick to my stomach.  Going back and doing a run through and saying the words out loud in my room helped calm the nerves.  I did that until it was time to head over to convention center to prepare for the Quiz Bowl at the welcome reception.  I was very honored to be asked to participate in it this year by Tim (blog|twitter).  So we do some preparation and then head over to get ready to welcome the first timers.  Had some good conversations with my group even though I looked ridiculous donning a spinning beany hat.  They always try to help folks locate the volunteers and I’m sure someone somewhere had fun with the decision for those hats.  Then it was Quiz Bowl time and we had fun even though we didn’t win for our contestant.  Next I went to the volunteer party at Strike City, a bowling alley.  After catching up with folks there and a terrible display of bowling I went over to see how things were going at Fox and Hound.  Mr. Denny Cherry (blog|twitter) was hosting a party there sponsored by SQL Sentry and SIOS.  It was packed and had a good time watching folks do karaoke.  I set a decent curfew for myself that night so headed back fairly early.  No way I wanted to be super tired for my presentation the next day.

My view from Quiz Bowl

My view from Quiz Bowl

The very busy Fox and Hound SQLKaraoke party

The very busy Fox and Hound SQLKaraoke party

SQLSaturday 232 – SQLSaturday in the Land of Tourists

I was a little later than normal getting this post out since I literally got a new job the day after getting back from SQLSaturday 232 (see post).  I didn’t forget you Orlando!  This was an exciting SQLSaturday for me.  It was the first time my husband went with me to a SQLSaturday outside of my local one in Indianapolis.  That one is a whole different ballgame since it’s one I organize and I put the whole family to work for me (evil slave-driver I know).  SQLSaturdays and SQLFamily are important to me so I was determined to get him introduced to these events and folks he hears so much about all the time.

***

We flew in on Friday.  I was half tempted to come earlier for some of the fantastic precons going on but decided better not.  We were already planning on staying a couple days afterward for some tourist fun.  We made it in town with plenty of time to get to Karla’s (blog|twitter) house for the speaker dinner.  God bless her, she was the main organizer of this SQLSaturday AND was brave enough to have the party at her house!  I love parties at houses, very intimate and laid back.  No way I am that brave/crazy though.

Look at all that orange!

Look at all that orange!

Next morning up early.  Not early enough to catch the early bird sessions.  They had some sessions that started at 7:30am!  That was the first time I had seen sessions that early.  I made it in time though to get situated before Jonathan Kehayias’s (blog|twitter) session.  I was on a mission to meet him and catch his session since he’s often my reference of SQL knowledge (“well I’m no Jonathan Kehayias but…”).  I accomplished both so was a happy camper.  He had a packed room for extended events session.  He showed some great stuff like how he finds the culprit of ASYNC_NETWORK_IO waits with them.

Jonathan Kehayias session on extended events

Jonathan Kehayias session on extended events

After his session was mine on spatial data.  I was anxious to get a practice run of my upcoming PASS Summit session.  It went amazingly well!  I had a really engaged audience and many who stayed late to chat more and discuss things.  I got some good feedback and some ideas to make session better for next time.  I wanted to answer all questions I had after my session so I was late to my lunch duties.  Andy Warren (blog|twitter) and the team in Orlando have a tradition of having the presenters help serve lunch which is a nice idea.

The lead chef, Andy Warren.

The lead chef, Andy Warren.

The speakers serving up the grub

The speakers serving up the grub

After lunch I went to Mike Davis’s (blog|twitter) session, “Complex DAX Functions”.  He ended up having a fairly new to PowerPivot audience so much of the beginning he had to go over basics.  He did get to some of the advanced topics such as creating a many to many relationship.  After that I went to meet Doug at the Confio booth.  It was kind of a crazy crossing of my two worlds a couple weeks earlier.  I found out one of my best friends from college had a brother who worked at Confio!  From there it was on to Mike Hillwig’s (blog|twitter) session on VLFs.  I had seen it before but well he’s just great so I went again.  I was glad I did as saw a lot of his progress on the session from before.  Nice job Mike, flow was much improved.

Mike Davis going over PowerPivot

Mike Davis going over PowerPivot

Mike Hillwig going over VLFs

Mike Hillwig going over VLFs

The last session of the day was from Tim (blog|twitter) and Amy Ford (twitter) and their experience with telecommuting.  I had been talking with BlueGranite for quite some time so I knew that telecommuting could be in my future.  I was anxious to hear what I could be in for with working from home.  I was lucky enough to get that job with BlueGranite, so have put some of them into action from the get go like having my own work space.  Next I witnessed the other tradition of Orlando SQLSaturdays which was the tossing of giveaways and swag from a decently high balcony. I forgot to ask Karla if they get extra liability insurance for this piece.  The organizer in me was squeamish at this!

20130914_163053

Tim and Amy Ford on telecommuting

Watch out now! Flying swag!

Watch out now! Flying swag!

The after party was held at 4th Street Bar and Grill where we had a nice outside section to ourselves.  After some beer and lobster mac n cheese, Karla was crazy/brave again and invited folks to their house for the after after party.  We had such a good time!  The hubby couldn’t stop talking about playing those drums for days!  Thank you to Karla/Rodney (blog|twitter) for the hospitality of your house both nights.  Thanks to Karla and the entire Orlando team for a great event!  So glad you all invited me to come speak!

Thank You For Everything!

Sitting here feeling a bit flustered with some tears welled up in my eyes.  It’s been a crazy day!  I turned in my notice with Perpetual Technologies.  I have been here for 6.5 years.  This place has been wonderful to me and my career but it was time.  It was a decision that I struggled with for quite some time but when you know, you know.  I then took my time to find just the right place to move on to and I now have found it!  I will be joining the rockstar team at BlueGranite!  So very excited for the opportunity, new challenges, and new co-workers.  Right now though I’m feeling the sting of leaving this team and all the personal relationships I have built over the years.  Thank you so much to those folks at PTI who challenged me, encouraged me, mentored me, gave me grief, made me laugh till couldn’t breathe, and everything else.  PTI was one of the best career decisions I could have ever made, thank you for everything!  I will miss you guys and wish you nothing but the best!

Sun setting on a wonderful chapter in my career

Sunset on a wonderful chapter in my career

SQLSaturday 242 – The Empire Strikes Back

SQLSaturday 242 wasn’t attacked by AT-ATs, I just couldn’t resist the chance to use that title.  Last year I cheesily went with “A New Hope” for my blog post title for all the lessons learned and how changed I was from the process.  It’s not that often you have an opportunity for a Star Wars reference AND a shameless previous blog post plug wrapped into one so I had to do it – please forgive me.  Besides it works if you consider I did feel a little like I was frozen in carbonite the day after SQLSaturday 242.  Alright now that I’ve got the Star Wars-ness out of my system, and I’ve had some time to recover it’s about time I got my blog post out from my experiences being the lead organizer of SQLSaturday 242.

***

This year was much different than the last couple years. Those past years I was very involved and helped in organizing but had the wonderful Caroline leading the the way.  This year I had to step out on my own and lead. Oye, I should have thanked Caroline more profusely in the past years!  There was just so much she did that I  wasn’t even aware. God bless ya Caroline! I was excited to do it though. I was anxious to right some wrongs that bothered me since last year (again see blog) and help pay forward to the SQL community some of the goodness that SQLSaturdays have brought to me over the years.

***

When I started planning this year I was determined to find a new venue. The place we had been the past years was a great venue, just located in an area where it is scarce to find good hotels for my speakers. Since the hotel was the main thing sticking in my craw from last year, hell or high water was going to rectify it this year. And I found a great place in a great location with Indiana Wesleyan on the northside. They were great to work with and good hotels were plentiful. We didn’t even have any act of god storms or issues in the hotel.  Demon exorcised – halleujah!

Registration team rockin it!

Registration team rockin it!

Honestly too it is great relief that I REALLY TRULY know the full ins and outs of what this event takes to happen. There were so many unknowns I had going into this event having not sat in the lead spot that it drove me completely nuts. I would keep myself up at night just sitting and making list after list to try to think of everything I needed to do.  I wanted with my hometown SQLSaturday more than anything to take care of my people: my speakers, my sponsors, my volunteers, my attendees. I want them all to just feel like we were taking care of them.

Have you thanked a sponsor today?

Have you thanked a sponsor today?

Friday comes and I got at it early so I could get Bill Pearson setup and going for his precon since PTI was hosting it. We had some hiccups with the projector software but Bill, being the pro he always is worked through the rough patches and we worked it out. Then I begin setting up the attendee packet stuffing station.  As I looking the table of 1000 laps and a million sponsor flier papers, I started to get a bit panicked.  I then called in the calvary…my saint of a mother in law, Pam who agreed to help out.  Then when the blessed, wonderful Chris and Gigi Bell show up they help make fairly quick work of it. Alan Dykes also shows up and helps me with the monitor setup. I had attended SharePoint Saturday and they had monitors outside the rooms to display the current and upcoming sessions. I thought it looked slick so we worked that out but it wouldn’t have happened if Alan hadn’t had stepped in to help with it.

WIT panel - wish I was able to see this one :(

WIT panel – wish I was able to see this one 😦

Later that night comes the speaker dinner. We ended up doing bowling again this year which was fun. It’s not fancy but is a great way to get folks loose and chatting. I think it went well and seems like all had a good time. I got some cupcakes to help butter folks up too just in case.  I started to loosen up a bit and some of the weight begins coming off my shoulders since by that point, if it ain’t done it just wasn’t gonna happen.

Was great to make SQLSaturday a family affair

Was great to make SQLSaturday a family affair

Then comes Saturday and we are up at the crack of dawn to get the mad dash going to get things setup. We weren’t able to get in till 7:00 and we had registration starting at 7:30 so it didn’t leave much time for things to fall into place. The morning was just nuts, it’s just the way it goes even if things run like clockwork with an event with that many people. I had to get the computer and printer setup for the SpeedPASS printing area of shame. Never fails, you will just have folks who don’t print SpeedPASSes no matter how many pleas you send.  I bought a printer that we ended up raffling off at the end of the day which worked out really well. Just make sure if you stay up the night before getting the drivers and crap setup that you plug it in and do it in the same manner you intend to on go day. Damn thing installed drivers anyway since I plugged it in instead of using the wireless.  As the morning moves on we run into more bumps. This was my first year also to administer the site for the event. It turned out I didn’t have some of the sponsors selected to be in the SpeedPASSes so I had to hurry up and make some raffle tickets really quick and get them printed them for folks to fill out (was able to scan SpeedPASSes off of computer for these sponsors after the event to help rectify this wrong). While I was doing super fast design work, I didn’t have time to think over what I needed to say for opening remarks. I think I may have sounded like a stressed out Elmer Fudd yammering thank you and that was about it.  I meant to say more so folks were aware of little details.

Elmer Fudd in action

Elmer Fudd in action

The rest of the day moves on and things start to settle down from morning craziness. We had some more minor hiccups that had us bobbing and weaving but we came out of it without much damage. Lunch came and went and things went as smooth as I think lunch for 191 people can go and it didn’t take terribly long to get folks through the line. We didn’t have a large area for people to eat so we needed to have folks disperse into the various rooms. Something I think I could have gotten across again in opening comments. Rest of day goes well and we were very lucky to have great sponsorship so were able to get a lot of great prizes to give away. We were needed to get out of the venue fairly quickly so we tried to move through them at a quick clip.  Sometimes that portion can drag along if you let it.  I let out a large sigh of relief and it was over.  We cleaned up really quickly thanks to all the volunteers on deck.  We then get a good size group headed out to Scotty’s Brewhouse for a much needed beer and some food. I got a bit misty eyed when I got a good amount of applause when I arrived (I love my SQL peeps).  From there some found a Korean place that had private karaoke rooms so some brave souls headed over. We had a blast but it was a tad bit interesting/disturbing with the Korean dramas going on the screens while you (not me) sang. Who knew you could possibly add weirdness to SQLkaraoke but by god we did.

This was needed desperately at the end of the day!

This was needed desperately at the end of the day!

Thank you so much to everyone who helped me with SQLSaturday 242! Thank you so much to my family, Rod, the kids, and my saint of a mother in law Pam. You put up with my distraction, picked up my slack, and even helped with the event.  I was so glad you all could be a part of one of these.  It means a lot that you got to see a little glimpse into these crazy SQLSaturday things you hear so much about and got to see this side of my life.  Thank you to Sally at PTI who helped me get so many things together and cut more paper than a human should!  Thank you to everyone at PTI for helping me, allowing me the time and resources to organize this event.  And thank you to Alan for your help all along the way and handling those damn monitors! And my registration crew: Gigi, Katie, Courtney, and Stephanie!  You ladies just killed it at registration and all through the day! I can’t thank you all enough!  Brandon Lukes thank you for your help!  Thank you Eddie for handling the precons.  And countless others who helped me, thank you! From every fiber of my being, thank you! It meant the world to me to have so many help make this event a success.

***

And since I am selfish and figure I need all the good SQLSaturday karma I can get, here are some recapped lessons and a few more thoughts on SQLSaturday 242 Indy.

1. Make sure you keep a good list of sponsors and the raffle prizes they intend to give away. You need to keep good track of the ones they are bringing themselves and those they give to you, the organizer. Then PRIOR to sending out word on the SpeedPASS check to make sure all who intend to give prizes are included in the SpeedPASS. The system will only auto print for silver and above sponsorship levels. Double check since bronze/swag sponsors sometimes have giveaway prizes but are not selected by default.  Make sure that you have good details on how attendees will need to claim prizes prior to the event.  Print out certificates if necessary just to help you keep track and have something easy to hand over to winner.

Great sponsors, great prizes

Great sponsors, great prizes

2.  Make sure if you intend to have speakers give away books to get them the details on what they need to do.  Sorry speakers.

***

3.  Make sure to be prepared before the morning comes with different items that should be addressed during the opening comments and PRINT it out.  I had a OneNote list that I assumed would have time to review before it was time to speak.  Yeah that assumption was wrong.  Make sure to get information on logistics throughout the day such as plans for lunch.  Also make sure to give an overview of what SQLSaturday is and that it is a mix of experienced speakers as well an opportunity to encourage new speakers.  We had some comments to the effect that we should “vet speakers as some were inexperienced”.

***

4.  Make sure to check with businesses and city ordinances that it is ok to put up your SQLSaturday directional signs.  I had 5 signs of which I got back 1.  Maybe it was hoodlum Oracle teenagers or something but our signs went missing.  I love it when the signs are up when I go to a SQLSaturday.  Sorry to those who came later when they were gone.

***

5.  Get the session levels on the printed schedule.  We had some really nice clear envelopes for sponsor swag and the schedule.  On one side we had a nice color, printed schedule that was visible through the envelope that I think was very handy for attendees.  I did not have the session level on it though which would have been helpful.  Also would like next year to get colors for tracks on it as well.

***

6.  Make sure to have some committed help to stuff packets.  Just a few hands can make all the difference.

***

7.  Check very early on the catering situation of any potential venues.  Many venues will have exclusive contracts with caterers which means extra $$.  This can be a huge expense that your $10 charge for lunch won’t cover.  Also make sure you account for the cost of speakers and sponsors to eat.  Make sure you know how much money you may need to cover the costs before you sign up for the venue.  We didn’t have any issues with that but just could see that helping potential SQLSaturday organizers.

***

8.  If you need printers, monitors or other items during the day see if it makes sense to buy those items to raffle off at the end of the day for prizes.

***

9.  Make sure to have coffee setup for the entire day.  We had several folks wanting for coffee in the afternoon.

***

10.  Make sure you have some food items at breakfast that do not contain nuts.  We had coffee cakes but I didn’t realize they had nuts and didn’t even consider those with allergies.

Karla embarrassing me giving me props at the end of the day.

Karla embarrassing me giving me props at the end of the day.

So I survived organizing a SQLSaturday again and feel like I came out of this one with less battle wounds.  It was a lot of work but there really is a great feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.  I helped bring some more SQL community to Indy and THAT is a great thing.

SQLSaturday 200 Philly

The other weekend I had the great pleasure of heading over to Philadelphia again this year to speak for the 200th SQLSaturday.  200?!  Just amazing!  This event was great!  So great it got me very amped up about my local SQLSaturday.  So much so that I’m a little later than normal getting this post out due to kicking my planning of SQLSaturday 242 into high gear.  But wanted to make sure to get this post out to document another really great event.
***
Travels over to Philly were pretty uneventful.  My fellow Indy compadre, Eddie Wuerch (blog|twitter) was speaking as well and was on the same flight.  He was even kind enough to drive Miss Daisy Miss Hope to all the events!  Thanks again Eddie…many good SQLSaturday karma points to you!  The speaker dinner was really great!  The weather was good again this year so allowed us to sit out in a very nice patio area at the restaurant.  It was held at McKenzie Brew House which had excellent selection of beers which you know wins points in my book.  AND they had great food!  Excellent choice organizers and thank you again!
SQLfamily congregates at the speaker dinner

SQLfamily congregates at the speaker dinner

So the morning of the event I get up extra early to do one more run through of my presentation since I had added some new things and it had been awhile since I had done this session.  Then head over to the event and catch Brian Moran’s (twitter|blog) session, “Awesome coaching questions every geek, analyst, leader, and consultant must know”.  Being a consultant, I was interested and the title even told me I HAD to know these questions so I went.  It was a really good engaging conversational session.  One of my favorite questions was “What does success look like with this project?”.
"Can't ask good questions if you are not listening well."

“Can’t ask good questions if you are not listening well.”

My session, “My SQL Server is Not Slow for Pete’s Sake! – Server Side Performance Analysis”, went well and got some good constructive feedback.  I made a huge presenter mistake though and I’m still kicking myself!  I have in the past forgotten to plug my laptop in before getting started.  I’m normally very antsy to get hooked up to the overhead and make the words come up on the screen.  Normally I keep talking while I’m getting my power cord situated and it’s not a big deal.  Well remember how I did a run through that morning?  I forget to put my laptop power cord in my backpack!!  Thank the heavens Josh Lynn (twitter|blog) had a Dell as well and was even sitting in a prime location to where he took care of plugging it in while I kept talking!  Josh…my hero!  Thank you so much again!
***
After that was the WIT panel discussion.  The panel included myself, Melissa Demsak (twitter), Kevin Boles (twitter), and Kevin Goff (twitter|blog).  It was led by Sharon Dooley.  We had some great conversation.  I love it when we have someone speak up in the discussion and I feel myself wanting to say “Amen” at end of their statements.  It’s the whole reason I am involved in PASSWIT, for those moments.  I had one in there when one woman stated how she isn’t a “woman architect, she’s a professional”.
The audience at the WIT discussion

The audience at the WIT discussion

Next I caught the wonderful, Mike Hillwig’s (twitter|blog) session on VLFs.  He’s one of those great to talk to folks and his sessions are that way too.  He had some slight bumps in his demos due to last minute change of hardware.  The brave soul was until a few minutes before planning to present from his Surface Pro.  I love his section of disclaimers including “assume I am an idiot” in reference to not trusting content and slapping it into production.
Mike telling us what the VLF

Mike telling us what the VLF

After that session I went to Wayne Sheffield’s (twitter|blog) session, “Table Vars & Temp Tables – What you NEED to Know!”.  This was my absolute favorite session of the day!  Wayne is an MCM and eww buddy it shows! I was so into the content I forgot to get a picture and I don’t think I’ve ever done that.  Normally my ADD kicks in and distracts me enough to snap a picture.  There was so much great information on table variables and temp tables, I was really blown away!  He even cracked open a hex editor!  So with such good content I was able to forgive him when he bout gave me a heart attack when there was an unexpected “boom” sound effect in his slides.  Very well done Wayne!  If you have a chance to see this session, highly recommend it!
***
The last session of the day I caught a little bit of Dominic Falso’s “Introduction to Spatial Data in SQL Server”.  I couldn’t resist a session on spatial data since I have one as well.  The intrigue of seeing how someone else presents the material was too much.  He did a good job as many of the conceptual pieces can be a bit dry.
Dominic Falso going over spatial data

Dominic Falso going over spatial data

Then after the prize raffle headed to Joey’s house for the after party.  Bravo to your bravery again this year hosting the party at your house, Joey!  It was a very nice shindig again this year and thank you again!  Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers for well done event!  Appreciate you all having me out again this year!

Sidelines no more! Speaking at the PASS Summit!

This time last year I was partaking in a Twitter pity party for fellow folks who had gotten the thanks-but-no-thanks-better-luck-next year letters from PASS Summit selection committee.  I was used to it.  I have submitted to speak at the PASS Summit regularly for the last few years but was denied each time.  This year I am skipping the pity party because I got selected!!!  I will be presenting one of my favorites, spatial data, to the fine folks in Charlotte!  I am so excited but a bit out of sorts since I haven’t been in this spot yet but have wanted to be for so long.  Making me think of dogs who chase cars, they wouldn’t know what to do if they caught one.  This dog caught a car!  I have had this as a top one on my professional wish list, what next?  I will need to come up with some new goals and new cars to chase.
To my peeps having the pity party, keep your heads up and keep on kicking butt out there!  You’ll catch that car next year.  And until then I’ll tip my 40 IPA to my homies!  Well no I won’t tip beer since that’s wasteful but I will definitely drink this one in your honor!
Here's one for you!

Here’s one for you!

SQLSaturday 211 Chicago – Finally A SQLSaturday Fix

Hard to believe but this was my first SQLSaturday of the year! Lately I have done a decent amount of user group presentations which are great, but there’s something special about a SQLSaturday.  Chicago’s was right after the PASS BA Conference so became an extension of some really great SQL goodness. I left straight from the last session to head over to Addison to get to the speaker dinner.  The dinner was at La Hacienda so caught up with friends over margaritas and good food.  We got a really nice, unique speaker gift: a solar powered phone charger.  The tree hugging hippie in me loves that!  Thank you again organizers!

***

Morning comes and I get to the venue at the DeVry campus just a hair before the first sessions start.  I head over to the speaker room and chat for just a few minutes.  Just then an attendee comes in to let us know that they had no speaker show up!  Ross LoForte and Ted Krueger (blog|twitter) rush over to the room to save the day.  Luke Jian (blog|twitter) and myself quickly follow to assist them.  It turned into a really good discussion with the attendees over different aspects of being a DBA.  The session evals were all very good so it worked out and very nice of everyone to jump in and assist.

Ted and Ross stepping in for a surprise spontaneous discussion on being a DBA.

Ted and Ross stepping in for a surprise spontaneous discussion on being a DBA.

From there I head to Erin Stellato’s (blog|twitter) session “Making the Leap from Profiler to Extended Events”.  She is such a stellar speaker and this was a fantastic topic.  I was a bit jealous of the topic that I didn’t think of it since it is a super common issue.  Extended events is one of those features that are great but just is taking the masses a long time to come around to using.  She did a good job showing it’s not such a beast anymore and some great things from Jonathan Keyhayias (blog|twitter) to make it even more helpful like his script to take a trace and convert to extended events.  Bravo Erin!

Erin showing folks there's nothing to be afraid of with extended events.

Erin showing folks there’s nothing to be afraid of with extended events.

After that I caught some lunch with a unicorn!

Who doesn't love lunch with a unicorn.

Lunch with a unicorn is supposed to be magical…not disturbing right?

Next I caught Josh Fennessy’s (blog|twitter) “Demystifying BISM and Tabular Mode SSAS” session.  I was caught off guard right away when he started as he said he had no slides.  Say what now?!  He did full session just talking and writing things out on the whiteboard.  I was really surprised and impressed at how well it worked too.  He had some of the best interaction with the audience I have seen maybe ever.  I feel like I would flounder like a fish doing something like that unless I practiced it like a fiend.  You rebel you, Mr. Fennessy!

Slides?! Josh don't need no stinking slides!

Slides?! Josh don’t need no stinking slides!

For the next session I head to Neil Hambly’s (blog|twitter), “SQL Server 2012 Memory Management”.  I am always surprised at how little presentations there are on memory within SQL Server, at least that I have seen.  He did a good job though there were some quirks in demos.  I knew talking to him earlier he had laptop issues plague him.  Still was a great amount of info given and majority of demos went fine.

Neil going over memory management in SQL Server 2012.

Neil going over memory management in SQL Server 2012.

And last session of the day was when Ted and I gave our session on consulting.  It is always fun to do this one!  I was especially excited after hearing from someone who saw it in Minnesota a few months ago.  He immediately went from our session to a consulting booth who had sponsored the event and began talking to them.  They ended up hiring him and he’s enjoying the change.  How cool is that?!  Someone’s life was made better by a session I gave…there will never be better feedback than that!  Session went really well and we had a lot of interaction.  Always great too when other consultants come and participate.  Thank you Allan Hirt (blog|twitter) and Rick Krueger (blog|twitter) for adding the perspective and experiences of a independent consultant!  And thanks again Ted!

***

Thank you to the SQLSaturday Chicago team for having me as a speaker again and putting on a fantastic event!  Thanks also to my friends and SQLfamily for just being splendiferously (make sure I get credit for that new word) wonderful!

Survived BA Conference With New Battle Scars

Last week was a trip!  I can say that now after some rest and reflection but was a bit of a different story while I was living it.  I was selected to present at the very first PASS BA Conference.  I was super excited as it was the first time I have presented at a conference of this level and not for lack of submitting.  My nerves were a bit up to a level they haven’t been in a very long time giving a presentation.  These elevated nerves kicked into sheer panic when the morning before my presentation I find…my laptop has died!!  I begin frantically working on plans B, C, and D just to be safe (always the optimistic DBA).  I am restoring databases on my drive to Chicago so you could say I was a bit rattled.

***

I get things functional and some odd kinks worked out in my demos in the morning but not early enough to catch the keynote unfortunately.  I heard fantastic things about it though and Amir Netz is normally the highlight of PASS keynotes in my opinion.  I had enough time though to catch my friends, Mark Vaillancourt (blog|twitter) and Doug Lane (blog|twitter) give their presentation “Hailing Frequencies: Analysis Services Terms and Concepts”.  On my already frazzled nerves I sit there and watch as they start off with resolution issues which didn’t help the knot in my stomach.  They handled it perfectly though.  These guys are great and so funny.  I love a presentation that has information and humor and they deliver there…big time!

***

After a little prep it’s time for my session.  I get through it and demos went well but I couldn’t shake some of the nerves I had built up.  And just like every session, I learn something.  From now on I will set a timer to vibrate at 5 minutes before the end of the session.  I was barely watching the clock, trying to concentrate on session and miscalculated time.  I thought I was running long when I was actually short and wrapped up way too abruptly.  I got some good feedback but I was kicking myself for a good long time for messing up on timing when in practice I had it nailed timing wise.

***

After the pressure is lifted a bit from my shoulders I take in Chuck Heinzleman (twitter), Gilad Elyashar, and David Magar’s session “Make Cloud BI Work for You”.  I was afraid it was going to go super sales-y as some Azure sessions do but it didn’t.  They give some good practical examples that didn’t have anything to do with bicycles.

***

After that things begin to catch up with me and decide that a nap is too good to pass up before the community appreciation party at the Lucky Strike bowling alley.  On the way there I meet Greg Kramer (twitter) and we begin chatting.  I was very excited to hear he’s getting ready to give his very first presentation soon for MADPASS.  Then after stuffing myself silly with some of the great food I bowl it up with Neil Hambly (blog|twitter), Wendy (blog|twitter), Doug, and others.  I should have stuck with bowling but from time to time I have the urge to see if I have spontaneously become a pool shark.  Surprisingly that didn’t happen.  Doug Lane said it best when he said I was more of a pool sea cucumber than a shark.

***

I was extremely glad I got up in time to catch the keynote from Steven Levitt (site) of Freakanomics fame.  This was one of my favorite keynotes, well ever.  I had read the back cover of Freakanomics and was intrigued but never actually read the book.  Steven was very entertaining with his stories over the gathering of data for the book.  You could tell the folks on Twitter approved too and those guys are a hard lot to impress.  I definitely want to read the book now.

***

They always say at these conferences that some of the best material is to be found when you aren’t in a session at all.  This proved true for the conversation I had over breakfast after the keynote with James Serra (blog|twitter) and Ted Krueger (blog|twitter).  We were talking consulting gathering material for the session Ted and I give that covers different aspects of consulting.  I don’t have any independent consulting experience and Ted’s is a bit dated so was great to talk with James and get his insight.  Thank you again James…really appreciate the information.  I continue getting info from James by catching his session after breakfast.  He gave a lot of great information on data warehouse concepts and had a good conversational style.

***

At lunch I went to the PASS Community Zone for the drawing for a tablet.  As I stood there complaining to Josh that I never win anything, Karla (blog|twitter) calls my name!  I won a Surface!  How cool was that?!  So then I joyfully float over with cartoon birds following me to go catch the lovely Julie Koesmarno (blog|twitter) and Josh Fennessy (blog|twitter) session ” The Essential 8: Narrative Reporting Techniques”.  Josh is a good friend so I’m a bit biased but they both did a great job.  They both seemed very at ease and had great demos.  Good information on snazzifying your reports.

Did you hear I won a Surface? :)

Did you hear I won a Surface? 🙂

I was so excited for the next session I caught which was Rob Collie’s (blog|twitter) ” Dark Matter: Domain Experts & Nextgen Spreadsheets Are Our Future”.  I have been using and learning about PowerPivot since it first came out.  I feel like majority of what I know about it came from Rob.  I had never seen a live presentation of his but his blog was pivotal (oh yeah I went there) in teaching me and getting me through what I wanted to accomplish within PowerPivot.  His blog always has a great entertainment value to them and his live session delivered in that aspect as well.  I think this was probably my favorite session.  I wanted to meet him but he had a large crowd gather at the end and I was anxious to hit the road for Addison for the speaker dinner for SQLSaturday.  So if I had met you Rob I would have said thank you for teaching me PowerPivot and doing it in a non boring fashion.

***

Thank you PASS for having me speak and for putting on quite the shindig.  I was anxious to see how this conference was going to go since it was the first one and was targeted at different folks than those of the Summit.  I don’t know if you reached the audience you wanted or hit any other metrics to equate a successful event.  I do know this gal came away feeling it was a success and I had a great time.  And no it wasn’t just because I won a tablet but that didn’t hurt by any means!