Untapped Benefit?

(Cross-posted from my SQLblog.com blog)

Are you using your benefits to further your SQL Server skills? The other day, the company I work for (Scalability Experts) had a benefits meeting where open enrollment for insurance and other similar things were discussed. Since we are a small company, we outsource HR/Payroll/Benefits, and I discovered a new benefit that I was unaware of previously. Perhaps you have it too.

There is an Educational Assistance Benefit of $1500/year to help with courses that count towards a degree. I was somewhat familiar with that one. There is also an Educational Assistance Benefit that is geared for attending seminars (especially those offered by a Professional Association). The benefit offered through our plan is $500/year to spend on educational seminars. There is some criteria the seminar must meet under our benefit structure such as: helping develop skills that you use in your line of work and it can't be in-house or custom training.

That sounds like a perfect fit for a PASS Summit Pre-Con! Of course your organization may have different criteria and/or benefit amounts, but don't let that education benefit go to waste. There is a great selection of Pre-Cons to choose from (see the lineup below) that offer a full day of learning for only $395! Tap into your benefits and receive some great learning practically for free!
--Rick Heiges

Monday, October 10:

Tuesday, October 11

 

Last Chance to Save $600 on PASS Summit

A quick reminder that tomorrow is the last day to save $600 on PASS Summit 2011, the SQL Server event of the year, Oct. 11-14 in Seattle, WA. In the whirlwind of organizing all the conference details and getting the word out, it’s easy to forget exactly what PASS Summit is. Yes, it’s the largest SQL Server and BI conference in the world. But more than that, it’s your conference – planned and presented by the SQL Server community for the SQL Server community.

Volunteers (this year with the help of community session preference voting) select the sessions and speakers. Except for the pre-conference seminars, speakers share their knowledge and experience in exchange for a complimentary Summit registration. Community members are the driving force behind Summit’s special events, including the Welcome Reception Quiz Bowl, the annual Women in Technology Luncheon and Panel Discussion, SQL Kilt Day, the Photowalk, SQL Karaoke, and much more.

PASS Summit continues to grow in attendance and quality thanks to community members like you, who are passionate about the PASS mission – Connect, Share, Learn. And your registration fee stays in the SQL Server community, supporting a myriad of local, regional, and international programs and events that bring database professionals together around the world.

Whether you’re a seasoned PASS Summit veteran or thinking about attending for the first time, we encourage you to take advantage of this low rate before the price goes up July 1. See you in Seattle!
 

This 24 Hours of PASS was "Different"

Last week, the latest iteration of "24 Hours of PASS" was held.  It was "Different" for me.  Why?  Because I was not an active participant on the days of the event other than being an attendee.  I was involved in some aspects of the planning for the event when deciding the theme and format, etc.  I was on many calls and email threads for the planning of this event.  I did the moderator/speaker training  a few weeks prior to the event.  But on the days that the event was actually held, I was not on pins and needles worrying about logistics. Tom LaRock, HQ, and the team of moderators did a great job of execution.  I attended as many sessions as I could.  The Moderators seemed to be well prepared and the speakers focused on delivering the content. In my view, this went very well.

With the theme of "Women in Technology" for this 24hop, PASS was able to showcase a positive force within the SQL Community.  The WIT luncheon at the PASS Community Summit keeps growing in popularity/attendance year after year.  The WIT Virtual Chapter continues this positive vibe throughout the year - http://wit.sqlpass.org/

I enjoyed reading the "Twitter Stream" about #24hop.  I do not have numbers yet, but every session had at least 200-300 attendees and several topped 750!  Wow!

Each session was recorded and will be available for replay shortly.  Keep checking www.sqlpass.org for replay availability.

A BIG "Thank You" goes out to the Speakers and Moderators who helped to make this latest edition of 24hop a success.  I enjoyed it immensely.

PASS Summit 2013 - A Bunch of Blog Posts Recently

[cross-posted from Rick Heiges' blog at sqlblog.com]

Recently, there have been a number of blog posts about having the 2013 PASS Summit in Seattle or elsewhere.  I had a post in November about the process and some of the major factors that were on my mind.  You can read it here

There is value in moving the Summit to another venue.  There is value in having the Summit in the same location/venue year after year as well.  Many of the posts that I read recently make excellent arguments for each.  As time goes on and you hear another good argument for one or the other, I keep waiting for the definitive argument.  You know that someone will make some obvious point that everyone overlooked, and the decision will be a no-brainer.  Well, I'm not convinced that we will hear that definitive argument ever.

I believe that my post referenced earlier in this blog entry gives you a hint of which way I am leaning, but I emphasize that many factors must be considered in order to make an informed decision not only about the location of the Summit in 2013 but also how that may affect the budgeting aspects of our other support services and offerings.

 

Future Location of PASS Summit - 2013

The 2010 PASS Community Summit was recently held in Seattle and was a great success.  Thanks to all of you who were able to make it there.  Earlier this year, there was much discussion / debate on where the summit should be held in the future. We announced earlier this year that the location for the summit would remain in Seattle for 2011/2012.  There were many reasons for this decision such as availability of dates and the deals being offered with a multi-year contract in the time of negotiations during an economic slowdown. Many venues are booked years in advance – especially ones that can accommodate large groups of people such as the PASS Community Summit (and we're growing).  We are in the early stages of a location search for 2013. 

When searching for venue, we keep the following things in mind (not necessarily in any particular order):

  • Ease of getting to location – This usually means that the city is a hub for at least one airline and that the number of flights in/out are substantial to provide many transportation choices.  Also, since a large majority of our exhibitors are located in the USA, we try to stay within the USA.  One of the main reasons is that customs and shipping (even to Canada) booths / exhibit supplies / etc. is a big expense/hassle that it could affect the support we get from the exhibitors and sponsors.  Some attendees (especially from Governmental organizations) also have difficulty getting clearance for attending a conference outside the US Borders.
  • Minimize need for bus transit of attendees – Bus transportation of attendees to/from locations to conference activities and events can be very expensive and inconvenient.
  • Room Block – We need to reserve rooms at an attractive price.  Often this leaves destinations such as New York City and Washington, DC off the list due to the very high hotel rates.
  • Competitive Pricing for Meeting Space – Meeting Space rental rates can differ wildly and can really make a difference on how much funds are put back into the community.  I remember some research from a couple of years ago on space in Charlotte, NC and Boston, MA that were similar in size / location / etc.  The Boston space was more than twice than what was available in Charlotte.
  • Avoiding Holidays – Every effort is made to schedule events to avoid popular religious and American holidays.  This further limits availability.
  • Appeal of Location for Marketing – This means attempting to avoid the label “Boondoggle” when selecting a location while still maintaining an attractive location.
  • Social Networking – We know one of the reasons that the summit is successful is the ability to network in a comfortable environment often where a discussion can be had over a dinner or a drink.
  • Avoiding potential weather concerns – in 2004, the active hurricane season caused cancellation of the Monday pre-cons when we were in Orlando during hurricane season.  In 2005, another hurricane started to threaten our location in Dallas.  Since our event is usually in the fall, much of the SE USA is often not considered when the hurricane season peaks in mid-September.
     

There are other factors as well, but these listed above are the ones that I think of most when considering a location for the summit.  Remember that when things are more expensive or there are factors that really could impact attendance (room rates, int’l travel, etc.), this leaves less room in the budget for things like mailings to chapters and other community needs/projects.
 
Back in early 2001, I was looking for a conference where I could learn more about SQL Server.  I only had a budget of $1000 from my employer which meant that part of the cost of the conference and the T&E were my responsibility.  I settled on PASS in Orlando because I was familiar with the destination and cheap hotels.  I also decided to volunteer for PASS before I really knew anything about PASS.  My motivation was to become friends with someone who would be staying at the conference hotel so that I could possibly leave my laptop bag in their room.  I know this was selfish, but it is the truth.  I believe the other conferences related to SQL were in Vegas and somewhere in California that year. In other words, location played a big part of my decision to choose PASS that year.

When I first joined PASS, I asked why not Las Vegas?  We actually had a very attractive offer from one of the strip hotels.  It seemed to meet most of the items on that list.  Well, OK – some bosses (and even the President of the USA) think that a trip to Vegas is a boondoggle.  That is part of it, but actually the most compelling reason that we chose to not go to this particular property was the layout of the space.  In order to get from the breakout rooms to the expo hall, attendees would need to pass all those flashing lights in the smoky casino plus a topless pool.  We decided on one of the other locations (Dallas or Denver if memory serves me).  I wanted to move the summit to a new venue each year.
 
As the years have gone by, I can see the tremendous value of having the summit in Seattle.  More MSFT support is one of the reasons.  Other factors include familiarity with venue, familiar lodging options, and of course the rainy weather often found in the fall.  :-)  However, I believe that the summit will not be in Seattle in 2013. This is both good and bad news.  A gentleman at the Board Meet and Greet weighed in with a personal observation during a discussion of Summit location.  He was from Ft Myers, FL. He took vacation from his job and paid his own expenses.  To him, it cost him an additonal price of a plane ticket and more travel time to get to Seattle, but the investment in his own career was enhanced by being able to meet with and interact with so many MSFT people. I hope that he will continue to come to the summit and hopefully pick up a slew of new folks.
 
We have already done some background work for finding a location in 2013.  As we continue to progress on the search, we will keep the community informed as much as possible.  There are times that we can't share as much as we would like to due to negotiations with various venues, but those times will hopefully be short-lived.  If you have some additonal constructive input, please leave a comment below.  Thanks for being active with PASS!
 

- Rick Heiges
VP - Marketing, PASS

Back to School with 24 Hours of PASS

You can feel it in the air. Summer is winding down, and parents and kids are gearing up for back to school. And with September’s 24 Hours of PASS: Summit Preview just around the corner, SQL Server pros will be hitting the classroom again, too.

For this third installment of our popular virtual event, an exceptional lineup of SQL Server and BI experts from around the world will be presenting a sneak peek of PASS Summit 2010 in 24 live webcasts. We’re changing up the schedule a bit this time to try to better fit the needs of our live attendees. Instead of 24 hours in a row, we’re splitting the session lineup across 2 days—September 15 and 16—each featuring 12 consecutive webcasts.

Why the change? Because an overwhelming majority of attendees are in North America, many sessions that occurred late at night or early in the morning were lightly attended. In addition, the support staff and volunteers who make sure the event goes smoothly were working long hours and overnight, so the new format will significantly reduce the impact on our limited resources. We also felt that we needed to try a different schedule to help us find the best format for our audience—you.

We aren’t changing the delivery platform (Live Meeting), and we’re again turning to chapter leaders from around the globe to host the sessions. Most important, we’re featuring the same high-caliber content and speakers that you’ve come to expect and enjoy. You can register for your favorite sessions here.

We look forward to your feedback about other ideas for improving the experience as we enter the early stages of planning 24 Hours of PASS for Spring 2011. Each online event builds upon the previous one. As we learn more about what works best for 24 Hours of PASS, you can expect us to tweak the format to make it better with each edition.

If you’re itching for some SQL Server education and can’t wait until September, check out the recordings from 24 Hours of PASS: Celebrating SQL Server 2008 R2 and archived sessions at each of the PASS Virtual Chapter sites. Don’t forget that all the PASS Summit 2008 sessions are also available for free to PASS members in streaming format.

I encourage you to take advantage of the many resources PASS offers to help you connect, share, and learn with members of the community. And please share them with other SQL Server professionals. I look forward to “seeing” you at 24 Hours of PASS—until then, happy learning!
—Rick

Rick Heiges
Vice President, Marketing
 

Summer of Learning - by Rick Heiges

From ash clouds to a 24-hour marathon of webinars, it has been a busy spring here at PASS as we took advantage of many opportunities to bring you top-notch SQL Server education in a variety of formats and locations. And the summer is showing no signs of slowing down.

Last month, we held our second-ever 24 Hours of PASS virtual event with a record 63,000 registrations. PASS officially assumed responsibility for helping coordinate and guide SQLSaturday events alongside local chapter leaders. And our virtual chapters have been holding monthly—sometimes weekly—meetings full of fantastic content that are broadcast live and often available for on-demand streaming afterward. The SQL Server 2008 R2 Launch tour officially kicked off at PASS European Conference and spread around the globe, with 27 PASS Chapters participating in the events. Although the volcanic ash cloud prevented some speakers (and some attendees) from physically making it to European Conference, we were able to leverage LiveMeeting to deliver content to attendees wherever they were.

The summer is shaping up to be just as busy. A reminder that the PASS Summit 2010 Call for Speakers closes June 5, so get your abstracts in this week! The Program Committee will then examine all the session proposals to put together another phenomenal conference program. Another item in this issue talks about the next price increase on June 30—and an exciting “satisfaction guaranteed” program that lets you register at the discounted price today and then cancel if you’re not fully satisfied with the program lineup when it’s posted. (But I can assure you, you won’t be disappointed.)

There is no lack of training opportunities in the meantime. You’ll likely see another 24 Hours of PASS before the Summit, joining the full lineup of local chapter and virtual chapter meetings and SQLSaturday events planned for the next quarter.

And just as there is always something going on at PASS, there are always a lot of volunteers helping bring these events to life. If you are one of those people, I want to say a big “Thank You!” Even if you don’t have time to get involved behind the scenes, your attendance is greatly appreciated. We welcome your participation at any level and value your feedback. Don’t keep PASS a secret! Tell your colleagues, your old college buddies, your mother, and anyone else who will listen about where they can get the best user-to-user based SQL Server education. And we will continue to bring you high-quality education throughout the summer and onward!

—Rick Heiges
PASS Director of Marketing