Enhancing First-Timers’ Summit Experience

I attended my first PASS Summit in 2004. Why did I go? Because of two words: professional association. I wanted to grow my professional skills as a DBA, and I knew that meant more than just technical knowledge. I knew I needed to join a network of like-minded individuals where we could learn and grow together.

The first morning there I met Pat Wright (blog | @SQLAsylum). Well, more like he met me, as he lumbered over and sat down at my table during breakfast. We ended up attending Kimberly Tripp’s (blog | @KimberlyLTripp) pre-conference seminar together and met Allen Kinsel (blog | @sqlinsaneo) there. The three of us hung out together all week, sharing meals and talking about our shops. We came to the Summit knowing nobody but were fortunate to have met each other. We left the Summit and stayed in touch, returning the next year, and every year since.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that many of our first-time attendees arrive at the Summit knowing nobody. They meet no one, they eat alone, they leave, and we don't see them again. How do I know this? Because every year, we have roughly 800 people at our Summit for the first time. If those 800 came back every year, we would be over 7,000 attendees by now.

Clearly, we need to improve our customer retention. That's what led me to think about putting together an Orientation Committee (OC) to help first-time attendees get connected, share experiences, and learn from each other. I believe this will translate into more repeat attendees, which will result in more knowledge, more sharing, and better growth opportunities for everyone.

We launched the orientation program for first-time Summit attendees last year at PASS Summit, and we are doing it again this year. That means we need Summit alumni to volunteer to serve as "Big Brothers/Sisters" for a group of new members – and we need new attendees to sign up to participate.

We are thinking most groups will have about 9 people (8 newbies and 1 alumni). The Big Brothers/Sisters will help the first-timers feel welcome, introduce them around, help facilitate discussions, answer questions, etc. The alumni volunteers will be in contact with their assigned group well ahead of Summit and ideally will arrange a meeting with their group before the Welcome Reception. In case that is not possible, we are going to reserve a room at the Convention Center so that all Big Brothers/Sisters can meet with their groups just prior to the Welcome Reception

If you are interested in serving as a Big Brother/Sister, drop us an email at OC_DL@sqlpass.org. And if you are attending the Summit for the first time and want to participate in the program, I encourage you to sign up – just email newcomer@sqlpass.org. Watch for updates on Twitter as we finalize the details, and participate in the discussion by using the #sqlpass #firsttimers hashtags.

See you in Seattle!
-- Thomas LaRock