When I first started going to conferences, I thought all the value was up on the screen. I took copious amounts of notes in every session. I asked questions. I paid close attention. When the sessions were over, I packed up and went home, eager to implement what I’d learned. Of course, reality set in when I got back home. I had a gazillion emails and help desk tickets, and by the time I dug my way back out, I’d forgotten a lot of what I’d learned. My notes sat dormant on my hard drive for weeks or months.
I’ve since learned that the most valuable things at conferences are peers, not PowerPoints.
I started the Free-Con to connect and inspire people. It’s a free one-day event before conferences, and it completely ignores the conference itself. We focus on improving our content, our people skills, and our sense of community. I only invite a limited number of community content creators, but they’re from all walks of life – new bloggers, MVPs, and corporate spokespeople.
The next one is this Friday, May 18th in downtown Chicago, lining up with SQLSaturday 119. We’ve had a few last-minute cancellations, so now’s your chance to sneak in.
What to Expect
Free-Con feels like a panel discussion without an audience – just one big panel. We’ve got a great list of attendees with all kinds of different experience, and everybody wants to share and help each other. To promote discussion, I’ve got a list of topics and short presentations ready, but expect to spend most of the time interacting with each other.
FreeCon Chicago’s agenda includes:
- Your Resume is Backwards – Your resume is organized by company, then position, then skill. What if we organized it the other way and looked for gaps?
- Lean Methodology – “Lean” is part of a manufacturing strategy for minimizing waste. I’ll explain why it’s relevant to your career and your day-to-day work.
- Zen and V12 Maintenance – Can your work bring you closer to people who inspired you?
- Tufte’s Supergraphics in Action - Edward Tufte wrote about how to reinvent presentations using large printed handouts. Software manufacturers are starting to do a surprisingly good job of it. We’ll examine one and see how to turn it into a full-blown presentation.
- And more – like group discussions around where we find inspiration and how we can improve SQLSaturday.
The event will start at 9AM and last until 4PM. With this many bloggers in one room, we’ve got an incredible opportunity to build relationships and blog posts. We’ll cover three ways to get other bloggers involved in your blog, and then we’ll actually do it live. (Wait, not “do it” – although, I mean, if you find one of the other bloggers attractive, I suppose you could. Just don’t blog about that.)
Doors will open at 8, and if you make the list, you’re welcome to show up early. A continental breakfast will be served at 9am, and you can’t come to Chicago without having Giordano’s pizza for lunch, so that’s catered in too.
Who To Expect
This event is about you meeting your peers – not just SQL Server peers, but other people who want to build their brand online to get better jobs. I picked people I enjoy spending time with, and if I like hanging out with you, I’m pretty sure you’re going to like the other attendees. You have a lot in common, and you’ll do a better job at it if you’ve got friends you can ask for advice and help.
The attendees for this Free-Con are:
- Argenis Fernandez (Blog – @DBArgenis)
- Bill Lescher (@BLescher)
- Bob Pusateri (Blog – @SQLBob)
- Christina Leo (Blog – @ChristinaLeo)
- Eric Harrison (LinkedIn)
- Garima Sharma (LinkedIn)
- Hope Foley (Blog – @Hope_Foley)
- Jason Fay (Blog – @JFay_DBA)
- John Mazzolini (LinkedIn – @JMazzolini)
- Josh Fennessy (Blog – @JoshuaFennessy)
- Louis Fritz (LinkedIn)
- Norman Kelm (Blog – @NormanKelm)
- Ramin Surya (LinkedIn – @RSurya)
- Scott Ellis (LinkedIn)
- Tim Ford (Blog – @SQLAgentMan)
- Tim Radney (Blog – @TRadney)
- Tom Norman (LinkedIn – @tjnorman57)
Former Free-Con attendees include:
- Aaron Bertrand (Blog – @AaronBertrand)
- Andy Leonard (Blog – @AndyLeonard)
- Crys Manson (Blog – @CrysManson)
- David Stein (Blog – @Made2Mentor)
- Grant Fritchey (Blog – @GFritchey)
- Jeremiah Peschka (Blog – @Peschkaj)
- John Robel (Blog – @JohnRobel)
- Jorge Segarra (Blog – @SQLChicken)
- Karen Lopez (Blog – @DataChick)
- Kendra Little (Blog – @Kendra_Little)
- Mike Walsh (Blog – @Mike_Walsh)
- Noel McKinney (Blog – @NoelMcKinney)
- Rob Drysdale (Blog – @ProjMgr)
- Steve Jones (Blog – @Way0utwest)
- Stuart Ainsworth (Blog – @StuartA)
- Tom LaRock (Blog – @SQLRockstar)
- Yanni Robel (Blog – @YanniRobel)
What Past Attendees Said
“I got to pick the brains of some really smart, really talented, really motivated, really funny, really smart people. For someone who is relatively new to the database world, and really new to speaking and blogging, this was like a year’s worth of lessons crammed into a day. I got to sit next to people that I never thought I could and ask them anything about their career, their experiences, for advice, and listen to their stories. I cannot tell you how cool that was.”
“For me, FreeCon defined some things that have been running around in my brain for the last 18 months or so. It also inspired me to pump up my blogging, to try to improve my game and my brand. I’ve done a very large number of actions in the two weeks since FreeCon went down. Many of them are already bearing fruit, for example, I’m now hosted on my own domain. Others may bear fruit in the near term, and I have EXTREMELY high hopes for these. Still more are the high level goals that I’ve started to define that will likely take me years to deliver.”
“It was a terrific event and I learned a lot. In actuality, there’ll be a free PDF up on my blog fairly soon that is a direct result of attending. And there’ll likely be a second PDF download available before the end of April.”
Update – Filled Up!
Thanks for your emails – we’re now filled, and the attendees above are the final list.