This weekend, emails went out to folks who’d submitted their sessions for the PASS Summit 2013 in Charlotte.
If you’re bummed, listen up. I know what it feels like to get turned down because I got turned down the first couple of times I submitted, too. The blessing and the curse of the SQL Server community is that there’s so many people who want to help others – but of course this makes it harder to get your place up on the stage. It’s only going to get worse/better as more people continue to discover the community.
Whether you got a good email or a bad one, your work is just beginning. Either you’re prepping for this October, or you need to start prepping for the next conference. In either case, here’s 51 questions you need to ask yourself about your abstract, your material, and your delivery.
- What pain is bringing the attendee to this session?
- How are they going to relieve that pain when they get back to the office?
- What does the attendee know already coming in?
- Who should not attend this session?
- Reading your abstract, are the answers to the above four questions crystal clear?
- What did you learn from Adam Machanic’s post Capturing Attention?
- Did your abstract take one thing off before it left the house?
- If you search the web for your abstract title, what comes up?
- Who else do you expect will submit on a similar topic?
- How will you show your own personality and expertise in the abstract?
- Of ProBlogger’s 52 Types of Blog Posts, which one matches your planned sessions?
- What other types of sessions from that list could you use to surprise and delight attendees?
- Are you teaching why or how?
- How would a handout make it easier for attendees to learn your lessons?
- What visualization would bring your session to life?
- Could you contract out a local design student or company to build it for you?
- Are you presenting to teach or to impress?
- Have you gotten feedback on your abstract from a proven speaker you trust?
- If a teacher graded your presentation, would you get an A?
- On that 24-point scale, what would it take to succeed at a national conference?
- What topics are you going to avoid entirely in order to save time?
- How often have you rehearsed this presentation before giving it to a local user group?
- Have you given this presentation before at local user groups and SQLSaturdays?
- Did you record the session (either video or audio)?
- Did you watch the recording to see where you can improve the material and your delivery?
- What questions did the attendees ask at those sessions?
- What feedback did the attendees give at the user group or SQLSaturday?
- How will you use that feedback to improve your session?
- If you gave attendees a test at the end of your session, what questions would be on it?
- If your session was a movie, what genre would it be?
- What other movies would be sitting next to it in the store?
- Who would play the leading role?
- What are three words you want attendees to use to describe your session?
- How do your abstract, material, and delivery inspire those three words?
- Have you clearly attributed ownership to the code and pictures in your session?
- If nobody asks any questions at all, will you still be able to fill the time slot?
- If you get many questions, which slides/sections can you skip without losing meaning?
- Where will you post all of the resources for your session?
- If people have a question while reading those resources, how will they contact you?
- If this session was a module in an all-day training class, what would the other modules be?
- What’s the worst thing that could happen in your session?
- How will you recover if that thing happens?
- Can you form an instant community of your attendees using a Twitter hash tag or chat room?
- What would your session look like with no demos whatsoever?
- What would your session look like as 100% demos and no slides?
- If you started the session with a question, what would that question be?
- What’s the easiest, simplest way for the attendee to learn the lessons?
- Could you get the presentation’s learning lessons across with a blog post or series?
- When you ask people why they linked to your post, what do they say they found compelling?
- What questions did readers ask in the comments?
- What’s stopping you from writing that blog post right now to gauge reader interest?
No, really. What’s stopping you? Don’t think for one moment that attendees will skip your session because they’ve read your work. It’s the exact opposite: readers come to your session because they like your work. Whether PASS told you yes or no, start writing your blog posts right now to find out what works and what doesn’t.
Hello from Seattle! I’m excited to be sitting front and center of the 10th Women in Technology Luncheon at PASS Summit! This year’s topic is “Women in Technology: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?”
We’ll be hearing from an excellent panel! Stefanie Higgins, a Sr. DBA for Disney and former PASS board member; Kevin Kline, a past president of PASS; Denise McInerney, from Intuit, who founded the WIT virtual chapter; Jen Stirrup, consultant and now a PASSion award winner; and our very own Kendra Little!
I got talking to Geoff Hiten. He attended last year’s luncheon and had a great story for me. Last year, one of the discussions we had was that women sometimes hesitate to apply for a job or offer to speak because they don’t feel they know 100%. He used that knowledge to help a client write a DBA job description – separating out the “required” and “preferred” skills. They hired a female DBA, who noted that helped her have the confidence to apply for the position. It’s great to hear how the panel lunch has helped people in the real world!
The room is filling up fast! It’s great to see so many men and women interested in the topic!
Bill Graziano is on stage, welcoming everyone to the 10th annual luncheon! He introduces the moderator, newly elected PASS board member Wendy Pastrick!
We’ve grown from approximately 60 people at the first WIT luncheon to a room for 740. That’s amazing!
Wendy introduces Stefanie Higgins, a DBA extraordinaire, former PASS board member, and WIT lunch founder! She’s talking about her reasons for starting it. She was a computer science major in college and had trouble connecting with other women in the field. A boss once told her he had a bias against women. She wanted to connect with other female computer professionals.
Next up is Denise McInerney! Her first Summit was in 2002 – she had to work to find a woman to talk to at that event. Now, how times have changed! The message she got in 2003 when she saw that there would be a WIT lunch was, “This organization cares about my experience.” I love this sentiment! Women’s presence in the community has been increased greatly, from speakers at Summit to SQL Saturday organizers.
Women leave technology careers at twice the rate of men. How can we solve this problem?
Wendy introduces Kevin Kline. He talks about how PASS can compete with larger organizations and conferences. We have the community, and we can be the most welcoming, friendly, and hospitable environment! He’s learned that it’s not enough to say, “Welcome, come in!” We have to say, “Come in! Sit down next to me! Let me introduce you to my friends!” We want to be that organization.
Kevin is the dad of one son and six daughters. Six! He knows that men and women think differently. The challenge for men and fathers is to tell their daughters, “Come. Sit down next to me. Let me show you how I pay the bills by doing this job I love.”
Jen Stirrup, SQL Server MVP and PASSion award winner, is introduced. In Europe, only 25% of jobs in science and engineering are held by women. In IT, that’s 17% and declining. This is a global problem! The government of Scotland is making a concerted effort to make IT and data available to women, to empower them and allow them to support themselves.
Jen is talking about the growth of the PASS community in Europe, and the related growth of WIT events. It’s fantastic to hear that this is growing globally! I remember that last year, after moderating the panel, I talked to an attendee from Saudi Arabia. He told me his wife faced many of the challenges we talked about, and he was excited to take all his notes from the lunch back to her. These are truly global challenges.
Kendra Little, an entrepreneur, MCM, and MVP (and my co-worker!) is talking about how things have changed for her in the last 10 years. She was great at teaching herself things, and learning on her own. She used to think, “I’m a worker, and I’m smart, and I can do things. But I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m a worker.” Now, she’s a partner here at Brent Ozar Unlimited. PASS helped her overcome her earlier thoughts. She was taught how to be a mentor, and a leader.
It’s Q&A time!
“I train people to be SQL DBAs. We’ve only had one. I tell them they can make great money doing this. Women aren’t interested. Why? What can I do?” Denise says, “Ask them, “What’s stopping you?”" Kevin says, “I was once told by a woman, “Money isn’t what motivates me. What I really wanted to do was help people.” It’s the wrong appeal.” Appeal to their values. Stefanie weighs in. She says it might help to have them talk to someone who is successful in the field.
“This is my third year. I run a user group. It’s so wonderful. I encourage everyone to share with their local chapters.” Wendy points us to http://sqlpass.org/wit to get more information to give to user groups and other interested people.
“I have daughter, and she is going into a science and technology field. She’s come to many SQL Saturdays with me, and I think that’s given her the courage to pursue it. Thank you, from a dad.”
“I have a question about work/life balance. With 40 or 50 hour work weeks, it can be hard to approach your boss and ask for flex time. How can we encourage our employers and workplaces to offer things like that?” Jen worked for a company once that regularly had meetings at 6:30 pm. She only worked their 8 months. Eventually, she started her own business, which means she can set her own contracts, work from home – and pick her son up from school. Kendra has a couple of techniques, from a boss perspective. Track where you spend your time – there are free online tools to help with this. Gather data, analyze it, and make proposals. If you’re spending a lot of time on repeatable tasks, ask how you can automate it. Use a webcam for meetings! People see you, and know you’re working. Denise says this is a major concern for employers. One of the top reasons women leave jobs is because of a lack of flexibility. Kevin says to make a proposal that you will be more productive at home.
“I don’t see a lot of young ladies going into this field. I’m lucky to have gained the knowledge I have. I’m looking to start a group to share some of the things I’ve learned.” Stefanie connects her with Lynn Langit, who started DigiGirlz. [EDIT: Lynn, thanks for leaving a comment! Lynn created content for DigiGirlz. She also co-founded the non-profit Teaching Kids Programming.]
“How do we bring girls into technology? They want to be rich, they want to be famous, they want to be cool. Bring Girl Scouts to these events and let them see that geek is cool.”
“Can we talk at a higher level about outreach programs at colleges? There are no database clubs, or sponsors. That’s a solid thing that we could do at a chapter level.” (Personally, I would have loved this when I was attending tech school. Now I run a user group in the same city I went to school in. I think this is An Idea.)
“How many of you got into computers because of video games? I have a four year old daughter, and I found out recently she loves video games. We can start early showing them this is cool.”
“I’ve been saving this question since last year! It’s about organizational dynamics. When I’m on a team and it’s mostly guys, team cohesion comes from hanging out together. Those things happen to be competitive in nature. These things make me feel at a disadvantage. What are your comments or suggestions around that?” Denise says to offer an alternative – she once had a chef come in a lead a cooking class! Kevin says, they probably just haven’t thought of this. Suggest other alternatives. Jen suggests something with an environmental emphasis – something positive, like helping to plant a garden.
With that, I need to go prep for my Lightning Talk! Thank you to the wonderful panelists for sharing your insights and suggestions. Thank you to everyone who attended, and those who asked questions! Thank you SQL Sentry for sponsoring the lunch. And thank you PASS for continuing this tradition!
Good morning ladies and gentlemen! The conference hall is filling up in Seattle, and it’s time to crank up another blow-by-blow commentary. I’ll be updating this blog every few minutes with what’s happening here at the PASS Summit. For a refresher, check out the liveblog of yesterday’s keynote.
8:20AM – People settled in and the room’s going dark. I’ve got a much longer zoom lens today, so I can’t really capture what’s happening in the crowd, but now I’ll be able to zoom in on the sweating faces when demos break. (No, I won’t.)
8:23AM – PASS Executive Vice President Douglas McDowell taking the stage. He’s covering financial details, and he’s excited about it.
8:24AM – On track to be an $8mm organization this year, up about 40% from last year, 80% from two years ago. Some of this is probably due to the economy gradually recovering, but wow, what a great quick growth.
8:25AM – “We’re a nonprofit. We’re not trying to capture profits – we’re reinvesting them in the community.”
8:27AM – Douglas says this conference is a bargain compared to other conferences. Well, yeah, but that’s because the speakers aren’t paid, and they have to pay their own travel, hotel, meals, etc. Other conferences don’t do that, and we’re already starting to see senior speakers pull out of the Summit. It’d be a shame if that continued.
8:33AM – Welcoming new Board of Directors members Wendy Pastrick, James Rowland-Jones, and Sri Sridharan. They’ll be serving 2-year terms from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2014. Big thanks to outgoing board members Allen Kinsel and Kendal Van Dyke.
8:34AM – “We’re volunteers. You know what volunteers are good at? Dropping the ball.” I haven’t said this til know, but this keynote isn’t going particularly well.
8:35AM – VP of Marketing Tom LaRock taking the stage to give out the PASSion award for 2012. Two changes in the award – added an Outstanding Volunteer of the Month award, and something else.
8:40AM – The PASSion Award winner for 2012 is Jen Stirrup! Congratulations.
8:41AM – Tom explains that the Board members have little black books where they’re writing down attendee feedback to improve the conference.
8:42AM – Improved communications: forums, town halls, Twitter chats, social media, feedback site, new communications platform, and more.
8:43AM – PASS Summit 2013 registration open now with an early bird discount at $1,095 until January 4, 2013. The Summit will be October 15-18, but it’s not clear what that means because they also say there’s 3 days of in-depth training. The 15th-18th is 4 days.
8:44AM – Lots of companies have sent over 5 employees to the Summit this year, some as many as 30-40.
8:46AM – Karaoke with a live band, SQLRockeraoke, tonight at the EMP Museum party. Tom will be doing a group singalong to Careless Whisper.
8:49AM – Taking the stage, Quentin Clark, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft.
8:54AM – Hotels putting RFID chips into the hotel keys. It’s a better experience for guests – easier room access – but also lets hotels spy on which guests are using the restaurant, the gym, the pool, etc.
8:55AM – The discussion then goes into Facebook, and BI moments. This might just be our Contoso Frozen Yogurt Moment coming up.
8:59AM – The room is dead. No applause, some awkward coughing. Twitter’s lighting up that this stuff just isn’t interesting to DBAs and it’s not telling a good story. Zzzz.
9:02AM – Julie onstage to do a demo of PASS Cinemas.
9:10AM – Showing various pieces of technology but not actually doing any work. We got Hadoop, PDW, Azure, and enterprise data warehouses in about 3 minutes.
9:13AM – Apparently big data means small fonts. Seriously, what the hell, Microsoft?!? We complain about this every year. Demos are tedious enough in a room this big, but gimme a break. If we can’t read the screen, we get really pissed off. Value our time.
9:18AM – Body language onstage says it all. Demos are failing, bad patter, even the presenters seem bored. The room is just dead.
9:22AM – Demo is still just absolutely crawling. I’m cashing out mentally here. If I was watching from home, I’d have bailed fifteen minutes ago.
9:36AM – There’s a vibrant discussion going on in Twitter about how bad this keynote sucks. Is it as bad as the fake Tina Turner that sang Simply the Best a few years ago? What about the year when a vendor speaker kept saying, “Yadda yadda yadda”? Tough call, but it’s definitely in the bottom. The material may be vaguely useful, but it’s presented in tiny fonts on a big screen, totally unusable, and no cohesive story. There’s bugs and missteps all through the demo. The air’s totally dead, and the audience is quiet. It’s horrendous.
With that, I’m signing off and leaving. I don’t do this often – it’s the first time I can remember leaving a keynote – but my time is more valuable than this. I’m heading out for coffee.
Good morning, folks! Lights, camera, action – it’s time for the first keynote presentation at the Professional Association for SQL Server Summit. It’s the annual international conference for Microsoft database folks. This year it’s in Seattle, Washington again.
Over the next two hours, I’ll be expanding this post with minute-by-minute notes of what’s being covered by Microsoft and the PASS executives. You can refresh this page and see the latest notes. Enjoy!
8:13AM – People filing in, lots of folks surrounding the blogger table. Tough to ignore all the cool people while I’m getting set up. Ah, dear reader, the sacrifices I make for you.
8:15AM – PASS’s Kathy Blomstrom has informed us that “As of this morning, PASS Summit 2012 had 3,894 delegates – up 13% from last year’s previous record attendance – and 1,717 pre-conference registrations across 57 countries for a total of 5,611 registrations.”
8:19AM – PASS President Bill Graziano is taking the stage to talk about the numbers and what makes PASS successful – grassroots community involvement around the world.
8:22AM – Bill: “We are 12,000 – excuse me, make that 120,000 people strong.” That’s what I’m talkin’ about.
8:23AM – The PASS Board will be holding another open session this year for Q&A. It’s important for the community to continue to be open and accept the tough questions, and I’m glad they continue to open the kimono. Wait, maybe I don’t want to see inside that kimono, heh.
8:28AM – SQLRally Nordic will hold their third event in November 2013. No SQLRally in the US mentioned yet – it was put on hold earlier this year.
8:29AM – Over 543,000 hours of training delivered by the community for the community this year. (This is calculated with attendee numbers – if one person leads a one-hour sess
8:31AM – The first PASS Business Analytics Conference will be held in Chicago April 10-12, 2013.
8:31AM – Microsoft announcing their new in-memory database technology, Project Hekaton. This didn’t come from the stage – @JamieT caught it. Excerpt:
Furthering Microsoft’s commitment to deliver in-memory solutions as part of our data platform, today we are introducing Project codenamed “Hekaton,” available in the next major release of SQL Server. Currently in private technology preview with a small set of customers, “Hekaton” will complete Microsoft’s portfolio of in-memory capabilities across analytics and transactional scenarios. It will provide breakthrough performance gains of up to 50 times, and because it will be built into SQL Server, customers won’t need to buy specialized hardware or software and will be able to easily migrate existing applications to benefit from the dramatic gains in performance.
8:36AM – SQL Server 2012 SP1 out today.
8:39AM - Ted Kummert taking the stage. He’s Microsoft Corporate Vice President of the Data Platform Group. He usually leads the Microsoft part of the Day 1 keynote and hands demos off to individual Microsofties.
8:40AM – Ted: “I continue to be impressed by how this community invests in itself.” That’s a great way of saying it – we’re all trying to improve our skills and improve those around us to increase our overall value.
8:42AM – Officially announcing SQL Server 2012 SP1 available today. (I caught this earlier in the press release.) Interesting that there’s absolutely no applause for this.
8:43AM – Showing a video of attendees talking about the change they’ve seen in their career and what they’re excited about for the future. Looks like it was taken at a feedback group in the last couple of days with a combination of customers, consultants, and MVPs.
8:46AM – Starting to talk about big data. ”Approaching the tipping point.” Talking about how we need to reason over large amounts of data every time we serve people a page. This is where I start to get a little twitchy – the other way to think about big data is sloppy programming, but I digress. There *is* legitimate big data, but if you reason over large datasets for each web page you serve, you’re doing it wrong.
8:49AM – Microsoft Research worked with hospitals to conquer the re-admittance problem: patients that had to come back to the hospital to get their problems solved. They used machine learning to give patients better care to reduce return visits. Or as I like to call it, “euthanasia.”
8:50AM – “If the full dataset fits in memory, amazing transformations are possible.” Ayup. This should not be news to any database professional, let alone any database manufacturer, and it’s a little frustrating that we’d be reacting to this in the next version of SQL Server rather than, say, 2008. I don’t envy Microsoft’s challenges in predicting the future, but this one seems a little obvious.
8:56AM – Demoing SQL Server Classic up against Hekaton. Classic is running 2,000 transactions per second, but running into latching problems. (Latching often means a lack of indexes.) This already sounds like a cooked demo specially created to show how fitting stuff in memory AND applying the right indexes makes things faster. Moving it to Hekaton got a 10x improvement at around 20,000 transactions per second.
8:59AM – By modifying the stored proc, we’re up over 60,0000 transactions per second. They didn’t cover what the modifications are, and I’ll leave that to you to think about.
9:01AM – Demoing column store indexes as a way to show performance improvements by keeping data in memory. This works in SQL Server 2012, but coming in the next major release, they’ve added two new improvements: it’s updatable, and it can be the clustered index. It’ll be interesting to see how they describe the differences between these to end users, and how the licensing will work. These scream Enterprise Edition only.
9:04AM – Rick from online gaming company BWin talking about using Project Hekaton to improve their session state database. They were maxed out at around 15k transactions per second – and yes, these guys really optimize the bejeezus out of their stuff. They’re been able to hit over 250k transactions per second with Hekaton.
9:06AM – Over 1.5mm units of the in-memory database in customers’ hands. They’re referring to the in-memory columnar analytics stuff, which includes Excel, so that’s a little tricky – but it’s such an awesome time in technology when this kind of technology is available to end users on their laptops.
9:08AM – Ted says they’re building a lot around the Apache Hadoop infrastructure and they want you to be able to leverage everything that the Hadoop ecosystem provides. ”This may not be technology that you’re familiar with, but I’d encourage you to discover them and use the samples.” Microsoft needs you, dear reader, to keep your skills current so Microsoft can bring you new tools and you can adopt ‘em. No pressure – I’m just sayin’.
9:10AM – SQL Server 2012 Parallel Data Warehouse will be coming in H1 2013, and it lowers costs by using Windows 2012 Storage Spaces. Christian Kleinerman onstage to demo it.
9:16AM - Christian Kleinerman demoing a 1PB data warehouse query finishing in under two seconds. It’s tough to do justice to this kind of thing in a 5-minute demo. Like Kummert says, it’s a heck of a tough audience, and we take a lot of this with grains of salt. There’s no mention of the hardware performance, storage performance, number of columns in the table that we’re not selecting, etc.
9:20AM – Microsoft went to Dr. David DeWitt with a question – how should the query processor change? The answer was PolyBase, a new breakthrough in data processing for queries over relational and Hadoop data, in place.
9:28AM – A few very awkward “BI moment” phrases which bombed. Now showing a Great Western Bank customer video talking about how quickly they were able to recoup their BI investment in a 30TB data warehouse. ”BI makes heroes, and there’s not a lot of tools that can do that.” I think that’s a great quote for executives, but not in a room full of developers. Visual Studio makes heroes too.
9:30AM – Ted: “Excel is now the complete end user BI tool.” Die, Access. Die in a fire.
9:32AM – Amir Netz onstage! He’s the wild card of the demo crew.
9:33AM – Demoing data visualization with Bing maps inside Excel. Looks absolutely gorgeous – except for the freakin’ CAPS LOCK MENUS. Jeebus, these things bother me. But yeah, this is a great visualization tool, and if I was an SSRS person, I’d be worried. The same guys who love handling data in Access will love bypassing the BI crew by building their own tools in Excel.
9:37AM – Visualizing data by combining the movie award data with 11mm tweets to see when people were tweeting about movies. Counts terms extraction by actors and actresses – Brad Pitt versus George Clooney, etc. ”Imagine that you’re a brand manager – actor names are brand names.”
9:42AM – Not much going on here. Just showing Excel moving charts. While Amir Netz is upbeat and fun, he isn’t really communicating anything technical here.
9:49AM – Audience clapping wildly, biggest applause so far, for transparent images of Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston. This is a little…awkward? The PASS folks unveiled a new code of conduct aimed at avoiding harassment, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone complained about the appropriateness of these.
9:51AM – And we’re done! Off to a day of learnin’.
Brent and Kendra have been to several international SQL Server conferences, and they keep going back. Learn what they’ve loved about the annual PASS Summit – and what they wouldn’t mind missing.
When you’re speaking at a conference, try to get the room schedules long before the event day. Right now, the PASS Summit conference schedule is available, and each speaker’s room is listed.
Then, check out the building’s floorplan – in this case, the Washington State Convention Center’s floorplans page. Check out the seating capacity for your room.
You don’t have to think about filling the room or imagining the audience in their underwear, but knowing the size of the room can help you mentally prepare yourself for what you’ll be facing. I take different approaches in different room sizes.
In small rooms (for under 30 people), I look every single person in the eye and make sure they’re following along. When I’m losing somebody, I’ll prompt them for questions and change my presentation pace. I can make faces to illustrate my disbelief or happiness with a particular point, and I know everyone will see it.
In mid-size rooms (for 30-100 people), I’ll try to take the pulse of the audience by looking around. I’m less able to change the presentation pace based on facial expressions – and I’m less able to use my own facial expressions as a presentation tool. Repeating audience questions becomes critical here because people on one side of the room can’t hear questions from the other side.
In rooms designed for over a hundred people, I have to be more animated. People farther back can’t see my facial expressions at all, and I need to convey more things via audible cues. My visual cues have to consist of giant hand waving and pointing.
When I know the room size ahead of time, I can even adapt the presentation to work better. For example, in large rooms, I’ll use visual punch lines on the slides rather than trying to tell a story with my facial expressions. In addition, the bigger the room, the bigger the font – I can’t rely on projectors to convey small bullet points in a 500-person room.
Note that the room size – not the number of attendees – dictates your approach. If you’re in a giant room, it doesn’t matter if less than 30 people show up – you still have to use the big-room delivery style. And don’t judge your success based on the percentage of empty seats – that’s the success of the meeting planner, not you. It’s their job to pick the right room size for each presentation. Jeremiah and I are both in the monster 6E ballroom that holds over a thousand people. They’re betting that a whole lot of people want to hear me talk about AlwaysOn Availability Groups and him talk about A Developer’s Guide to Dangerous Queries!