The good news is that the people have spoken.
The bad news is there were less than 200 people involved. I’m hesitant to read too much into a survey with such a small sampling of a big audience, but hey, it’s what we’ve got. The PASS 2010 Summit survey results are out, and a few things struck me as interesting in the results.
Question 4 asks if they’re going to attend the 2010 Summit in Seattle, and I’ve simplified the answers a little by lumping them together:
I’m cheating a little there because I lumped some answers together. Roughly 16% of the survey responses are from people who are not attending.
If you want to increase attendance, you can’t just focus on the people who are ready to hand over the check. You want to examine the responses differently. You have to satisfy the people who are ready to fork over their cash, because you don’t want to lose their business, but you have to listen differently to the people who tell you they’re not coming. See, these folks were willing to take the time (a LOT of time, I might add, because this survey was ridiculously long) to tell you what they’re looking for in a Summit. This is why it takes a long time and a lot of labor to analyze results like this, and why I admire the PASS volunteers for putting so much time into listening to the community.
Question 7 asks who you’re very interested in hearing speak, and I’ve reorganized the bejeezus out of this answer. The question asked how interested you were to hear each type of speaker, and I only took the scores from people who marked “Very Interested,” not “Somewhat Interested” or below. I want the kinds of sessions people really get excited about, and the results were:
A whopping 92% said they were very interested in real world speakers. Second place went to “Established Industry Speakers,” which I would take to mean trainers and authors. Less than half of the responses had such an excited response to any Microsoft presenters.
And who are these “real world speakers”? They’re YOU. If you’ve been thinking nobody wants to hear you speak at PASS, you’re wrong. Now would be an excellent time to register for Chuck Heinzelman’s presentation on creating a winning abstract. It’s completely free, and 92% of your peers are very interested in hearing what you have to say.
By the way, the next time PASS tells you how desperate people are to hear Microsoft presenters, remind them of the magic number: 92% real world. Community is number one. We’re here for each other first, and everybody else comes second. Further evidence can be found in question 12, which asks why people come to the Summit. Access to Microsoft employees ranked lower than education, networking, and access to experts.
Question 2 asks “What job description best describes your main job responsibilities?” With that kind of wording, you might expect to be only able to pick a single answer, but no. Attendees were allowed to pick multiple responses, so they add up to more than 100%. This is what happens when you let database people design the user interface, ha ha ho ho…put the stick down, people.
The majority of attendees are DBAs and developers, and if you include architects, that’s almost 75% of the responses. Unfortunately, the armchair statistician in me wants to throw out this answer because I can imagine there’s people out there who marked both DBA and developer, whereas no architect would ever check more than one box for that question, because they understand how this question was supposed to work. I kid. Architects don’t understand that stuff either.
Anyway, my point is that with such a majority of DBA/developer types, you might draw the conclusion that the majority of the training should be focused on the SQL Server engine (not BI).
Question 39 would seem to answer that, but the question wording doesn’t support decisionmaking. Question 39 asks if you want to give your opinion about BI topics, and 43% said no. You can’t take that to mean 43% of the attendees don’t want to attend BI presentations, though, because for each BI topic, some people voted that no, they weren’t interested in that topic too. The only way to interpret this is to say that at least 43% of attendees don’t want to hear about any BI whatsoever, and above that, some percentage of people aren’t interested in various BI topics. You can’t say that 57% of attendees want to hear about BI.
Question 21 asks what subtracks you’d like to see, and I gotta confess that I’m a little surprised by some of the answers:
- Performance Tuning – 78% very interested, 2% say no. Wow. Looks like I’ll be submitting tuning sessions this year.
- DBA 101 – 26% very interested, 38% say no. I always wonder what the mix of experience is. 26% sounds low, but turn it into a ratio, and it means that 1 of every 4 attendees would like to see basic-level courses.
- SharePoint – 22% very interested, 41% say no. I would have guessed this number would have been a lot higher given the SQL 2008 R2 release with PowerPivot and all the sexy BI stuff built with SharePoint.
Question 24 asks what DBA sessions you’d like to see, and one of the answers stunned me. 29% of DBA responses said they were very interested in a session on Backup Compression.
Are you kidding me?
You check the box and it goes. End of story. How the hell do you make a one hour session out of this?!? Are you people just checking boxes because you like the SQL feature or something? Mark my words, somebody’s going to do at least one session on it, and they’re not going to get good speaker feedback because the topic is so damn boring. As a speaker, you gotta do a good job of picking topics. Just because people want to hear about something doesn’t mean you should do a presentation on that, because you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
Even funnier, Backup Compression outranked Transparent Data Encryption, Filestream, and Spatial Data, all of which require more forethought and planning than compression. If I was the product manager for those last three features, I’d be dunking my head in the toilet right now, because that’s just depressing.
Question 16 asks if PASS should offer longer sessions, but less of them with more details:
As a presenter, I’d love to see a few deeper-dive sessions. I wouldn’t make all of them longer, but just say one long session per day – perhaps the first session after lunch. People are moving slow then anyway, and it takes them more time to get up to speed.
I’d also like to see “lightning talks” – a 30-minute block at the beginning of the day, right after the keynote, where 6 presenters talk rapid-fire for 5 minutes each. Let them “sell” attendees on why their presentation is so good. And maybe lop off some time on the keynotes, because those haven’t moved nearly fast enough. (Especially the all-marketing ones – dear Lord, those are bad.)
There’s a lot of interesting stuff in that survey, and if you’re thinking about submitting abstracts for the PASS Summit, you should dig through there. Keep an open mind about the stuff you know versus the stuff you think people want to hear. I never would have submitted a social media session last year if Jason Massie hadn’t suggested it, but we ended up in the top 5 ratings for the Professional Development track. Now, looking at the survey results, I think I’ll submit another one this year, but this time I’ll focus on marketing yourself and technical presentations.
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