What an amazing experience. First of all this was my first conference of any type, so I have no base line with which to compare. That being said, if I did have a baseline, I’m pretty sure this would have far exceeded most other conference experiences. This post will be a pretty quick and generic overview of what I experienced as a #FirstTimer, not only a SQLPass Summit FirstTimer, but a conference FirstTimer as well. I’m hoping to expand on this over time into a guide for future FirstTimers. For today’s post we’ll cover Conference Planning. The days and weeks prior to going where many many plans and decisions must be made. In this case I made them all without any experience to draw against. Later in the Post-Con analysis I’ll hopefully get into how I could have made better choices.
Attire: I’d been doing a ton of research in to what to wear to a conference. I was nervous because I was going to be attending with the VP of Technology for my company. Being a manufacturing company it’s quite common for everyone that is not in sales to wear jeans and tee shirts. I wasn’t sure if this was acceptable at the conference. I ended up just asking my VP and we decided on “business casual.” Ok, I’m a slacks & button up / polo kind of guy so this is right up my alley.
Laundry: In addition to conference attire I’d also discovered that the hotel had a rather nice fitness center. Since I’ve been making considerable effort to maintain a decent fitness regimen over the past 2 months I wanted to continue working out while at the con. So I started to do some research and it turns out the hotel charges $5 PER ITEM for laundry. This would be unacceptable, because I’m cheap. Further research lead me to decide on buying a small bottle of detergent and hand washing my fitness attire.
Networking: #FirstTimers groups. SQLPass takes all those that deem themselves as FirstTimers and puts them into groups. These groups are then assigned “leaders” that help guide us with Tips and emails. I was fortunate in being assigned to @MsSQLGirl‘s group. I think we received in the neighborhood of 10+ emails leading up to the con which covered just about everything. The main point being driven from the start was networking, and that Twitter was the tool of choice for con attendees. So I started to follow Julie, then I saved the #FirstTimers search. Suddenly I had other Summit people following and messaging me, I followed and replied, more follows, and on and on. I even met two Arsenal fans, @Rob_Farley and @JamieT. I was also introduced to @grrl_geek. Later, hopefully, I’ll discuss this further, but during the conference I met 3 of these people and suddenly I had friends at this conference, people I felt comfortable with that helped me brave the tides to meet others.
Get the App! The last bit of pre-conference planning is to actually plan the sessions that you want to attend. There is a fantastic Guidebook App within which I was able to download a specific guide for Summit 2012. Brent Ozar has a great post on this app which you can read for more information, but this app is fantastic. I had this on my iPad and iPhone. Sadly the app doesn’t sync between devices, but we were able to schedule the sessions we wanted to attend, and we could fill out the session review from in the app, paperless.
Prepare to Learn: So my biggest failure was not preparing to learn. We’d registered, book flights, hotel rooms, transportation, and planned the sessions to attend. I left it at that. What I should have done, especially as a BRAND NEW DBA with no experience, was to set up SQLServer 2012 and play with it. Specifically I should have prepared for each session. Setting up indexes, backups, restores, etc… It would have been better for me to get my hands dirty in this stuff and head to the Summit knowing what I don’t know. I’ll make it up for Summit 2013!
Well there you have it, the end of my pre-con planning thoughts.
Coming up: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Post-Con Analysis.
One closing tip: I did not attend any pre-conference sessions. These are held on the Monday & Tuesday prior to the opening events of the Summit. I’ve been told that the information in these sessions is top-notch. I will be going next year for sure, and if you’re reading this and you have the resources / permission, you should consider it!