Why I Play Hooky at PASS Summit
With over 200 technical sessions, there's something for pretty much everybody. Building a personal schedule always proves to be an exercise not in finding a session you want to attend, but rather choosing which session you absolutely cannot miss because there's 3 others you also want to see in that same time slot.
Yet amidst this bounty of knowledge being given away by leaders and experts in their fields, there are times when I opt to simply not attend a session at all. Instead of listening to a presentation, you'll probably find me in a beanbag chair in the community zone chatting with others, out for coffee, or exploring some part of Seattle I've yet to find. Why? Because PASS Summit is about way more than attending sessions. It's about community. It's making connections and new friends, and catching up with the old ones you haven't seen in a while. The real power of the summit is being in the same place as all these people, interacting, and getting to know them. Time is extremely valuable that week, and while sitting in presentations is a solid way to invest it, there are other ways to spend it that are just as valuable, if not moreso.
Buy the videos
Really. They're so worth it. Like I said earlier, it's not going to be possible to attend all the sessions you'll want to see. And to be honest, you won't always be in the best physical or mental shape to learn in a session. Perhaps you were at an evening activity pretty late and now you're exhausted, or maybe you went on #sqlrun and decided that a #sqlshower* might be a good (and courteous!) alternative to making the first session of the morning. You can watch the videos whenever you like, and as an added bonus, they also support pause and rewind functionality.
Microsoft also gets it
Earlier this month it was announced that Microsoft would not be offering 50% off certification exams on site, as they have done in the past. At first I was upset, but then I continued reading and saw that they would be offering 50% off exam vouchers to conference attendees instead. This is a much better deal in my mind – you are now free to take a discounted exam back at home where you won't have to miss out on sessions or other activities to do so. It's one fewer distraction from making connections and learning from others, whether that's inside or outside of a session.
To sum things up, your time at conferences is very valuable. Everything you do is paid for with time, over and above all the monetary expense you and/or your employer incurred to be there. However you spend your time, make sure you're getting the most out of it. If you're going to be attending PASS Summit this year, I'll see you there, hopefully outside of a session!
* For the record, #sqlshower is NOT a group activity.