Highlights and Lowlights of PASS Summit 2011

October 19, 2011

This was a proper big week.

The PASS Summit ran from Tuesday night to Friday, but I’d arrived in America the Friday before. So by the time it actually started, I had that strange feeling that things were wrapping up. My calendar was ridiculously full. The stuff that I was aware of ahead of time looked like this:

Friday 7th: Arrive in America. Travel to Portland. Speaker Dinner.

Saturday 8th: SQL Saturday #92 (two sessions to give, plus a song performance with Buck during the morning break). Charity dinner for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (whom LobsterPot sponsor).

Sunday 9th: Walk the Portland Half Marathon. Travel to Seattle. Collect my kilt. Register for the Summit.

Monday 10th: Early morning prayer meeting. Deliver a pre-conference seminar. Insiders Dinner in evening.

Tuesday 11th: Early morning prayer meeting. Meeting about SQL Saturday. PASS Board Meeting. Insiders Day at the Microsoft Campus. Opening Night Party, including being a Quiz Bowl contestant. Speaker/Volunteer Dinner.

Wednesday 12th: Early morning prayer meeting. Chapter leaders’ meeting. Chapter lunch. Book signing. Lightning Talk to deliver (my song). Global Growth meeting. Exhibitors’ party. Parties for SQL People, SQL Sentry, SolidQ and SQLKaraoke.

Thursday 13th: Early morning prayer meeting. WIT Lunch. Spotlight session to deliver. Redgate Dinner. Party at Gameworks.

Friday 14th: Early morning prayer meeting. More book signing. Board Q&A session. Board photos.

Saturday 15th: Sleep in and fly home.

That’s the short version. Really. There were a lot of other things that were squeezed in – in particular, the fact that I had promised Audrey Hammonds about six months ago that I would run through her presentation with her, and one other thing that became somewhat significant: THE FACT THAT ALLEN KINSEL ARRANGED FOR ME TO PERFORM MY SONG DURING THE FRIDAY KEYNOTE.

Readers of my blog (and plenty of other blogs) will know by now that I played my guitar and sang at the start of the Friday Keynote. Buck Woody accompanying me with his guitar and backing vocals. What you might not know is that this only got arranged late on Wednesday night. Allen had seen me perform it (again with Buck) during the Lightning Talks on Wednesday afternoon, and by the time the night was over, Buck and I were booked in to perform it in front of the three and a half thousand delegates at the biggest keynote of the week. I’ve played and sang before a couple of hundred before, but never even close to that many. To say I had mixed emotions would’ve been an understatement. I didn’t hesitate to say yes, and was excited, but was also phenomenally nervous.

As a late entry to a tight schedule, we got two minutes only and had to cut the song short. We didn’t sing the bridge section, so stopped after just Verse Chorus Verse Chorus. It was tremendous fun, and I loved seeing faint glows of phones being waved around in the crowd. I desperately wanted to look into the crowd as I was walking off stage, but my nerves and the fear of tripping on the guitar lead froze me completely and I didn’t turn my head at all. I was told later that there was a standing ovation – but I was just full of emotion, and so tired. So tired. It was my own fault – I’d gone out with Microsoft people after the various parties, and when they’d all gone to bed for a couple of hours around 5:30am, I’d got myself ready to lead a quick song at the 6am prayer meeting head off to my 6:15am sound check, prior to the 7:15am book signing. I got through the day (although I fell asleep for a few minutes during Audrey’s session, which I will need to watch to see how she did). I eventually got to bed around 10:30pm Friday night, and about twelve hours later managed to get up with just enough time to pack and check out of the hotel for noon.

But this wasn’t the highlight for me.

Nor was the highlight the fact that my level of involvement was so much greater, now that I’m a Board Member. I have to admit that I always get so much more out of events like this if I’m involved. I appreciate that I can get to more sessions if I’m not already laden with other entries on my calendar, but I would rather serve others wherever possible. I’m still new on the board, but as an advisor, I’m hoping to be able to influence things like the Summit more and more next year, and maybe there will be a few areas in which we can find opportunity to improve it still.

Serving is great – but wasn’t the highlight.

The highlight was the people. It always is, and it always will be. Right from the moment I arrived in America and tracked down John & Yanni Robel and Jes Borland. Arriving in Portland and seeing Jeremiah & Kendra, Buck Woody, Tim Ford, Erin Stellato and many more at the SQLSaturday events. Participating in the Portland Half Marathon with Erin, Jes, Yanni, Brent Ozar, Karen Lopez, Doug Lane (who did 10km) and Allen White (who did the full marathon), and a lots of people wearing the LobsterPot logo on their shirts. And despite not being able to run (I physically can’t run because of an old back injury, so I just walked it), I didn’t even finish last of the half marathoners! For all the extra pain I felt because my back isn’t really up to walking 21km in 3 hours, it was worth it. I’m especially proud of Yanni, who has achieved amazing things despite having a nasty blood cancer.

Despite Sunday being a ridiculously early start and a very long day, each day started with 6am prayer meetings. But this gave the opportunity to start each day on a good note, meet even more people (like Matt “Mrs” Slocum), and to figure out some of why I always click so well with friends like Stacia Misner.

Even the time I spent moving from one spot to another was a chance to see people and grow friendships deeper. I think of the night I was heading back to my hotel after the walk back from one of the parties had gone past the other hotels, and I bumped into the “Damn Strates” (Jason & Sarah), only to spend an hour talking with them about a number of different things. Or the time spent talking with one of the industry’s newest and brightest lights Jes Borland, who thinks she can out-talk me. Or the time with fellow board members JRJ, MarkS & Lara, which is time I can’t help but enjoy as the conversations switch over and over from flippant to serious and back again.

Oh, and the lowlight was losing my prescription sunglasses. That’s a real pain.

The SQL community has something very special, that other communities should be jealous of. These people genuinely love each other, and it’s really good to see and to be part of it. I’ve seen the same at SQLBits, but not in many other contexts.


PS: Apologies to everyone for not having links on your names. I wrote this on a plane without connectivity.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Brent Ozar

    I thought you were going to say the highlight was beating me at the half marathon. 😉  Great to see you as always, man!

  2. smisner

    I agree – the best part is the people part. Now if we could only figure out how to get by on no sleep for an entire week, we’d be able to connect with so many more people during the Summit!

  3. Arie Jones

    The people part is the BEST part. Of course, they need to extend the Summit by another week because I can never seem to meet everyone I want to see. That week felt like it went by in an afteroon.
    Great performance by the way!

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