Posted in SQL Server

PASS Summit 2020 – Virtual Edition

Another PASS Summit has come and gone. This one really was different from the rest. I think the build up to the event, some of the stumbling blocks, and poor communication along the way didn’t help. But in the end, despite all of that, I think it was a good Summit. Not a great Summit, but not a waste of money Summit either.

Here are my takeaways….

The Good:

Sitting behind two stuffed animals, watching the Day One Keynote
My view for the Day One Keynote

Overall, I was impressed by the quality of the sessions I watched. Somehow, the sessions I went to at the scheduled times were mostly live sessions. The one prerecorded session I did make at the scheduled time was also well done. I think there was confusion on how to get to the video chat and getting the video to start on the other tab. But there was something cool about getting to hang out with the presenter and chat a little before the Q&A. And then you could turn on your camera and talk to the others who were in the chat. For the live streamed sessions, it was fun to say hi to people in the discussions tab and see the questions others had to ask in the Q&A tab. Moderators did a great job of getting the questions to the presenter or panel. I felt like we were still able to have access to the person presenting on a larger scale.

I have managed to watch a couple of other sessions as well. I’ve also made a list of enough sessions to fill a full second PASS summit conference that I’m hoping to work my way through. If what I have seen so far is the quality of what I have yet to see, I’m looking forward to it.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Keynote was my favorite of all the keynotes and I highly recommend watching it if you haven’t yet.

I’m just so impressed with what people did so far. I know there was a lot of pressure and it wasn’t easy. Kudos all around!

The Not As Good:

Selfie of me in a SQL Server 2019 t-shirt from last year's PASS Summit
Me with some of the swag from past years, including the t-shirt

While I did get a sense of being a part of event with #sqlfamily, it wasn’t the same. Some people were better about chatting with each other in the discussion panel. I did get some of the social aspect through the Welcome Reception and the chat afterwards as well as Birds of a Feather. Both times, I was able to chat with friends long after the scheduled time had ended. I tried to have a little fun by sharing selfies with a growing number of swag and other toys that I’ve gotten over the years in the background. But I miss roaming through the exhibit hall or grabbing a seat in a session with friends or meeting members of #sqlfamily that I hadn’t met yet and making those new connections.

The Not Great:

The platform and the communication weren’t great.

If you’re going to put software out there used by people who create software, we’re going to find the flaws. The fact we could easily find the hack for locating where the file was to watch it full screen is a big problem. I think people had trouble finding the video chat for pre-recorded sessions. Plus, you sometimes had to refresh the screen to get the video to play. There were some minor Zoom session mishaps (i.e. hearing the events company give the time left and then seeing the chat pop up about hearing them popping up on the presenter’s screen.) I did hear of some bigger fails on Friday, such as a pre-recorded session not playing so the presenter ended up giving the session live the video Q&A chat as well as another session where the audio got messed up in the middle.

While the mistakes in the closed captioning were comic gold for those of us who heard what was said, it probably wasn’t so funny for those who actually needed it. I hope they were still able to understand enough and get the information that they were hoping to learn.

I think some of the communications of how things worked, or rather lack thereof, also created a lot of headaches and additional stress. Certain things were communicated to certain groups but not to all and some of it was too close to the event to make sure everyone’s game plan could be adjusted.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure what the ROI is for the sponsors is going to look like. I usually love going to the exhibit hall but I did find it hard to justify seeking out each individual sponsor directly and wasting their time or taking it away from someone who really needed their product when I’m just browsing. I will say that I did enjoy Suse’s video on how to pronounce their name and the comic posters were really well done. But it’s not the same. Maybe we all need to do a little something extra to thank each sponsor.

We knew some of these issues were going to be there – going virtual is hard. I know a lot of people put a lot of effort into doing what they could. And I do appreciate their efforts.

Back to the Good:

I thought I’d end on a more positive note.

This was my first time presenting a full session at Summit. It was a brand-new session that I was able to give a test run through with my co-workers as part of a lunch ’n learn a few weeks prior. Overall, I think it went well. I went just up to the end of my time. I had a couple of good questions sprinkled throughout. I hope everyone who attended it enjoyed it.

I was also on a panel talking about Speaking that Denny Cherry put together and moderated since this wasn’t a good platform to host Speaker Idol this year. Ben Weissman, Randolph West and Allan Hirt were also on the panel. It was a fun chat and it’s great to hear everyone’s approach to putting together a session.

I also moderated a session for Andy Yun – A Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Performance Tuner. It was fun seeing everyone’s chat and being able to act as the audience to share the questions.

The set up for moderating. Also catching a bit of Andy’s pre-session warm up dance.
close up of Andy's pre session jam on Zoom - in case you missed it
Close up of Andy’s pre-session warm up. Because I can….

Despite all of the issues, by the end of Friday, I was tired. I even had the “post last session crash” – except it was on my couch at home. Had we been in person, I would have dragged myself downstairs to the lobby or wherever we had taken over and fully enjoyed your company. But overall, despite the issues, I think it was a good PASS Summit.

So hopefully the recent news of the potential vaccine successes is true and we will be able to do this together in person soon. Until then, wear your masks, wash your hands, social distance, and stay safe!

One thought on “PASS Summit 2020 – Virtual Edition

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