Preparing for PASS Summit 2013 — My First Time!

Being a regular attendee of SQL Saturday events in the Southeast, I frequently hear murmurs of PASS Summit and what a great thing it is.

With a little bit of luck it turns out that this year, for the first time in years its being held outside its usual home in Seattle, WA in the not-too-distant city of Charlotte, NC.  Seems like a sign to me!

PASS Summit is a BIG conference!  As such, there are a lot of moving parts in order to get prepared.  The PASS Connect page offers a great “one-stop” link resource for many of the major items:

  • Ticket Purchase / Accommodations — Hopefully performed WELL before the event.  By purchasing tickets for the event around December, you can get a hefty early bird discount.  Additionally, if you want to keep things simple, you can register for accommodations at the primary hotel during this process.
  • Choosing / Registering for Pre-Conference Sessions — At some point as the conference date approaches, the session lists will be announced which will include two days of optional additional-cost pre-conference sessions.  In this case, I feel like I’ve got enough on my plate already, so I didn’t register for any pre-conference sessions — though if precons at SQL Saturday events are any indicator, these are no doubt very high quality.  (2013 Schedule including Pre-Cons)
  • Choose Some Sessions with Schedule Builder — Once the schedule of sessions has been published, it’s time to reviewing the sessions and making some hard choices!  The session schedule is broken down by days — each day is a grid of rooms and timeslots.  Within each cell of the grid is a session name, speaker, and code as follows:
    • A prefix:
      • AD  = Application Development
      • AZ  = SQL Azure
      • BIA = BI Architecture / Development
      • BID = BI Deployment / Delivery
      • DBA = Enterprise Database Administration and Deployment
      • PD  = Professional Development
    • Plus, a numeric identifier indicating the experties levelthat the session is targeted at (such as 100, 200, 300, etc)
    • Followed by a suffix:
      • S = Spotlight Session (These sessions are 90 minutes instead of 75)
      • M = Microsoft (Presented by Microsoft)
      • C = CSS (Presented by a Member of the CSS team from Microsoft)
      • HD = Half-Day (3 hour session )
  • Using the Schedule Builder helps to give the organizers a rough idea of how many people are planning on attending a session…if the numbers are completely out of whack with the room size, its possible they’ll do something to try to increase the room size.  Unfortunately, the current version of the Schedule Builder doesn’t seem to allow for a “first choice” and “second choice” like the SQL Saturday Schedule Builder does.  In this case (and since I haven’t made final decisions yet), I added second choices as conflicts.  It’s a good idea to have second choices in mind should a first choice be completely full when you get there.
PASS 2013 schedule sample (Click for full schedule)
PASS 2013 Schedule Builder.  Click the “Add to Schedule” link to save it to your schedule.
Sessions on the PASS 2013 View Schedule screen
  • Choose After Hours Activities — As if having to choose between two days of great precons and 3 days of great sessions wasn’t enough to completely fry your brain, you still have to decide which after hours activities you’d like to attend (if any).  Like everything, after hours activities are optional, but highly recommended.  They come in both the official PASS flavor and the unofficial non-PASS flavor.  PASS provides a list of the major PASS after hours activities here and non-PASS activities here.  Additionally, there are countless other smaller events which are more invite-only and mentioned by vendors, Twitter, or other means.
  • Put It All Together — With everything chosen, it’s time to load it up somewhere you’ll be able to quickly reference it!  I used a combination of Google Calendar (which synchronizes to my phone and tablet) and the GuideBook App (which is also available on my phone and tablet).  I entered in all of my non-session activities in Google Calendar and all of my first and second choice sessions in Guidebook…we’ll hope it all works out!
With my schedule figured out, the bulk of my preparation is completed.  Sure, there’s still a lot left to do — packing, printing off various tickets, laundry, picking a few geocaches in the area to visit, and out of office notifications but I’m sure all that will fall into place at the last minute, right?

I’m pretty excited for summit — I have no doubt it’s going to be an amazing week!

A couple of references on guides which I liked that others have written in preparing for Summit: