In just two short months – exactly sixty days from today – the SQL PASS Summit will begin. Although it’s still a couple of months away, this is a great time to start making preparations to ensure that you get the most out of your Summit experience.
Download and install the latest SQL Server 2016 CTP bits. Even if you’re not into keeping up with the bleeding-edge stuff, chances are good you’ll learn about some new features you’ll want to play with while at the Summit. Conference and hotel networks are terrible for large downloads, and the last thing you want to do is to waste hours of good Summit time trying to download and install software. Be sure to do this at work or home beforehand.
Get some business cards. Unless you’re a shut-in (like I was ten years ago), you’re going to meet a lot of people. Order some business cards right now. If your employer won’t pay for business cards for you, make your own. The networking value you’ll get from the Summit is at least as valuable as the technical content, so be sure you’re armed with a stack of business cards to help people easily connect with you.
Work on your elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a 30-second statement of who you are and what you do. It should be clear enough for most everyone, even non-technical people, to understand, and should be free of buzzwords or marketing hype. You might argue, “But I’m not looking for a job, or trying to build a business.” That’s ok – you still need an elevator pitch. You’re going to meet a lot of people, but won’t be spending a ton of time with each of them. Be sure they know who you are and what you do, and then hand them a business card. You build your network before you need it, and having a good and clear elevator pitch is central to that strategy.
Polish your résumé. This is a great time to update and polish up your résumé. Ideally, we should all be doing a résumé review every three months, but in reality most of us do not. Even if you are not in the market for a new job, your résumé should always be up to date with what you’re currently working on. In fact, I have a success story here – even though I wasn’t actively looking, I got a new job several years ago based on a chance meeting at the Summit. Be ready when opportunity rolls around!
Get in shape. For most of us, our jobs involve spending 8 hours or more sitting in front of a computer, and with the business of life, sometimes there’s no room for exercise. At the Summit, you’re going to do a lot of walking, and if you go straight from sitting all day long to being on your feet for 12 hours or more, it’s going to be a shock to the system. Even if all you do is work in an improvised standing desk, or just take some lunchtime walks, you’ll thank yourself for it when Summit week rolls around. And if you’re really ambitious, lots of folks participate in #sqlrun – and an even longer #sqllongrun – during the Summit.
Get some good, comfortable shoes. See the previous point. You’re going to be on your feet a lot. Spend a little extra money and get some good quality shoes that won’t leave your feet exhausted by the end of each day. And consider some comfortable inserts (yes, I’ll be gellin’.)
Get a phone charger. Chances are good that you’ll be on the go for 16-18 hours per day, and many cell phone batteries won’t last that long under heavy usage. Buy a good external phone charger and keep it charged. I bought one like this, and it saved my bacon on more than a few occasions. If you are lucky enough to own a Samsung S5, there’s an integrated battery case that profoundly improves battery performance. I bought this one just a few months ago, and now I only charge my phone every 2-3 days. It adds some extra weight and thickness, but I find it worth the extra heft.
Create your blog. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve met at the Summit who tell me, “I’ve been thinking about starting a blog.” If you fancy yourself as a writer, create your blog – today. You can do this literally in five minutes. Go to any one of the myriad free blog services (I recommend WordPress, but it’s one of just many available) and set up your blog. You can even register your own custom domain name, but that’s not essential. Fill in the essential details (your About Me and Contact pages) and write at least one blog post (even if it’s just a “Hello, World!” type of post.) You’ve still got time to include your new blog on your new business cards to help folks easily find you.
Make a list of people you want to meet (or just catch up with). Here’s a little secret about the SQL Server community: “celebrities” are just regular people. If you’ve never attended a PASS Summit, you might be a little starstruck – as I was at my first one – by the caliber of folks in attendance. ”Some of these people are famous!”, you might argue. I promise you, nearly everyone with SQL Celebrity status would be happy to meet you. Don’t be shy about walking up and saying hello to them! In fact, make a list ahead of time. Include everyone you’d like to meet. Have your elevator pitch and business card ready. The conversation may not lead to anything new, but you’ll have made a new friend and will have expanded your network by one additional node.
Put the PASS First Timer’s Webcast on your calendar. This annual webcast hosted by Denny Cherry is full of good information about the PASS Summit. Although the name implies that it’s only for those attending for the first time, it’s a good review for everyone. Get registered for this event and be sure to attend and take notes, especially if this is your first Summit.
There’s no way to completely describe the PASS Summit experience to those who have never been. It’s a full week of off-the-hook, adrenaline-filled technical and community awesomeness. To really drink it in, make sure you’re prepared!