This is my second post in a series which I hope will help you (and me!) prepare for the upcoming PASS Summit November 4-8, 2019 in Seattle, Washington.
Where the Real Benefits From Summit Are Realized
One of if not the most valuable parts of PASS Summit is the networking opportunities. People keep talk about it everywhere. Network, network, network. Usually it’s in the context of finding jobs but this is an important skill to have even if you’re not going anywhere!
I’ve heard one person say “when a company hires you, they also hire your network” and this is hugely important. At Summit, you will learn from random hallway conversations as well as the sessions. But you will also learn who knows what. That means that post-Summit, you can reach out to people to ask quick questions, or find their blog to learn more in depth.
Take every opportunity you can to meet people. If you’re experienced in the community, make sure you help people meet other people. Meet new people every day. Ask them what they’re doing for dinner, or which after-hours event(s) they’re headed to. Which sponsors they’re most excited to talk to, and which ones are giving away the best swag.
Are there people you’ve been talking to on Twitter or Slack for two years but have never met? Make it a priority to get together, and do it early in the week. Is there someone prominent in the community whom you’ve always wanted to meet? The first time you spot them across a room or hallway, walk over and introduce yourself. Do not tell yourself “nah, I’ll catch them tomorrow” because you don’t know if you’ll see them again. Remember, there are 5,000 people at Summit.
I get it. It’s intimidating. You spot a community celebrity at a table during lunch, on the escalator, or even three seats away from you in a session, and you think “why would they want to talk to me?” Say hi anyway! They’re a person, just like you. They’re there to meet people, just like you. It’s easy, I’ll write the script for you.
Hi there CoolPerson McPutsPantsOnOneLegAtATimeLikeMe, I’m OtherCoolPerson VonPutsSweatersOnArmsFirst, great to see you here! I loved your blog post about properly caring for kitchen knives earlier this year.
You can adjust and edit that however you like. The point is, it’s OK to feel a little nervous but really, people are nice and if they’re not in a position to have a conversation, they’ll be polite about it if you’re polite too.
When you’re having a group conversation, do not make it a closed ring/circle. Form a U shape, a horseshoe. This is will encourage others to join in the conversation. As more people join the conversation, re-open the top of that horseshoe. Please excuse the crudeness of my ASCII art in these examples.
Let’s say you’re having a conversation with 7 of your new friends. The group might tend toward forming up like this:
OO O O O O OO
But this doesn’t invite new people to join in. A ninth person comes along, sees the closed circle, and moves on. However, if you form a horseshoe like this, there’s a gap and that person can jump in and join the conversation.
O O O O O O O O
When this new person joins in the group, everyone then shuffles around a bit to re-open the top of the horseshoe so others can jump in.
O O O O O O OOO
Edit 2019-10-29: This evening, someone retweeted an older tweet which speaks to this idea. Eric Holscher has dubbed it The Pac Man Rule and the animated GIF in the the tweet does a far better job of explaining than my ASCII art.
Going to a conference? Yes! Introduce yourself. Say hello. Chat to people. They're lovely. Really! And if you're already chatting in a group, make your group approachable using @ericholscher's Pac-Man Rule.— Dylan Beattie @ YOW! Brisbane 🇦🇺 (@dylanbeattie) March 29, 2019
Here's how it works.
Have fun! pic.twitter.com/QklklD43Me
Hey, What’s That Jazz on Your Badge?
Badge ribbons are a great way to network! Ask people about the colored strips hanging under their badges. Collect some extras and trade (like patches, if you’re familiar with patch trading in Scouts) them!
No, not it’s not like collecting Pokemon. Way cooler.
Ask folks what their ribbons mean and where to get them. Some are goofy, others serious, some informative. Some may help you find help when you need it, or help signal to others that you’re a Summit first-timer and might need some help navigating the convention center.
All around Summit, there are after-hours (and before-hours) community and sponsor events to get engaged in. These are also excellent networking opportunities! You don’t have to do them all and if you attempt to do so, you’ll crash and burn before the Thursday morning keynote is finished. Some are at the convention center, others are located relatively close by (but as I noted in my logistics post, my definition of “close by” may differ from yours).
A number of the Summit sponsors also host their own events during the week. Keep your eyes and ears open for these.
PASS maintains a list of official/sanctioned community events on the Summit Activities page. These events are all subject to the PASS Anti-Harassment policy, as are (as far as I know) events hosted by sponsors. I personally have not witnessed or been involved with anything that falls afoul of that policy, but understand that if you are at one of the events listed there and something happens, you have official recourse.
On that Activities page, you’ll see SQL Karaoke. Don’t be fooled into thinking that there’s only one night - that’s just the official event. You can get your karaoke fix every night of the week at Summit if you want.
I’ve participated in Games Night a few times and really enjoyed it. It’s relatively quiet and low-key, you can meet and talk to people without shouting, and maybe learn a new game to take home to your family. I haven’t decided which night I’ll be at, or if it’ll be both.
Mike Walsh (blog | twitter) over at Straight Path Solutions has organized the PASS Prayers group Summit for several years. I haven’t heard if he’ll be doing it this year but keep an eye on his blog for updates. Edit: Mike has posted details for the 2019 edition.
Rounding out the week is the SQL Family dinner at Crab Pot on Friday. If you’ve got a redeye flight home that evening, you can grab a bite and get your final SQLFamily fix before heading to the airport.
There will be pop-up events through the week as well. The only way I know of to find out about those is via Twitter. I admit, I fail pretty hard at this one.
Last but definitely not least on the list of unofficial events is #sqlrun. Because after flying cross-country (or halfway around the world), what’s better than waking up at 5:30 AM and going for a 5K run with a bunch of people you just met? No, seriously. Bring your running gear and join in! You don’t even have to run, walkers are welcome too. And it’s a great way to network!
There is no shortage of people to meet and places to meet them at Summit. Take advantage of these opportunities, but pace yourself.