Last year I was having dinner at the PASS Summit and having a great conversation with Adam Machanic (blog | twitter). One thing that Adam pointed out to me was that the average user experience for someone at a PASS Summit was to attend by themselves and rarely interact with others. “They come alone, they eat alone, they go home alone, and they never connect with anyone” was close to what Adam told me.
And I really couldn’t argue with that. See, I am one of those people as well. In fact, had I not met Pat Wright (blog | twitter) and Allen Kinsel (blog | twitter) on my very first day at my very first PASS Summit, I may have never met anyone. [Believe it or not, I am a shy person by nature. Stop laughing.]
So…what can we do to change things?
Well, here is an idea I had, and it goes back to my college days. When I showed up for my freshman year I was greeted by members of the Orientation Committee. These were dedicated student volunteers who helped me move into my room, show me around campus, and introduce me to a handful of other freshman. I was assigned a Big Sister, an upperclassman who was willing to answer some basic questions even before I arrived (I seem to recall having a phone conversation with her a few weeks before we even met).
So, why not do the same thing for new people that are attending the PASS Summit? Have a PASS Orientation Committee (OK, we need a better name, I know).
From what I can tell we need the following things:
- Names of people that are attending for the first time (we have this data)
- Names of people willing to help facilitate a group discussion (we put out a call for help)
- A venue for everyone to meet (Welcome Reception seems like a good time to meet, if we can find a quiet spot)
What more do we need than that? The group leader would spend time talking with everyone, get to know a little bit about why each person has chosen to attend, can offer to help them connect to someone else in the Community (like send everyone with replication problems to talk to Kendal Van Dyke), and most importantly we can get these people to build a connection with someone else which is going to result in a more positive Summit experience and make it more likely to have those persons return next year.
Let me know if you think this idea has merit or not. If you think it has legs, then I’ll work to get it in place before November.