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PASS Summit 2013

27 Jan PASS Summit 2013

As some of you are aware, the PASS Summit for 2013 does not yet have a home. We have already sent out an RFP to roughly 15 cities. At the most recent PASS Board meeting we narrowed the list of cities down to five. I am not able to name those cities at this time, as we have asked those five cities to prepare their final  numbers for us to review. We expect to have those numbers in about a month or so at which time the Board will call for a vote and we will select a city.

Even though this decision is weeks away I have been spending a good amount of time trying to figure out what would be the deciding factors for me to support a Summit in one city versus another. My short list is as follows:

  • Microsoft support (in terms of employee attendance, not in terms of sponsor dollars)
  • Location to a safe, walkable downtown (ideal for networking and socializing)
  • Easily navigable conference center (you don’t need to walk for 20 minutes to get from one end to the other)
  • Affordable hotels
  • Affordable dining
  • Airport hub (need to minimize travel for all attendees)
  • Length of travel time to and from Summit

Those are the ones that immediately come to mind. Please let me know if you feel there is something else to consider, I am certain I am forgetting something.

In addition to the list of considerations I also need to weigh the importance of each. So, which would have more weight, affordable hotels or Microsoft support? Maybe being a downtown is better than having affordable dining? I don’t know I have the answers. But I do know that the more people I talk with the more I find that everyone has a different focus. Some people want a city like Seattle strictly because of Microsoft being there in full force, while others are tired of traveling to Seattle every year (myself included).

It is not an easy decision for us to make and I wanted people to know and understand it is on our minds now, well in advance of the decision. If you want to provide feedback in the comments below, please do.

4 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

  • http://www.truthsolutions.com/ K. Brian Kelley

    “Easily navigable conference center (you don’t need to walk for 20 minutes to get from one end to the other)”

    You wouldn’t be talking about Boston, would you?

    • Thomas LaRock

      KBK,

      No, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you if I was. My point is that I don’t want something like at TechEd in NO last year, it took a long time to get between rooms. To me that is a deciding factor, but probably not one that has a lot of weight when compared to others.

  • http://www.truthsolutions.com/ K. Brian Kelley

    I meant about 20 minutes between. That was the biggest issue with respect to TechEd in Boston. My (now) boss and I were talking about it then. Sometimes we made decisions based on the fact that we didn’t have to go from one side of the conference center to the other because it took so long.

  • http://tenbulls.co.uk Mark Broadbent

    Somewhere warmer and ideally East Coast to lessen the travel time for all of us Europeans :) Also opening up those 5 cities to a public round of voting would be nice for you guys to gauge the interest in them as well.

    • Thomas LaRock

      Mark,

      We can’t publicly say which cities are involved at this time. Part of the reason for my post was to get more ideas about what would make one venue more attractive than another. I’m trying to weigh every possible factor.

  • sqlglenn

    Microsoft support. Having a large number of MS types, I think is an advantage.

  • Andrew Karcher

    Tom,

    1) Keep in mind proximity of airport to conference center and transit to/from. Seattle was bad for this before the train.
    2) My order of importance:
    a: Proximity of Services to Conf. Center (Hotels, Restaurants, Downtown, etc.) – Doesn’t have to be in a downtown, just so there are at least some options.
    b: Easily Navigable Conf. Center
    c: Microsoft Particpation (Some aspects of their participation is more important than others.)
    d: Length of Travel Time

  • http://sqlinthewild.co.za Gail Shaw

    Usable public transport. Don’t want to be using taxis all the time to just get around.

  • http://www.sqlandy.com Andy Warren

    I agree with the approach. Assign weights to how much each area matters – is easy navigation 10% or 80%?

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  • http://sqlvariant.com/wordpress/ Aaron Nelson

    The thing that strikes me about this topic is how it seems no one ever considers all the people that completely ignore PASS as a whole because they think it’s all about Seattle. I always wrote off PASS because the second someone mentioned the Summit being in Seattle I was done listening. Even Seattle in August/September is a hard sell to someone like me. It’s 2 days of travel away. In fact I would have never attended the Summit at all, ever, if it had not have been for Geoff Hiten. I was 8 years into my DBA career at that point.

    I am far from the only person that feels this way. People at SQL Saturdays (across the East Coast) looked at me like I had two heads last year anytime I tried to explain to them that the Summit is in Seattle in November and that I was going. I give people plenty of reasons to look at me like I have two heads but this shouldn’t have to be one of them.

    Here’s a fact that struck me when I heard that TechEd was coming to Atlanta: “With Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the Georgia
    World Congress Center is accessible to 80 percent of the American
    population in two hours or less”. My point here isn’t to sell Atlanta so don’t take it that way. My point is to ask: What on Earth would you do with an extra 300, 600, 900 people that would finally take a look and consider the PASS Summit if you were to hold it somewhere more accessible? I know it’s hard (nearly impossible) to budget for an expected increase like that but you have to realize how many people are staying away right?

    I think that PASS should consider trying to Connect & Share with people somewhere other than Seattle.

  • http://blogs.softartisans.com Claire

    I agree–make it on the East coast so it’s more open to our Continental brethren. And maybe Boston’s conference center is a bit on the larger side, but Kendall Sq is easily accessible to nightlife in both Boston and Cambridge. And Boston is one of the most walkable cities in the country (note I wrote walkable, not driveable!).

  • http://sqlserverperformance.wordpress.com Glenn Berry

    I actually like Seattle. Unless the Summit is in your home city, you are going to have some travel time and expense involved, no matter what.

    Besides that, a lot of people go out drinking and singing karaoke every single night at PASS, plus they arrive days early and stay days late.

    That is all fine, but it makes me a little less sympathetic to complaints about travel time to the Summit…

    • Thomas LaRock

      Glenn,

      For some of us we are forced to arrive early and stay late. I cannot get easy flights out to SEA from my home airport. Trying to get east from SEA the following day can be a pain, unless you are willing to pay extra. For the MVP Summit I was forced to do yet another redeye in order to save money. Fortunately I had some vouchers and I could cash those in to save money and get a better flight option.

  • http://sqlblog.com/blogs/jonathan_kehayias Jonathan Kehayias

    Linked transportation service from the Airport to the Conference Center. For example, if you did Orlando, there is nothing like the light-link rail in Seattle to the Orange County Convention Center. You can do a bus, trolly, or a cab though.

    • Thomas LaRock

      Jonathan,

      Agreed, easy public transport is a nice thing to have.

  • Mark Shay

    Vegas usually works well for conferences. There is all sorts pricing options for food, easy to navigate, tons of entertainment and what happens their stays their.

    • Thomas LaRock

      Mark,

      Vegas has been mentioned in the past as well, but can be a hard sell for people to convince their companies to let them go to Vegas for a conference. Not every company, but some companies simply say “no” to Vegas.

  • Peter S

    Unless it’s a really major year for MS SQL Server, I don’t care that MS employees are there in force. We have a very intelligent community with people who can answer almost anything and present really well. I think I may have gone to one or two MS sessions at PASS 2009. Most of the presentations were done by people in the field, doing what I do.

    Seattle is a haul for most of the US. Sure MS is right there, but they have some big offices all over the place. Living around DFW, I appreciated the conference coming here in 2005 – saved a bunch on travel/lodging which can be a big expense. Admittedly, the venue didn’t have the close downtown and I don’t think they were ready for a tech conference (1st year), but everything was definitely close for the conference stuff.

    Personally, I kind of like the idea of heading to Nashville. Their downtown is really nice for walking around, they have a pretty good conference center, prices are reasonable for lodging and meals, and they’re pretty centrally located – driveable for a lot of people and plane for others.

    For me, travel time and expense for lodging/travel make a difference. I could probably pay my conference admission, but add in hotel, food, and airfare, and it quickly goes over budget, even if rooming with someone.

    The Seattle venue _is_ nice. Good downtown area, PASS knows how to work the conference center, MS is close, and a there’s a bunch of nightlife. However, it’s not something I could do annually unless someone else paid my way for everything.

    I hope the community gets to have a say in the final process. I think that’s probably one of the major complaints people had this time around. The community at large says “we should consider moving the conference.” The group in charge comes back with “we’re not moving for a while”. It felt very much like the decision was made without listening to the members as a whole.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Tom. I know this is a touchy subject for everyone and appreciate what you are able to share with us.

    • Thomas LaRock

      Thanks for the comment Peter, much appreciated.

  • http://noelmckinney.com Noel McKinney

    I appreciate all the different perspectives on this, so this isn’t an argument against any of them, just the way I see it.

    I also realize that since I’m in Chicago there’s some indifference because West vs. East Coast is going to be about the same travel effort. And by the way, I’m not going to advocate bringing the Summit to Chicago… yuck!

    I like the Pacific Northwest, so the Summit is an excuse to go there at least once a year.

    Also, if you have it there every year, I know what to expect, and so do the organizers.

    For the organizers, there’s quite a cost with having to get up to speed on a new city every x years and hoping it delivers what was promised. You’ve got a lot of things to juggle that you just take for granted now because the same location has been used for so many years.

    For the attendees however, three or more days can be unpleasant if the location doesn’t end up being what was promised. I know what’s waiting for me in the Seattle location. It might not be the same elsewhere. I’ve experienced this with another organization that I ended up quitting because of the location roulette wheel. The last conference I went to was in a city I won’t mention, but it was a turning point for me. The city was one I liked, had nearby places I wanted to visit, etc. However, when we arrived it was in a horrible part of town. The locals told us not to leave the convention center in any direction because you could be mugged or worse. They weren’t joking. After getting bored with four days at the convention center, my wife and I walked to a restaurant a half mile away or so. The restaurant was almost empty, but the food was good and service was nice. When we got back to the convention center and told people where we ate, they told us that someone was shot in that restaurant the night before! By the end of the conference, everyone was complaining about the location, and the organizers kept saying they were sorry, they didn’t scout the location adequately, etc. They promised they’d do a better job the next year. When they announced the next conference, it was in a city where we had lived, and we were familiar with the location and knew that it was in another one of these crime zones where cities put convention centers for economic rejuvenation or whatever. I resigned from the organization. Now here’s the other thing, you can say that your association management company has expertise in this area and can help you get the appropriate location, but this organization I resigned from had an association management company too.

    So that was a big paragraph, but it’s the experience I’ve had with organizations that try having their big annual event in different cities so that the distance traveled is equitable to everyone. If you say it’s going to be in Seattle or Orlando then I’ll feel comfortable going there because the crew knows those two cities. If it’s somewhere I’ve lived previously, like Boston, then I’ll attend if the conference is in a part of town that’s safe and enjoyable. If it’s somewhere else, then whether I’m interested in attending will depend. I like seeing everybody, but being locked up for five days in a convention center isn’t a good time.

    • Thomas LaRock

      Thanks Noel, you raise a good point about the issues faced when moving from one city to another.

  • http://erikasblog.datainspirations.com Erika Bakse

    One thing that should also be taken into consideration is what the weather will be like in November. I know a lot of people get down on in whatever city is chosen. Seattle rain, but rain doesn’t shut down travel – snow does. Which we have seen a LOT of recently. It would be a disaster of some sort of snowpocalypse-nth-point-oh shuts down whatever hub airport is the final destination for the conference.

    • Thomas LaRock

      Erika,

      The Summit is held in the Fall, and the month is usually dictated by availability. For example, this year it is in October. In the past is has been September as well. Besides snow, we have also had issues with hurricanes in Orlando and in Dallas.

  • Jason Hall

    Interesting thing to consider. What were the attendance figures of the last two PASS conferences not in Seattle. I have nothing to base this off of other than Expo Hall activity, but I seem to recall that both Dallas and Denver seemed slower than most other PASS events. I’m all for moving things out of Seattle for a change of pace, but I’m not sure its reasonable to expect a huge bumb in attendance just because a more centrally located city is selected.

    • Thomas LaRock

      Jason,

      The attendance has gone up steadily these past few years. Things were slower in Denver, but that was a transition year to C&C and that event was planned on a very short cycle. I don’t think we would expect a huge bomb in attendance by going to another city. I think my concern is going to a city that offers us a comparable product. Thus my question for what factors I should consider and the weights for each.

  • Mala

    Affordability, convenience of travel, safe downtown,Microsoft presence – in that order, matter to me and those I know. Seattle has only been an issue as far as travel time from east coast goes.Seattle hotels are great and downtown/convention center awesome. Boston by far has the highest hotel rates downtown, even more than NYC many times. What i understand is that the big four – NYC, Boston, Chicago and LA are pretty tough cost wise. Any of the smaller cities like Raleigh, Nashville or even Vegas would work fine.

  • Jeff York

    I really enjoy the conference in Seattle, if nothing else for some of the reasons mentioned above by others. I do like the Microsoft presence in Seattle and as This year will be my 4th conference(all in Seattle) I know exactly where things are and what to expect. I’d hate for the Summit to be in another city. I can appreciate some of the reasons for moving it, though.

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  • Tom Hoover

    For me it is critical there be strong participation from Microsoft. This was my first year attending SQLSummit and the only way I was authorized to attend was when I reinforced this was a working conference by the amount of participation of SQLCat, Support and subject matter experts. If the event was held in Las Vegas I would never be authorized to attend. I might pay for it myself, but that is a little questionable.

  • Andy Irving

    You get Microsoft attendance if you’re a big enough conference regardless of where you are. see the large delegation heading to sql bits 8 as an example, relative to the expected number of delegates.

    • Thomas LaRock

      Andrew,

      How many people attend SQLBits, and how many folks from Microsoft are going?

  • http://www.webbtechsolutions.com/blog Joe Webb

    Peter’s right. Nashville is a GREAT place to have the Summit. Centrally located, not too expensive, easy to navigate around, all the things you’ve mentioned.

    See you in 2013. :)

  • Peter Schott

    Biased there, Joe? :-)

    I do think it’s a great place, but only because I don’t think anyone will come back out to DFW. :-(

  • Andy Irving

    Not sure how many attend, but way, way less than PASS. see http://www.sqlbits.com for details about who’s going from MS

  • http://weblogs.sqlteam.com/markc Mark (AjarnMark) Caldwell

    Tom, I live outside of Seattle, so I don’t have the travel and lodging expenses that others do when PASS is here, and even I a looking forward to a little venue variety. I have been to 8 Summits, and this last year was the first time that having a specific resource from Microsoft was of any interest to me, and that was just a shortcut to me having to wade through lengthy searches of their Knowledgebase when they could more quickly find the articles I needed and send them to me. In my experience, most of the Microsoft speakers (Buck Woody being a notable exception) are not as good as the community speakers, so their presence is not a determining factor for me.

    Other things that are valuable: Food & Lodging costs; convention facility sprawl (lack of); nearby restaurant options. Good weather and resort amenities are nice additions, but not over the above.

    I favor a balanced rotation that includes Seattle every couple of years, but not 100% of the time.

    Thanks for doing the hard work that is involved with researching and deciding this type of thing for the community!

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