I attended my first PASS Summit in 2004. Why did I go? Because of two words: Professional Association. I wanted to grow my professional skills as a DBA, and I knew that meant more than just technical knowledge. I knew I needed to join a network of like-minded individuals where we could learn and grow together.

The first morning there I met Pat Wright (blog | @SQLAsylum). Well, more like he met me, as he lumbered over and sat down at my table during breakfast. We ended up attending the same pre-conference seminar together given by Kimberly Tripp (blog | @KimberlyLTripp) where we met Allen Kinsel (blog | @sqlinsaneo). We stayed close to each other all week, sharing meals and talking about our shops. The three of us came to the Summit knowing nobody but were fortunate to have met each other. We left the Summit and stayed in touch, returning the next year, and every year since.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that many of our first-time attendees arrive at the Summit knowing nobody. They meet no one, they eat alone, they leave, and we don’t see them again. How do I know this? Because every year, we have roughly 800 people at our Summit for the first time. If those 800 came back every year, we would be over 7,000 attendees by now.

Clearly, we need to improve our customer retention. That’s what led me to think about putting together an Orientation Committee to help first-time attendees get connected, share experiences, and learn from each other. I believe this will translate into more repeat attendees, which will result in more knowledge, more sharing, and better growth opportunities for everyone.

We launched the PASS Orientation Committee (“the OC” for short) last year at PASS Summit, and we are doing it again this year. That means we need volunteers to serve as “Big Brother/Sisters” for a group of new members – and we need new attendees to sign up to participate.

We are thinking most groups will have about 9 people (8 newbies and 1 OC member). The OC member will help the first-timers feel welcome, introduce them around, help facilitate discussions, answer questions, etc. OC members will be in contact with their assigned group well ahead of Summit and ideally will arrange a meeting with their group before the Welcome Reception. In case that is not possible, we are going to reserve a room at the Convention Center so that all OC members can meet with their groups just prior to the Welcome Reception.

If you are interested in serving as a member of the OC, drop us an email at OC_DL@sqlpass.org. And if you are attending the Summit for the first time and want to participate in the program, sign up by sending an email to OC_Newcomer@sqlpass.org.

Watch for updates on Twitter as we finalize the details and participate in the discussion by using the #sqlpassOC hashtag.

See you in Seattle!