Welcome! I’m Thomas…

PASS Orientation Committee

PASS Orientation Committee

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.

4 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

  • Makes perfect sense to me, and I think it would be helpful to first-timers. I wouldn’t restrict it to just first-timers though – there are people who may have attended several Summits, but haven’t managed to make many connections. Why not let them share?

  • sounds like a good idea.

  • Started a response here, decided I was getting too wordy, so I blogged my response.

    • Thomas LaRock


      That’s hilarious, even better than hijacking a thread, you have hijacked my post for your own!

      Great feedback, as always, thanks. I’m not sure we can make it perfect, but I do think we have an area to explore with this idea.

  • Turner Foster

    Sounds like a great idea! I wonder if it would be possible arrange groups by order of sql server usage. For example I’m a dba by default in a small shop ( 2 instances total < 1TB). I would love to be able to find a group of peers with problems similar to mine.

    • Thomas LaRock


      That is a very interesting idea. Not sure we could do that for this year, but we could certainly try to introduce people to each other that have similar scales and interests. For example, if I knew of 3-4 BizTalk admins, or Sharepoint, or a handful of people who are struggling with audit and security issues.

  • Spectacular idea – but as you’ve said – it’s the execution that counts.
    John’s got a point about non-first-timers. I think a focused effort could be made to first-timers, but also keep it open to others.

    • Thomas LaRock


      Yessir, we could try to figure out a way to expand it, but I think for the initial versions we need to focus on a core group. Perhaps the non-first timers would be the people most interested in serving as a facilitator?

  • jonmcrawford

    I would love this if I were attending. Now go work the bugs out before I get there….

  • Tom,

    I think it is a great idea! It fits with one of my goals this year whihc is to try to introduce myself to people who look lost so put me down to be on the Orientation Committee.

  • Bettina Boyle

    Tom, this is a great suggestion. Also really like John’s and Karen’s focus on connections and networking for non-first timers. I believe there are some ideas on the way for an Ambassador Program with a similar intent. Let’s keep the ideas flowing so that everyone gets a superb networking experience.

  • Meredith Ryan-Smith

    This is a fantastic idea and sounds much like a conversation that Denny Cherry and I had with Bill Graziano one night last year during the summit. If you find yourself in need of volunteers I am happy to help. I spent the first several Summit’s I attending only talking to the folks I traveled with and only last year made the effort to meet and get to know anyone else.

  • Since no one else has said it:

    “Hi, Eric Stratton, rush chairman. Damn glad to meet you.”

    But seriously, it’s not a bad idea. Put it on top of the WIT lunch and the MVP lunch, we’re doing just about everything possible to get everyone in the summit a chance to shake hands with someone else.

    I’m in.

  • As a first-time attendee, I think this is a great idea. Your description of the user experience is exactly how I felt the first (and only) time I attended SQL Connections. I loved the material, didn’t meet a soul. I hope for a very different experience at PASS. Let me know if I can help!


    p.s. Loved Grant’s line about rush chair 🙂

  • Ed Leighton-Dick

    Great idea, Tom! I’m another that could really have used this at my first Summit. Please let me know what I can do to help get this going.


  • It’s a great idea, I definitely agree with John though, don’t limit it to first timers.
    I’m going to be headed up to my second summit and I made a grand total of zero connections at the last one…damn shyness


    As a first timer this year coming on my own, I would not mind a little help getting to meet a few others who I only know by Twitter handle or name.

  • Josh Arenz

    I think it is a great idea. I’m attending my first Summit and think it would really help me get more out of the experience.

  • So can I have @projmgr beside me as I walk up to people, just so that they know that I’m married, too? Or would that come across wrong as well?

    I’m in for anything I can do to help people “network”…I mean, “talk with other people”.

  • Tom,

    Being a first timer I am down. Feel free to use me as a test case.


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