When SQL Connections in the spring was announced, the folks at Red Gate and SQL Server Central reached out to a few of us about submitting abstracts for a SQLServerCentral.com track at the event. A couple of years ago I had submitted several abstracts for the SQL Connections event in the fall and was accepted. However, I had to withdraw at the last moment due to something I've blogged about previously. Therefore, when the opportunity came again to put my name in the hat for SQL Connections, I jumped on it. Two of my abstracts were selected:
I've done security for so long that the second one was right in my comfort zone. So of course, the Windows internals one was first! Needless to say, I was nervous. I've done presentations at user groups, for a training class for auditors, and at SQL Saturdays and code camps. While I was selected to present at PASS a couple of years ago, I had to withdraw from it for the same reason as I withdrew from the previous SQL Connections. As far as technical presentations were concerned, this was the biggest stage I had ever been on. Thankfully, there were old and new friends to help put me at ease.
One of the things I didn't understand about conferences was that they aren't just about learning. They should be about networking, too, and building on previous relationships. That's something I learned from Keith Ferrazzi. If you truly value your relationships, these go beyond the, "What can he/she do for me," into ones where you're looking to build permanent friendships. So it was a pleasure to be able to catch up with Steve Jones, Andy Leonard, and Joe Webb. As I tweeted, I value the time I get to spend with these guys, because they always inspire and motivate me. This was also a time to meet and make new friends. I finally met Brent Ozar, Brad McGehee, Paul Randal, and Jonathan Kehayias in person. It was great to spend some time with each of them, though in the case of Brad and Paul, I know I didn't say a whole lot. That's something I've got to work on, as I can sometimes be painfully introverted. With Brent, as you might guess, there's no chance of you being introverted. He draws people out. That's a wonderful talent to have. Jonathan and I have traded emails and tweets a lot and we have some shared background due to the military, and admittedly, that shared background made him pretty easy to talk to, at least from me.
I think my presentations went well. I was very pleasantly surprised at the attendance at both, basically being filled rooms. Brad and I talked about this after the Windows internals one, because while it's a topic I love, we both thought it would be one that would be considered a niche presentation. Who knew? As for the security presentation, well, it's a security presentation and it was at 8 AM in the morning. I figured with those two strikes against me it would be me and Brad or Steve talking about opening day baseball. I obviously got more questions with the security presentation and to be blunt, there is just so much to talk about with respect to security. Everyone faces security challenges, especially the system administrators who came to the talk. I won't know how well I did from the attendee perspective until I get the reviews back, but I did take the time to talk to some of the other well-known speakers who attended both to get their feedback. There are some things I need to work on, one especially is repeating the question asked, which admittedly I do a poor job of.
Learning wise, Connections was great. I learned more about locking and blocking from Joe Webb, who relates that subject well. I've always heard that if I wanted a great presentation on Locking/Blocking that would keep my interest, Joe's was the one to see. I can say that the advice on that was right on. Jonathan's presentation on Extended Events really made me want to get in and look at them in more detail. He showed how useful they were and how they could reveal things about SQL Server we don't see via any other mechanism. And the other presentation I went to see was one of Brent's. I knew the subject matter, so being in the presentation allowed me to see what makes Brent one of the highest rated presenters whenever he speaks. Two differences really stood at when I compared myself to him.
First, his pace is great. I tend to be a little fast. More rehearsal will help that, especially if I am looking to be at certain points at specified time intervals.Second, his humor comes through constantly. I'm an infrastructure and security guy, so humor is not my strong suit. This is something Toastmasters helps with, and I probably need to spend more time focusing on how to use humor effectively.
So would I go again? Absolutely. The networking was great. The session presentations in the SQL Server track were top notch. And I have already learned lessons on how to be a better presenter. Therefore, everything I took away from Connections was positive. Well, except for the weather. But that's not something the organizers could help.