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PASS Summit Location

Andy Warren has posted another one of his excellent summaries of what’s going on at the PASS Board. Andy, thanks for what you do. Those of us who care about what goes on at PASS really appreciate your posts.

The discussion under consideration this time is the location of the PASS Summit. As you may be aware, it’s been held in Seattle for several years now and will be there for at least two more years going forward. It seems that the board is leaning, extremely heavily, towards making it a permanent fixture in Seattle.

I can see why they might do this. First, and biggest, it’s next door to Microsoft. That means the Summit gets tons and tons of Microsoft Employees in attendance, which is a huge draw and a very nice benefit. Second, it’s right near the management company’s headquarters, making it less expensive to get the huge staff needed to make a conference this size work. Third, the staff and volunteers are very familiar with the venue (assuming it stays the venue) so it makes planning and execution much easier. It really does make sense. The strongest of these arguments is, of course, the Microsoft presence.


Yeah, there is a but.

There are a lot of people, just in the US, who live in time zones other than the Pacific. In fact, way over half the US population is located in the Central and Eastern time zones. Let’s also add in Europe for consideration. All these places require extra travel time to get over to the Pacific. That’s added expense to individuals or companies, and remember, we’re talking about more than half the population of the US and all of Europe. That’s for the attendees and the speakers (who are attendees too, make no doubt about it) as well as the vendors and their staff, an extra 3-6 hours of travel, which usually means, an entire day on either side of the summit, just spent travelling. Plus an extra day or two in the hotel. Plus extra money spent on food. Let’s also add that this is frequently non-productive or less-productive times for the companies. And don’t forget the stresses and possible costs to the families left at home when all these people are travelling. All that cost is going to add up, and a heavy percentage of 1/2 of the US and all of Europe, might just decide they don’t want to pay all those added costs. Not every year. One year, maybe two, maybe in a release year, who knows, but not every year.

I guess the question is, are more people going to not show up because of cost than the number of people who won’t show up because the SQL CAT (great people, I’ve met several, helpful, smart, useful, I really appreciate them) won’t be there? The board seems to believe that they will lose more people because of a reduced Microsoft presence than they will lose because of cost.

I’m just not so sure. Based on how the economy has been lately, cost must be a huge factor for many, most, companies deciding how many people to send out for training and networking. Is a company less likely to send their people because some developers won’t be available for questions or because they have to pay more to send people?

I’m just not with the board on this. I think the cost is going to hurt attendance more than the added MS presence will help it. Remember, more than half the presenters are not MS employees, they’re MVP’s and others. And, remember, MS will still send a pretty healthy number of employees, just fewer than they would if the event is in Seattle. After all, they want to get in front of you and encourage you to buy and use their products. That’s a big reason why they support the event at all.

I’ve found that asking questions in blog posts usually leads to few, if any, answers, but I’m still going to ask, just to try to understand how far off base my beliefs are, if they are.

Which is more important to you and your company, reduced costs, or more Microsoft people?

The Scary DBA

I have twenty+ years experience in IT. That time was spent in technical support, development and database administration. I work forRed Gate Software as a Product Evangelist. I write articles for publication at SQL Server Central, Simple-Talk, PASS Book Reviews and SQL Server Standard. I have published two books, ”Understanding SQL Server Execution Plans” and “SQL Server 2008 Query Performance Tuning Distilled.” I’m one of the founding officers of the Southern New England SQL Server Users Group and its current president. I also work on part-time, short-term, off-site consulting contracts. In 2009 and 2010 I was awarded as a Microsoft SQL Server MVP. In the past I’ve been called rough, intimidating and scary. To which I usually reply, “Good.” You can contact me through grant -at- scarydba dot kom (unobfuscate as necessary).


Posted by Glenn Berry on 2 February 2011

Grant, By your logic, the Summit should be held in the geographic center of the United States, which is north of Lebanon, Kansas. This would be fair to everyone.


Looking at the map, maybe Denver, CO is a better choice that can handle an event that size. That is fine by me, since I can literally walk from my office to the Denver Convention Center...

Denver is a two-three hour flight from virtually anywhere in the United States.

Of course, Microsoft pays quite a bit to send lots of their rank and file people to the Summit (as attendees). If the Summit is moved away from Seattle, maybe the Summit registration fee would have to be increased quite a bit to make up for the lost revenue.

Posted by Grant Fritchey on 2 February 2011

Kansas City could work?

I know that no answer is perfect. I'm not even shooting for "fair." I'm just putting forward an alternative point of view because I do think there's a bias (and not an evil one) for many of the board members towards making it better for Microsoft. But Tech-Ed is held all over the country and Microsoft shows up to that one.

There really are people who don't go to Seattle because of the added time & cost. I don't have a clue how many people that is, but I'll bet it's not an inconsequential number.

Heck, I don't know. I'll be Seattle this year, and assuming I keep working hard, in 2012 and beyond. I like the Summit.

Posted by Steve MacDonald on 8 February 2011

For me (and my company), having it in Seattle is pretty important.  I've already had a verbal commitment that I will be able to attend PASS "most, if not all years", but that basically will become void if it moves from Seattle.  There are several reasons for that - For one, we have a Vancouver office which I can stop in on while I'm out there.  Moreover, though, is the fact that right now I can point to SQL PASS and say fairly legitimately that I don't think there's a bigger conference for SQL Server from both a learning perspective and for Microsoft attendance.  Those two go hand in hand, because while having MVPs there to teach is what I want to be there for, having Microsoft employees who I can ask questions of is what my company wants me there for.  If it were to move, even to someplace that would be cheaper for me to fly to (like Denver), I don't know if my company would be as anxious to send me.  

Posted by ThomasLL on 8 February 2011

If the SQLRally concept really takes off (SQLSaturday has gone viral), I do not see why more people will go to the Rally every year, and every 2-3 go to PASS in Seattle.

SQLRally could rotate around every year, maybe even 2-3 a year (Upper East coast, Central and the South).

I do not see why Microsoft cannot afford to pay MS employees to go to a place like Denver or SQLRally, though. Hell, SQL PASS is the greatest promotion tool for MS for SQL Server.



Posted by Ivan Dixon on 8 February 2011

I am with you, Grant; the added time needed to get to Seattle is the major factor reducing my ability to attend. Cost certainly is a function of time.

Vegas, Chicago, St. Louis or Dallas would certainly make it easier on the masses from East of the Rockies.

If I were on the Board, I would look at the distribution of locations represented in the fees and start from there on the what-if analysis. If the numbers show a significant portion from east of the Mountain time zone, I would think hard about trying a Summit in one of the locations I mentioned above.

Just my two cents.

Posted by David Stout on 8 February 2011

I also agree with you, the reduced cost of travel would make it an easy sell to my employer. I would like to see something more centrally located like Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas or even Denver.    Another thought is to host it in a different city every year like many professional organizations do.

Posted by Dave Schutz on 8 February 2011


I'm with you. Maybe keep Summit in Seattle 2 out 3 years and on the 3rd year try a differnet location. Kansas City sound like a good idea or maybe St Louis?

Posted by Jason Brimhall on 8 February 2011

I'm not opposed to moving it around.  My viewpoint may be a little different though.  I think it would be nice to attend PASS and visit other locations throughout the country from a touristic point of view.

Posted by Ray Herring on 9 February 2011

The only way I was able to attend PASS was that it came to Dallas.  My company was willing to cover the admission but no travel, expenses etc.  I am with a new company now and they won't even cover the admission.  So, I might be able to justify to the CFO (wife) a couple of $K admission for training but not the 4+K for air fare, hotel, etc.

My only chance of another PASS is if it is within the area or I have relatives/friends to mooch on :)

Posted by CriticalStatus on 9 February 2011

What about alternating every other year?  What about two US conferences?  There's already PASS Europe.  Why not PASS - East?  Personally I'd rather go to Seattle than here in DC or Atlanta or Chicago.  I like Seattle.  Great town.  I would love to relocate there.  I took a class their nearly 3 years ago and loved it.  So I have motivation.  But, the cost has kept my supervisors from permitting it the past several years.  Like the loyal Cubs fan that I am, I always say "wait til next year."  I believe there is a lot of people that would love to attend if the cost was lower.  The cost of the conference is significant.  Throw in higher cost of lodging than say hotels in the South plus cross-country airfare.  It is prohibitive to many SQL fans.

I think a second PASS in the US East Coast or Central US could easily support the costs of duplicating itself by making its cost more affordable to prospective attendees.  I think PASS could also support conferences elsewhere around the globe.  PASS in Seattle should still be the crown jewel though.  It clearly makes sense to have the main event near Redmond.

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