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Would Third-party Product Driven/Vendor Sessions Benefit User Groups and Community Events?

In the the couple of years I have been involved in the SQL Server community I have noticed that there is an issue with third-party product driven sessions or sponsor sessions at events.  The argument I usually hear against these sessions is that organizers are concerned about the event becoming viewed as a marketing event.  I’ve even had a short email discussion with Grant Fritchey (@GFritchey) about how it would be nice if he did a session on database source and version control based on a post he made in this SQLServerCentral thread.  His response to my suggestion was:

…but I need to do it without using any particular vendor’s products… not easy…


…lots of organizations and people won’t accept presentations when they include third party products. It’s too much like a sales pitch…

Steve Jones (@way0utwest), also, had an editorial poll last Friday (1/8/2010), Balancing the Message, that dovetails nicely with this post, where he asks:

Think about the value that you've gotten from third party products. Think about the problems you've solved, or the help you've gotten from a backup tool, an editor, or a performance product. How would you like to learn about enhancements. What's a high impact, low interruption way of communicating with you?

I’d like to present 2 reasons why I think third-party product driven and/or vendor sessions should be acceptable at events:

  1. Most of us use third-party products, and we could use the help in learning how to use them better.  Isn’t that the point of user groups and SQLSatuday’s?  If I’m using a third-party product to monitor my SQL Server all the great sessions on DMV’s, Wait Stats, and Extended Events are great, but I also need to be taught how to best leverage the capabilities of the product as well.  The best part is that this session doesn’t even have to come from the vendor, it can be from any SQL Server professional who uses and is passionate about the product.
  2. Vendors pay for these events and they need to get value from the event as well.  Sure, they get a table and the opportunity to do demos for folks who stop by, but I think they would get a better response with a full-session and proper presentation facilities.  I did have a Twitter/email conversation about this with Brent Ozar (@BrentO), who works for Quest.  He thinks that Quest, and likely other vendors, would be more willing to sponsor events if they were guaranteed a time-slot for a product demo.  I don’t have an issue with this as long as the session is clearly marked as a product demonstration.  This demo could be the thing that gets them the sale or sales that make the event worth sponsoring.  You wouldn’t give every sponsor a session, but your top-level sponsors might get one and you could limit the number of top level slots.

I have to admit that reason 1 carries more weight with me as an attendee/organizer than reason 2.  I’d especially be interested in sessions submitted and presented by users of a third-party product than by the vendor as it would be less likely to be a sales session.  I have to admit, that, as a member of OPASS leadership, I’d be unlikely to have a vendor session at a user group meeting, but at a SQLSaturday, I’d happily have a 2 or 3 vendor sessions, as I believe any marketing backlash would easily be offset by the 20 or more non-vendor session.

So what do you think?  Would you be turned off to SQLSaturday or other community event if there were vendor sessions or sessions based on third-party products?


Posted by Anonymous on 14 January 2010

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