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SQLSaturday #40 – South Florida Recap

I had the great privilege to be able to attend and speak at SQLSaturday #40 – South Florida this past weekend (July 31, 2010).  Kudos to Scott Klein and crew for another GREAT SQLSaturday event.  They had close to 600 people register, and based on past experience that means that there should have been 400+ attendees.  There was a great lineup of speakers and everyone I spoke with at the event had a great time.

The speaker dinner was at Longhorn Steakhouse and there was a great turnout as almost all the speakers made it to the party.  I spent most of my time talking with Tim Ford, Adam Jorgensen, Troy Gallant, and Don Gabor, as they were the folks sitting closest to me.  It was a little tough to move around, but overall a good experience.  My one comment to future SQLSaturday planners is to try to get a private room, if you can afford it.  It can be tough on the wait staff, attendees, and other customers if you aren’t in a private area.

I arrived at the event just after 8 am and check-in was running very smoothly, in fact one of the smoother check-ins I’ve been through.  The only problem was that I didn’t know where to go after check-in, no one told me and there were no signs.  They had Brent Ozar and Tim Ford do a keynote to start the day, which I missed, but heard it was good.  The space for the keynote was a little tight, and apparently the AC wasn’t scheduled to kick on until 9.  In South Florida in July, AC is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

I spent the first session in the sponsor area, talking with sponsors.  Sure, I had a ulterior motive, I want them all to sponsor SQLSaturday #49 – Orlando, but it is still good to thank them for their support and learn about their products/services.  I did have an interesting discussion with one sponsor who told me that they only go to events where they can get the electronic attendee list, something we normally don’t offer in Orlando.  I understand where the sponsor is coming from because in addition to the sponsorship cost they also pay to have people attend the event.  With privacy laws being what they are, it can be hard for events to share that information, and, as part of the registration process now, attendees MUST opt-in to allow direct contact from the sponsors.  I haven’t seen the numbers on how many attendees opt-in (I’d guess very few), so I’d hate to offer the list to a sponsor and only have 10 names on it.  I don’t think that would be good for the sponsor relationship.

The second session, I attended Brent Ozar’s Blitz: 60 Minute SQL Server Takeover session.  This was a good session, totally using code examples, no PowerPoint, where Brent shares what he does when taking over administration of a SQL Server.  Some highlights for me were:

  1. Checking for stored procedures marked as startup.  He even mentioned that some monitoring products (unnamed) create startup procedures and the uninstall does not remove them.
  2. Checking recovery models and making sure that DB’s in FULL have log backups happening.
  3. Cleaning up msdb, especially the backup history.  I’ve been burned by this one.

This was a very good session and be sure to check Brent’s website (www.brentozar.com) for the scripts.

The third session and last one I attended was by Dave Levy and was titled, Getting Out from Behind the Curtain - The New DBA.  In this session Dave covered what the perceptions are of a DBA and how to change them.  He did a great job covering areas where DBA’s can stop just being a person that “keeps the lights on”, but can demonstrate their value to the company.  A big part of the session was staying on top of the industry by continuously learning and then working on your soft skills (leadership, communication, and documentation).  Sessions like this should be required for DBA’s, especially in today’s economic climate.  If you aren’t communicating the value you provide, then why shouldn’t your work be outsourced, if it is only “keeping the lights on”?

Lunch went fairly well, with boxed lunches from Firehouse Subs.  IT seemed like lunch went pretty smoothly with seating in the Commons area (where the sponsors were setup) and outside.  I saw lots of talking going on during lunch and didn’t really notice anyone eating alone.

After lunch I relaxed and mentally prepared for my session.  Some of that preparation was just talking with other speakers and event organizers about how the day was going and experiences with sponsors.  I like to be sure I’m relaxed and I don’t really like to go over my presentation that day, I like to think I’ve prepared well enough ahead of time for the presentation to go well.  My session was in the 3:20 block, the last block of the day.  For some reason that seems to be the default for me, and I’m not sure if it is a compliment (you can keep tired attendees awake) or not.  Either way it is always fun to present no matter what slot you are in or the number of attendees in the session.  My session was titled, Don’t Be Trigger Happy: Safe Use of Triggers.  Not a great name, and after this event and being on the PASS Summit 2010 Program Committee, I’ve decided to no longer try to be creative with my names.  I’m going to stick with simple, descriptive names and try to have a really good abstract.  I had about 15 attendees in the session and I thought it went really well, especially for a first-time presentation.  I was able to cover all my material and answer all the questions in the time allotted (about 2 minutes over).  All my demos worked, excepted for the blank SQL script, but, fortunately, I could handle that one live.  I was able to cover basic DDL triggers with a couple of basic examples and the basics of DML triggers with examples as well.  I also covered the basic do’s and don’ts of DML triggers.  Things like:

  1. Do be set-based.  Triggers work on sets, not individual rows.
  2. Don’t rely on outside resources in a trigger, liked linked servers or xp_cmdshell.
  3. Do remember that triggers are part of a transaction and an error or rollback in the trigger rolls back the entire transaction.

I also covered some other options you have in SQL Server other than triggers.  I didn’t go into detail, but just covered technologies you should look into.

I felt like the attendees were engaged in the session and had specific things that they could take back to the office and implement.

The raffle at the end of the day seemed crazy!  There was a ton of SWAG to give away and it seemed like almost everyone took something home.  In reality, I really like the way Atlanta gave away the books and smaller SWAG, by giving each presenter a few books to give away in their session to people who turned in session evaluations.  This meant that the end of the day raffle was focused on the “Big” items like the XBOX, iPod, iPad, and software licenses.  The raffle is always exciting though.

I chose to make the long drive home immediately after the event, which is always a tough decision for me to make because I love going to the After Party to continue to meet people and to get to know people I’ve already met better.  At this event I met several “new” people from Twitter, like Dave Levy (@dave_levy), Karen Lopez (@datachick), Noel McKinney (@NoelMcKinney), and others I didn’t follow on twitter, like Sam Abraham (@wildturtle21) and Elliot Lipson (@BigE54).

As I said, overall it was a great event.  Here are some thing I learned from it:

  1. You can’t have too many signs.  This was one area I thought the event fell short.  I didn’t see any signs.  I had to ask where the sessions were because they were on the second floor, but there were no signs to tell me that.
  2. Make sure you have the event rooms on the schedule along with the track names.  There was a schedule with track names and a map with the room numbers and track names, but the rooms being used for the event didn’t stand out.  Again, I had to ask where the rooms were.
  3. Offer value to sponsors.  They were able to get some Platinum sponsors by offering a table in the sponsor area AND a table in one event room with one minute at the start of each session to introduce themselves.  This was a very creative way to offer more value to the sponsors AND get some more sponsor dollars to make the event better.

Again, kudos to Scott Klein and crew for a great event and I hope I can make it down for next year’s event as well.

Comments

Posted by Tim Mitchell on 2 August 2010

Sorry I missed it, sounds like a great event.  See you in Denver next month?

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