Blog Post

PASS BoD Election Questions – Summit location


As you may have seen in my post yesterday “PASS Board of Directors Election: Candidates announced” I am running for the PASS Board of Directors.

As part of the process PASS has invited it’s members to write questions in the  PASS Board of Directors forum. Andy Warren (Blog|Twitter) posted the following question:

Candidates, I’d like to know where you stand on the issue of the Summit location – will you vote for moving it around the US to different cities/timezones, or do you think it should be permanently located in Seattle?

My reply was as follows:

Hi Andy,

Thanks for posting your question, I know this topic rouses a lot of emotions for a number of people.

Personally I believe that moving the event around can be a good thing. Figures from this years Summit as Charlotte will be key in seeing if this is a viable ongoing concern. The BA Conference was not held in Seattle and that did not seem to suffer from what I have read.

In the UK we have an event called SQLBits which makes a point of moving around the country in order to make it easier for people to attend. An organizer of the event told me a few years back that they see a hardcore following of a few hundred people who would follow the event wherever it went and the rest of the attendees tend to come from the surrounding area, most of these for the very first time. I see no reason why the same would not be true of moving the PASS Summit round the US. Previous PASS surveys seem to back this statement up.

An argument I have heard for keeping the Summit in Seattle is that Microsoft can provide more employee’s on site for Ask the Expert areas and a large number of sessions. However, this does not seem to stack up when you consider that TechEd has been held in 7 different areas since 1999 and will see it’s eighth different location in 2014:

  • Atlanta – 2001, 2011
  • Boston – 2006
  • Dallas – 1999, 2003
  • Los Angeles – 1996, 2009
  • New Orleans – 1994, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2010, 2013
  • Orlando – 1993, 1997, 2000, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2012
  • San Diego – 2004
  • Houston – 2014

It is likely however that if the summit were to move then Microsoft would undoubtedly reduce their presence which is understandable. They have a budget like every other company and increased travel costs would result in reduced staffing at the event. If this is perceived to be a problem I am sure that a large number of MVP’s would be more than willing to step into the void if they were asked in advance. If we discuss the issue of the number of sessions that Microsoft provide, is this really a problem? There was a huge amount of submissions this year and yes it is possible that not all of these sessions will be of the same standard as Microsoft may be able to provide, but think of the extra viral marketing that could be received by more people blogging and tweeting that they have been chosen to speak at the largest SQL Server event on the planet! Microsoft are not going to hold back their best staff as that would prove counterintuitive to what is essentially an awesome showcase for their product.

The one time that I believe that you really need a lot of Microsoft staff is a release year, at this point we will all be clambering to hear about the internals of the latest feature and how that widget will save our company, make us all superhero’s in the eyes of our colleagues and make us all mortgage free. From this perspective I would suggest that we revert back to Seattle on release years.

PASS Summit 2012 was my very first PASS summit as up until that point none of my previous employers would pay for me to go, so Seattle holds a very special place in my heart. I would love to look around Microsoft (Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, if you are reading this I would love a tour) but for the good of the community I feel it would be better to move the conference around.

Large companies can afford to send their staff across the US, whether it is in Seattle or Orlando would make little difference to their overall budgets. Take a moment to think about all the small – medium companies (the backbone of most economies) who can’t afford the conference fee and then the travel and expenses on top. Moving the conference around will engage with more members and surely that is what we all want? We want to inspire our members to be all that they can be. We want them to have the same experiences of being part of the SQLFamily and to promote PASS Chapters in their area. Don’t they deserve the same opportunities as those who live in the Seattle area?

It is for these reasons that I would vote to move the summit around the US instead of keeping it in Seattle with the caveat of it returning on release years until such time that we outgrow the venue.

Where do you stand on this issue? I’d love to hear your thoughts.




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