PASS Summit 2020

  • I'm creating this topis to talk about the 202 Summit, which has gone virtual. A few points:

    • There is a cost to attendees ($500-1000)
    • User Group leaders are not getting an admission comp
    • Some speakers have expressed concerns about content being behind a paywall

    A few links:

    Comments on the decision to go virtual, charge, etc. are welcome. Please confine the discussion to this event only.


  • My thoughts above, but I think this was a good decision and I do not have a problem with the charge. If I were not speaking and working for a company, I think I'd try to get the time off and the conference paid for.


  • So, I've attended the summit for as many times as I have mostly due to the comp code. I will be honest there. I was making 65k or something like that when I joind PASS, there was no way in the world i could afford a conference on that money. Over the years, with several employers , i've been able to keep it going because of that and also found many people willing to start up chapters/engage in volunteering because of that. I don't believe everything has to be selfless, i think we humans function best if we get something out of what we put in - that something need not be monetary, can even be recognition. Like everything that 'recognition' is exploited by many, true, but the vast majority of people work hard to keep the chapters running and promotion PASS as a name. They deserve it.The comp code is not just money, it is that. It is respect and recognition. I don't think too highly of it taken away - especially this year. People are already questioning what the affiliation is worth and this is going to make it even harder for them.

  • I think it should be FREE. I'm going to speculate and say that all the expenses could be covered by sponsors. Making Virtual PASS Summit free would allow PASS to gain new people, beyond people that are PASS aware.

  • The sponsors simply don't provide enough money to both put on Summit and keep the lights on the rest of the year.

    Frankly, some people are going to get their wish. It's a distinct possibility this will be the final Summit. The PASS organization may go away. The financials are that bad. This despite massive pay cuts at HQ. They've done incredible work this year, more than ever before, and they're doing it for less money. Lots less.

    We cut out the free attendance because we just can't afford it. The platform we're going to run Summit on costs money, per attendee. It's going to be so much more than simply another webinar. We're attempting to build a Summit experience online. More will be heard here. However, there's literally no money left that would allow us to give stuff away. We're using the reserves up to get through this time.

    I understand that people feel hurt. I'm sorry about that. I truly am. I value all the contributions from everyone year round. I've run a user group myself. I've organized SQLSaturdays. I get it. I know. However, the people who run PASS, year round, are doing it right now for less money. There's just no more cash left to give stuff away. This is not me, or the rest of the board, not respecting or appreciating all that you do. It's about us sincerely trying to keep the lights on at an organization that has made my personal career what it is today. I want the organization to be there to help others in the same way.

    By the way, I'm sharing all this without permission from the board. It's likely I'll get censured or kicked off (or at the least get a stern finger wagging). I simply care too much about this organization to not share my extreme concern for it. You must understand where things are at.

    "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood"
    - Theodore Roosevelt

    Author of:
    SQL Server Execution Plans
    SQL Server Query Performance Tuning

  • I personally don't have a problem with the comp codes being upped to the 250.  With pandemic despite salaries, everyone is working remote and saving money on gas and eating out and can easily save up that money.  And PASS offered if it was hardship for you to contact them to see if they could help out, so I don't see a problem.  Running a conference cost money, PASS isn't a big name company like Microsoft and can afford to just put money into things like that without getting money in return.  PASS has done more for my career than I have done for them by volunteering in my opinion.  The comp codes will be back next year more than likely if the conference is able to go back to being a physical conference.  Yes I've spent money going to multiple SQLSaturdays over 50 I think at this point, but I've also gotten my last three jobs because of which came with pay increases.  And more than likely will get future jobs because of it.  The email they sent out expressed they didn't really want to do this and they still appreciated us and they acknowledge our contributions.  I can think without us having to pay travel expenses we can sacrifice one year of paying a low cost for the conference.

  • My previous comments on social media about speaker compensation were only ever in relation to the "original and exclusive" content clause. I appreciate the clarification on this topic but I still find the whole concept a little intellectually dishonest. It feels like PASS want to sell original content to attendees while only asking speakers to make minimal changes to presentations that might be freely available elsewhere under a different title. If anything, this restricts or masks the free sharing of information rather than supporting it.

    If the argument is that PASS brings all the information to one place, wouldn't this goal be better served by creating a simple and searchable archive of publicly available sessions that people can stream from their own home? (Why hasn't anyone done that yet?) Wouldn't it serve the community better if PASS cancelled PASS Summit 2020 and instead dedicated themselves to creating a platform on which folks could upload, categorise and rate sessions that have been delivered during the pandemic at other virtual UGs and more cost-effective events? That really would be a valuable archive of information. And it could support and promote local UGs as well as talented new speakers.

    Fundamentally, the Virtual PASS Summit event does not feel competitive with other events that are able to do a similar things much more cost effectively. It also feels like it places too much bureaucracy and too many hoops between speakers and attendees. There is an argument that PASS Summit is on a different scale and able to do more, but it is hard to migrate from a physical to a virtual conference. My gut feel is that folks who have several years of prior experience running virtual events will be more likely to do a great job than folks who have exclusively run physical conferences. For example, why stick with a marketing company like C&C, when you could hire PaperSword instead, for a fraction of the price, with several years of virtual event management experience under their belt. (For the record, this is just an example. I don't know the specific credentials of C&C, but as a consumer I want to spend my time and money on events that I have faith will be excellent. I'd like to know more about why C&C are the best qualified folks to deliver a virtual conference.)

    As for the paywall, I'm not pretending that virtual events are free, but I do believe they are significantly cheaper to run than physical events. Hence, sponsors should be able to shoulder a much bigger share of the cost and I propose that in order to be competitive/viable, ticket prices would need to be significantly lower than $500.

    Perhaps PASS Summit has a sunk cost. That sucks, and if people want to support it regardless that's their call. However, from my perspective, that does not make it competitive with other events either in terms of price, inclusion or the free flow of information and learning.

    What should PASS Summit 2020 look like? I don't know. But I don't see any reason to feel obligated to keep C&C afloat if it cannot be competitive.

    If a private marketing company has taken the risk to put all their eggs in the basket of a single client, and market conditions make that contract unviable, I'm afraid it's a risk that the marketing business should have anticipated. If PASS has signed a bad contract with C&C and exposed itself to significant financial risk, that's a concern in it's own right. If you can no longer separate PASS from C&C, then that speaks volumes about the definition of PASS as a community focussed organisation.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 12 months ago by  alex.yates.
  • Am so sorry to hear it is this bad, Grant. I really am. Is it time to start a gofundme? Some of us already asked Tim about it on hangouts and he said there is enough to survive this year on virtual summit. But if not there are some of us willing to pitch in and help. It may not be a huge sum but we can get something going. And risking your nda to say it is huge, thank you.

  • I want to address what Tracy mentions as 'they' and 'us'. People on the board are also volunteers. PASS has never been a monolithic entity ever. It is always volunteers when you talk of them and what is more a different group of volunteers every year, sometimes even less than that. So expecting 'them' to thank 'us' is kinda mute, it goes both ways and overall it is not a job that gets you a lot of gratitude.One should be aware of that going into it. That said, volunteer burnout is a thing. It is not a thing that is acknowledged very much, but it is real and it exists. I was saved by Rob Farley once experiencing it. Feeling unappreciated or doing too much and thinking we are not seeing any gains is a thing. If anyone is feeling that we must readily acknowledge it and take a step back, not project to the PASS BoD or other volunteers. That said, simple words of thanks mean a lot to grassroots volunteers. I remember this one time they called out all volunteers to stand up at the summit and one person on my team was teary doing that. It is important to thank people and sound genuine doing it. It is important to word emails to sound right in that regard. (this one didn't and that is the problem, not the $$).

  • Interesting thoughts and thanks to everyone.

    I do think the 2020 Summit is an anomaly. A one off. No idea if this will be the future but I started this assuming it is not and we go back to physical events.


    I still think the  decision to charge and my choice to donate make sense to me. I'll support them through this world changing time.


    I would ask that the org better disclose what is coming. The cultural approach to making a secret decision and surprise us with the results is not one I support. I prefer to see actual details not hype on the great things that are coming. I do think there are probably some good ideas for how to better the experience for attendees. Share the proposals and decisions. Stop holding back details

  • Sadly, at the moment, all I can say is the details are coming. I want them out yesterday. However, it looks like sometime next week.

    "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood"
    - Theodore Roosevelt

    Author of:
    SQL Server Execution Plans
    SQL Server Query Performance Tuning

  • I have been going to PASS Summit since 2012. When I wasn't making a higher salary, I was fortunate that my employer paid for it. I did make it clear to them though that it was an integral part to keeping me happy at that job.

    I have since become very involved with the local user group, helping out at our SQL Saturday, speaking at some SQL Saturdays. I volunteer because I like helping people, I believe in our community, and I think reaching out a hand to people to welcome them, help them and teach them means a whole lot to uncounted people. If not for the people I met through PASS and at Summit, my career would be in a very different place.

    That being said, I don't expect other "reward" for leading a user group. I put some of my own money into the user group. Do I have to? No. But, it's something worth investing a little money and some more time in. I'm going to state this very clearly:  If you are volunteering to run a local user group or SQL Saturday to get some reward out of it (such as a free Summit registration), then you. Are. Doing. It. For. The. Wrong. Reason.

    The amount that PASS is asking user group leaders to pay is negligible. If you look at what you pay out-of-pocket to attend PASS even with the free registration, you should still be well below that amount of money (unless work covers all of it for you, and if that's the case, um, ...?)

    If you are a user group leader and are: out of work because of current times, or have a significantly reduced salary because of current times - reach out to your local folks. Local folks in the same situation - reach out to your user group. If people need help to be able to see the content because they legitimately can't afford it, maybe we can locally help them.  But, what is "legitimately can't afford it?"  That is different for everyone depending on needs and responsibilities - family, family needing health care, work status, cuts, whatever - vs wanting to spend money instead on other "fun" stuff.

    I do agree that PASS needs to look to other sources of revenue than just Summit. They have started doing so, and we have all received surveys where our input was requested. I hope all of you took the time to fill those out, and did so thoughtfully.

    Also the C&C issue - I'll post about that on that thread, because I think that's most of the source of the contention.

    As for the "free" events referenced - if you were involved with any of those, could you share how you covered the cost of the event please (even generalities would help?) I'm assuming sponsorships are pretty solid in these answers.

    There are a few possibilities that no one's mentioned. Most of the virtual events that have been free were initially planned as virtual events. Most of the physical events that offered post-event virtual content had physical attendees that paid.

    Summit was planned to be physical this year - there may be deposits or other costs that could not be completely recouped due to cancelling the physical facilities, etc. Also, as it has never been virtual, there would be added costs for infrastructure to support this, both on setup and working out issues pre-conference.  Would it be different if it had been planned as virtual from the start? Quite possibly.  The decision to go all virtual was relatively recent. Would it be possible to pivot to a company that has virtual conference experience at this late date? I'm assuming there already was a lot of work put into the physical Summit that wouldn't happen, and those costs for peoples' time would have to be covered as well.

    Do we need more transparency from PASS/C&C? Yes. Do I personally have a problem with, as the leader of a local UG, paying what is IMO a negligible cost for Summit content? Not even a tiny bit.


  • Lisa, It is less about the money as it was around how the email was worded, as i understand that is being fixed. Second, I don't believe in a sweeping stance that nobody has a right to expect anything from volunteering. There is a huge difference between saying 'running the user group will help me up my consulting $$ by way of contacts' (for example, and a selfish extreme) , and saying 'a comp code will help me grow professionally and am helping local community grow in return'. A lot of us have done the latter and benefited from it. I have paid out of pocket, the full fee this year and was not expecting any comp tbh and am fine with that. But I didn't get here that way.

  • I cannot believe people are complaining about paying for this. If you are an organizer and only go to Summit because of the Comp, then I question your intentions anyway. This is an incredible community, and everyone gets out of it what you put into it. NOTHING is free!

  • Saying it for what it is worth one last time...nobody I talked to was upset about paying for it. Many had purchased the tickets already. They were just upset about how it was communicated, assuming that becaue we have no T&E we can pay and various (not getting into that post mortem). But it is not what it is thought to be.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 40 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic. Login to reply