For a while, there, I was not sure if I would be going. After some discussions, some stress, some worry, I was allowed to attend. Excitement coursed through me, and I tweeted about it, and started getting excited to return. So much can be learned at PASS. If one could only attend a single day of sessions, and go home, I bet that person would feel satisfied that they had learned more than expected.
Multiply that by 3 days of intense learning, the chance to sit at the feet of contemporary authors and experts, rub shoulders with the leaders of the SQL Community, participate in learning with tons of other folks with similar experience and knowledge as you, and we come closer to what SQLPASS gives the attendee.
However, we're not done yet. You need to add in the SWAG that you can pickup from the vendors. Even in slow economy years, a couple tshirts makes you feel like a winner. My kids still play with some of the items I have brought back. However, don't just waste time getting SWAG from the vendors. Pick their brains, share with them your systems and see where they can help you. Look at as many booths as you can, and see where they may help you, or you them.
Let's not stop at the vendors. Near the vendors, you'll find experts from Microsoft eager to sit with you and hash out problems, questions, concerns and the like. Make sure that you think long and hard for some examples and ideas you can bring to this table. How often do you sit in your office wishing you had a connection to someone that could help you out with an issue you are experiencing? This is that chance. Bring to the table all the issues you can and take advantage of this opportunity.
Think we're done? No, we are just barely done discussing some of the structured events that will occur. I haven't mentioned the keynotes or any of the misc events like WIT luncheon. I have not mentioned the volunteer training, or the various parties put on by SQLPASS, SQLServerCentral, and vendors. Each of these provides yet more opportunity for knowledge to be gained. In some cases, its just for fun, but do not be naive enough to think that a party is just that. Its like the ogre once said, its an onion, with layers and layers. You must find your way through the layers and the meaning of each one.
One would think that if you crammed all this into 3 days, it would be enough. But it's not all. I'm only describing the goings on that may occur from 8 to 6. There is still time before and after for more. Its up to you to fill in this time. My first PASS, in Florida, I had no idea that I could fill this time with more networking, more knowledge, more. I went back to my room, and did nothing. I've since learned that this is not the time to be wasting either. Each evening there is something better you can be doing. Since this is a once a year event, why not maximize it? Why not fill it in with as much as possible? You'll be going home in a small while anyway, and you will regret not spending every waking minute filling your SQL bucket with as much as possible.
I booked my flight, and am leaving my home Monday morning, and will be in Seattle by 10am. I do this so that I have more time to fill my SQL bucket. I don't know what i will do with the time yet, but will fill it with something, for sure. I don't leave until late Friday evening either, well after the Summit proper has completed, giving myself more time to fill my bucket. While at the summit, I will spend time in my room, but only enough to sleep enough to be able to function the next day. And maybe a shower or two.
Others have blogged about their ideas of PASS. You should read them as well.
Jeramiah Peschka's Random thoughts
Bill Graziano's suggested sessions
Make your list, check it twice, and make sure you bring the properly sized bucket. Fill it with as much as possible. Bring the bucket home, and slowly, over the next few weeks and months, sift thru it, and absorb whatever you can. Use these things to make you work better and easier.