I attended my first PASS summit in 2004 in Florida after the hurricane had hit the Florida area. Since Disney World was close by, my family came along with me. We rented a condo and stayed there for the duration. I had a rental car, and I would get dropped off at the Summit while they went to Disney World. I joined them twice, leaving the summit once early, and again on Friday. We went as an entire family on Saturday and then flew home. Each day I would arrive at the summit after breakfast and usually after the keynote. I would attend session and after session, learning tons of valuable information, and then meet my family somehow afterwards. That was the extent of my participation in the summit.
Looking back and realizing that some amazing memories were created with my family at Disney World, I think I would do things differently now. Knowing what I now know.
I would attend the summit earlier each day, earlier than breakfast. People are there already, milling about. I could get to know them. We could network. I could learn from them. No just the sessions. I would talk to more people while at breakfast. I would ask what they did, what they struggled with, and I would share those same things with them from my day to day experiences.
I would attend the keynotes and instead of making sure I had that saftey chair between me and anyone else in my row, I would sit next to someone. In fact, if I saw a group of folks talking and chatting, i might siddle up to them, if nothing else than to listen in and hope to join the conversation when I could. Inbetween sessions I might look again for a group of folks that seem to be discussing interesting topics and join in. If I was late to a session, I wouldn't stress about it. I'd attend when I could.
But what about drinking? What about all the parties? What about SQLKaraoke? What about wearing a Kilt? None of these things are things I would do in my day to day life. I never go to a bar. I have never drank alcohol in my life, nor do I smoke. Why would I go to something like this? Should I go to a gathering like this? Should I wear a kilt?
Well, let me tell you that after the first summit, I went to my next summit and implemented some of the things I mentioned above that I said I should have done from the beginning. I met people. I talked to people. I ate breakfast with people. We discussed issues. Soon I learned that there were even more networking opportunities out there for me. After the sessions had closed, people kept doing things. Kept hanging out. Yes, lots of them drink and even tend to sing crudely in front of an audience. Some will even wear a kilt. And no, these are not things I usually do, so I would usually return to my hotel. I should avoid them? WRONG!!
At one of my early volunteer outings with other PASS volunteers I realized that even if I didn't drink, I could still have fun with people that did. I talked. I networked. I commiserated. I discussed issues. I partied like I party. When someone tried to make fun of me for not drinking, another PASS volunteer stood up and defended me. He didnt drink either. But he sure likes pie. Instead of leaving or avoiding the gathering, I met more and more people. More and more opened up to me. I met even more people. It's insane the number of people you can meet if you open yourself up to meeting them.
Remember, they are all like you. There is not a cool kids club. We are all part of the club. Its up to us to determine how much we participate. Or not. And if we don't, we are simply hurting ourselves. Because others are meeting, talking, planning, sharing and learning from each other. Why aren't you out there with them doing the same?
Sleep when you return home from PASS. Soak up every moment you can with the SQLFamily.
Get out there and meet them. Open up. Experience PASS.