One afternoon at Consolidata, Matthew Bell wanted to know what he should expect from attending the SQLBits conference happening in this week.
Matthew Bell: What should I carry in my bag?
Dwain Goulbourne: Firstly, it’s important that you bring the right type of bag – a rucksack or messenger bag is best. You’ll get a complimentary gift bag which has some useful things in but it’s a little laborious to carry around when you might need the use of both your hands. The contents of the gift bag is useful, providing loads of information, some freebies and usually a pen and pad for those retro geeks.
Okay, so in the bag you should have…
- Maybe a laptop or tablet for note taking, I brought a tablet in the past but it’s not that essential.
- A charge cable for your mobile.
- A refillable water bottle. They have water stations in and around the conference halls, every place is different but a bottle is perfect for filling up and hydrating yourself while attending the sessions, which is highly advised.
- Finally, hand sanitizer! You don’t want to get the “conference flu” from meeting a lot of people, shaking random hands and coming in contact something someone has left behind on a surface (trust me, it happens).
MB: How do I know what skill level I am?
DG: As a heads up, the SQLBits website will provide you with the session information (you may have seen this already). It is a good idea to read the information for each session because it will give you a better understanding of what level each session will be aimed at.
Plus it will tell you, so pay attention to the level displayed usually to the right of the session title. 100 being the most basic and 500 being the most advanced.
MB: What should I wear?
DG: You need to be comfortable. There is no real dress code, I have seen the likes of Allan Mitchel wearing shorts in winter and someone else in crazy Hawaiian shirts. It can get warm in the session but again AC might be on high so pack a jumper.
MB: Who should I talk to?
DG: After any session, you can go and speak to the session speaker, the guy sitting next to you SQLBits staff or a sponsor. Everyone there is passionate about what they know and are trying to learn so don’t feel like there is a divide between the factions. Spread your own knowledge, that’s why we are there, after all.
MB: Is it worth getting breakfast in the morning?
DG: Yes! A good breakfast is always important, although they do provide you with breakfast. If you are the fussy type, look at what your hotel provides. Most people are okay with a bacon butty and a coffee!
MB: Should I go to the party on Friday?
DG: Of course! this is where everyone gets to talk about more fun development stuff. Use your beer tokens and let your hair down. It’s usually themed, so get involved.
MB: What is the best way of engaging and asking questions?
DG: I always say that no questions are silly questions, but if you think it’s going to take away time from the session or interrupt the speaker then save it until the end . You can always get their contact details or find them wondering around the conference later.
MB: What happens if I am late too a session?
DG: Take your shoes off and be as quiet as a mouse. No, really. Try not to be as you want to get a good seat. Do your best not to disrupt the session and take your seat quickly.
MB: Can I get access to the internet?
DG: There is usually WiFi provided. Try not to set your own hot-spot up for tethering for a device… if everyone did that it would be a radioactive nightmare!
MB: How do you win all these fantastic prizes you hear about?
DG: Prize giving is held at the end of the last two days which means you need to be there to claim your prize. These prizes are all set up by the sponsors so go and talk to them throughout the day, they have some fantastic products and services. Overall I’ve met some great people working for these companies.
MB: What if I go to the wrong session?
DG: Do your best to leave quietly.
MB: What if the speaker tanks?
DG: Try your best not to sigh. It happens and I never wish that on anyone but if it bothers you that much, then wait it out if you don’t have much time to the end or leave quietly.
MB: Are Microsoft MVPs famous?
DG: It depends. These guys do some fantastic work and that’s why they are granted their title, I assume. I have met a few of them and they are really nice, intelligence people who love to share their knowledge. I’d say the real MVPs of the event are the SQLBits team who always do a great job throughout.
MB: What’s your best SQLBits so far?
DG: They have all been good at different stages. They have helped out massively during different periods of my career, starting when I was a newbie learning my way right up to the present where I am able to develop my advanced skills learning from speakers with world leading ideas and knowledge.
MB: It is worth going to the training days?
DG: These sessions are run by some of the best minds in the industry, and I would seriously check out a session of you have a chance in the future. I am attending both training days this year and am looking forward to the chance to develop some new skills.