Over the years, I've had the opportunity to attend, and even speak at, many technical conferences both here in the United States and abroad. Some of the conferences had only a couple of hundred attendees while others boasted of attendance figures in 5 digit range.
For the two of the six years I spent on the PASS (Professional Association for SQL Server) Board of Directors, I served as Director of Logistics and Conference Operations. I arranged meeting space and selected food, contracted for wireless and bought conference bags. My final years of the Board was spent serving as the Executive Vice President of Finance where I became even more intimately aware of the high costs of putting on a quality conference.
I mention all this, not to heap self-serving platitudes upon myself, but rather to let you know that I have somewhat of an insider's perspective on the challenges of creating a good conference experience. There are many moving parts. So many variables that it's almost like trying to herd cats.
Last week I was in Toronto for the DevTeach/SQLTeach conference. This was my third year to be there. The conference, which attracts 200 to 300 people, has a very warm and intimate feel about it. There is a real sense of community exuded by the attendees, the speakers, and the volunteers that make it all happen.
But the small size does not mean a lower quality conference. The food was good; the exhibit area was intermingled in the common area so it was easy to spend time with the exhibitors; and the wireless, conference bags, and program was on par with the conference's much larger counterparts.
The primary reason most any of us attend a conference is to improve our knowledge. And the caliber of speakers and quality of presentations at DevTeach/SQLTeach was outstanding.
Although the conference offers eight simultaneous tracks, ranging from Sharepoint to .NET, from Agile to Architecture, I spent most of my time in the SQL Server tracks. And I was not disappointed. I watched as Rick Heiges artfully explained SQL Server on the 64-bit environment, Peter DeBetta showcased the new features of SQL Server 2008 for developers, and Brad McGehee examine the SQL Server 2008 Performance Data Collector. And this was but a few of the eye catching sessions there were available.
Our friends in the financial services industry like to remind us "Past performance is no guarantee of future results", but given my experiences at DevTeach/SQLTeach, I definitely plan to go back!
If you've attended on the DevTeach/SQLTeach conferences, I'd love to hear your experiences. Just post a comment.