Never skip an SQL Saturday…

The SQL Saturday in Raleigh last weekend was the second one I’ve attended and I loved almost every second of it! Thanks to the Triangle SQL Server User Group for organizing the event and congratulations.

1) There were just enough tracks and sessions to choose from.
2) There was ample time to go from one session to another.
3) The sponsors were situated near the classrooms so it was impossible to miss them. (In SQL Saturday – Charlotte, the sponsors were in another building.)
4) Parking was easy…(it was hard for me to find where I parked my car though–but then that happens all the time).
5) The giveaways were nice. The sticky ball is the bomb! Apparently, it’s not a good idea to throw it to a flat-screen TV. Why? First, because it wouldn’t stick (I tried so many times). And second, I was told that if I didn’t stop trying, I would lose all my privileges. What’s with men and their televisions???
6) It was well-attended, the speakers were awesome,  the food wasn’t bad, and…
7) They hid the donuts! Seriously, LUCKY ME. That would have been another 5 lbs I’d have to lose this week.

Why you should attend SQL Saturdays
This is what the post is all about really. I want to encourage you to never skip an SQL Saturday in your area. Let me tell you why.

1) It’s the best time to get starstruck
Maybe you don’t get a kick out of it. But I do–and I’m not ashamed to say it. I get starstruck when I see SQL Server MVPs, authors, and tweeps. I think I’m innately a fan.  It’s just the way I’m built. SQL Saturdays is like the Oscars–only, it has smarter people. And it’s more fun. Orlando Bloom will never know my name (and I doubt he’ll ever win an Oscar)–but SQL Server authors and MVPs–if you stalk them long enough, they will. :D And they will really say hi!

Anyway, if you’re like me, some stalking tips:

a) Always have a pen when you’re having a book signed.
Or just die from embarrassment your whole life. I had DBA Survivor signed and Thomas LaRock (blog | twitter) had to find a pen that worked to sign it. When I close my eyes, I still remember him saying, “you’re new to this stalking thing, huh?”. So bring a pen. Sponsors give it away–use it!

b) “I follow you!” is not the best way to introduce yourself.
And to follow it with “You’re lotsahelp, right? But I don’t know your name!” is not a good idea either.

Eric Humphrey (blog | twitter)  must have thought I was crazy. And no, of course I didn’t stop talking. I made it worse and said–”You look exactly like you do on Twitter!”. I said it like it was the world’s most amazing discovery. They say kids say the darndest things and man, I wish I had that excuse. He was nice about it though and replied that looking exactly like you do on Twitter is how it’s supposed to be. (If that is the case, I’d probably faint if I see @sqlchicken). :)

c) “You’re sqlcraftsman!” is also not a good way to start a conversation.
I said this and the guy said, “no, I’m Jim.”. OMG–talk about embarrassing.

So anyway, always start with a hello. In a normal world, that usually works best.

2) Learn, learn, learn
The learning benefit is a given. SQL Server is soo big. There’s so much to learn. SQL Saturdays allow you to learn about topics you’ve never heard of (xquery???), learn about topics you’ve kinda heard of (is powershell =  powerpuff?), and learn more about topics you already know (t-s-q-l). You get all these for free. You can ask questions just by raising your hand. And trust me, that’s a big deal. I always try that with my mother-in-law and it never works.

But you must be thinking–you can easily learn  from PASS’s virtual sessions. You can even learn just by downloading the sessions. Or you can just read a book. So why attend, right? Why make time?

One word: CHANCES.

3) Chances
Think of an SQL Saturday as match.com or eharmony.com. It’s a place where you meet people who do and like the same things that you do. And you don’t have to take a personality exam to get in. You just–go. For every session, you get the chance to find someone to like, to talk to, and to have fun with. You just have to grab the chance.

It’s so easy to pretend that the world consists of just your family, your team, and your current set of friends. But the world is bigger than that. And you can be so much more.

I had several surgeries last year. One was so bad I remember asking one doctor, “Will I die?”. And all he said was–”you’re at the right place at the right time.”  (Yeah, he did his best to be reassuring :P).  When I woke up from the surgery (yay! I survived!), I felt lucky, yet, I also felt irrelevant. I started asking, how many people have I helped? How many people have I made an impact on?

How many have I reached out to?

Not too many. I’ve always been too busy.

So what does this have to do with going to SQL Saturdays? If you’re reading my blog, then most likely you are an SQL Server professional like me. I know it’s easy to keep to yourself. But events like SQL Saturdays give you a chance to be relevant. They give you a chance  to reach out to people you can easily have a huge impact on. Afterall, you’re already into similar things!

All it takes is one hello.

“Hello, I’m Janice Lee.”

Every session I attended, I said these words to the person beside me. I left the event with three new friends: Derek who went to Belgium early this morning for a vacation with his wife, Vishal who looked 13 but was really 29 years old and was an SQL Server whiz kid, and Elizabeth who quit her job because she knew what was important to her. I have their email addresses, I encouraged them to join twitter, and I think I convinced Derek to ditch his planner and get himself a smartphone when he comes back from Belgium.

You must be thinking–so what? Well, this is the chance I was talking about. In one day, I just expanded my world and added three people to it. I told them about #sqlhelp and I encouraged them to blog and to be active in the community. I talked, I reached out, and I gave myself the chance to be relevant. You can’t do this in a virtual session. You can’t do this when you just read a book. You can’t do this when you don’t go out there.

I know it takes two to tango. Some people just don’t like to interact so just leave them alone (unless you’re like me who just pretend to not get the message :P). Don’t let it stop you from taking the chance though and from saying hello. Because that one hello can make a difference.

Conclusion
Don’t wake up one day realizing that there’s a world out there–as if that fact wasn’t staring at you every time you opened your eyes. When you get the chance to attend events like this–grab it. And as I said–going to one to learn is a given. But definitely don’t ignore the additional benefits. Make time to attend it, smile, and say hello. This way, you’ll get and learn more than SQL Server. There’s more to life afterall than databases :)

P.S. Shout out to Allen White (blog | twitter) , Kevin Boles (twitter), Tim Chapman (blog | twitter), Grant Fritchey (blog | twitter), Andy Leonard (blog | twitter), and Eli Weinstock-Herman (blog | twitter) who all said hi. And to the guy who sat beside me and gave me the book he won–THANKS! Shawn, right?

And for the wonderful note on my book and all the kind words, thanks to Thomas LaRock (blog | twitter). I was a lost puppy early this year (what an understatement). I listened to your podcast and I found my way home. I’m hoping I can pay it forward.

For more information on SQL Saturday, go to www.sqlsaturday.com.