This is part 2 of the series of tips that I’ve prepared for those attending the PASS Summit 2013 in Charlotte, NC. In part 1, I talked about preparation for travel, accommodation and communication. This blog post talks about what you need to bring to the event. Feel free to add to the list by posting in the comments section if you can think of anything else.
What To Bring
Don’t ever think it is too early to plan what you need to bring to the event. You need to be strategic to make sure that you bring your necessities but not overly packed that you incur charges for your excess baggage.
Gadgets, a laptop, power adapter and possibly transformer
You’re a geek so I know without a shadow of doubt that you’ll carry a laptop. Besides, I’m sure you’ll sneak in some work in between sessions because you’re sharing the oncall DBA duties with the new hire. If you can, bring the lightest and thinnest laptop you possibly can have. I’m not suggesting that you buy one just for the PASS Summit, although, it doesn’t hurt to do so. But imagine walking around the conference center the whole day with your heavy laptop in your backpack. That’s a quick way to get a back pain. An iPad, Surface, or any Android tablet can be an alternative if you can do your work with those gadgets. I wish I can do that but most of the presentations that I do involve between 5-8 virtual machines for the demos so I can’t just ditch my brick-heavy laptop.
Bring the necessary power adapters that you need for your gadgets. I bet that you’ll be using your smartphone a lot during that week to instantly check emails, the next session, send a quick tweet about that great idea you’ve just learned, or just simply answering phone calls. Your phone charger will be your next best friend throughout that week.
If you are coming from a country that uses voltage other than 110V, you definitely need a step-down transformer to get your gadgets charged. Plan to either bring one with you or check with the nearest RadioShack in Charlotte if they have one available.
TIP: Don’t you know that power strips are a great way to make new friends? Since all attendees are geeks and carry their laptops and gadgets with them, the limited number of power sockets make them a scarce commodity. Bringing one with you to connect your own gadgets and share with others is a great way to be involved in the SQL Server community in a very simple way. That’s the main reason I carry one with me during these events.
The Mighty Pen and Paper
You might think I’m old school because I included the pen and paper. However, a very good friend of mine once said that the faintest ink is more powerful than the sharpest memory. I can’t even read my own handwriting so why am I encouraging you to do so? Studies confirm that the notes that you take with pen and paper helps you retain what you wrote better than typing it on your laptop or tablet. And, yes, the study includes using a stylus being used on tablets but using pen and paper is still better.
What’s the quickest way to recall someone else’s name and contact information? I bet a business card handed over to you is much quicker than you typing on your smart phone (unless you work for one of the sponsors or exhibitors who have those handheld scanners that scan your badges to take your contact details.) You still have several weeks to go before the PASS Summit. Make sure you bring business cards with you that you can easily hand out to people you will meet. You also need make sure that you have the correct information on your business cards, including social media accounts. Your PASS Summit badge will include your Twitter handle if you have provided it in your registration. And, don’t be afraid to ask for others’ business cards. It’s a great networking tool.
Charlotte is unlike Seattle during the fall. Weather forecast during the week of the PASS Summit will be between 10 C/49 F to 22 C/72 F. Bring the appropriate clothes for the weather. Keep yourself warm whether you’re outdoors or indoors. Conference room temperature is usually cold due to air conditioning. Pack sweaters and coats for the whole week. Just make sure you have enough space in your luggage to put in those swags that the vendors and sponsors give away during and at the end of the event.
Take a lot of pictures. Even your phone has a digital camera in it. I bet that you would like to see what Charlotte has to offer before or after the event. Or, maybe even just take a photo of the people you meet at the summit. If you’re not from Charlotte, you’re technically a tourist. And as most travelers usually say, ”Take nothing but pictures leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.” Now, if you’re really into this digital photography thing that you spend a lot of money for those fancy gadgets and lenses, maybe you can hang out with your fellow SQL Server professionals who are into the same thing. Pat Wright (blog | Twitter) started the PASS Summit Photo Walk back in 2010 for photography enthusiasts attending the summit to get together and get geeky with photography. If you’re interested in joining, register at this website. You might also want to check out their Flickr page to see some of the interesting pictures taken during the previous PASS Summit events. I might join depending on whether or not I can squeeze my gear in my luggage.
I’ve already mentioned the possibility of bringing along extra luggage to squeeze those event swags in. For those in the US, this is as easy as buying a box in the local US Postal Service office and shipping it back home. For us outside of the US, this is easier said than done. Coordinate with your colleagues and friends who are also attending the summit. You can split the swags among you so you can carry them back home. Just be careful not to carry items that are not allowed by the US TSA. I remember Quest Software giving away sticky toys at a past event. Those traveling by plane had to leave them behind.