24 Hours of PASS was an Adventure


On July 21, just a few short weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Rick Heiges, who is on the Board of Directors for PASS, asking me if I was willing to participate in the 24 Hours of PASS virtual conference, to be held on September 1, 2009. This was the first I had heard of this new project, which by the way, was Rick’s idea.

I wrote him right back, saying yes, and offering several different sessions I could do, and he picked one on “How to Use SQLDiag to Troubleshoot SQL Server Problems”. Fortunately, I had done the same presentation earlier this year in Vancouver, at SQLTeach, so I didn’t have to start from scratch, creating a new presentation. The only problem was that my original presentation was designed for 75 minutes, and I would only have 40 minutes to give my presentation at the 24 Hours of PASS session.

On August 18, 2009, I finally got the PowerPoint presentation template I needed, so I got to work, trimming the original presentation down to 40 minutes, and at the same, transferring it to the new PowerPoint template.

Giving a presentation over Live Meeting–this is my forth time–can be a little tricky. It assumes that Live Meeting is working correctly and you know how to use it properly, that you have a fast Internet connection, that you have your screen resolution set correctly (1024×768), and much more. Because of the opportunities for problems, I scheduled a practice run with Rick and Kalen Delaney, where Rick lead both Kalen and myself throughout all of the steps, helping us to get used to using Live Meeting, besides going over the procedures for the event.

While I had used Live Meeting before, one new twist this time around was that I was going to use video as part of the presentation, and this, in itself, brought about new problems. For example, when you only have a 1024×768 screen to work with, and part of it is taken up with video, there is not much room left for showing much, especially if you want to do a lot of live demos, which I had intended to do.

Once the lesson from Rick was over, I was given two Live Meeting accounts, one for a speaker and one for a viewer, so I could simulate my actual presentation. I used one computer to practice the presentation on, and another computer to see what it would look like to the viewer.

After much experimentation, I determined that including both the video and live demonstrations did not work well, so I decided to use live video only for the introduction to the session, and for the Q&A session at the end of the event. That way, it was much easier to perform the demos so that they were easily seen on the screen.

I was scheduled to be the fifth speaker of the event, which was at 6:00P PM Hawaii Standard time, which was convenient for me, although for the east coast of the United States and Europe, it was a little late for them.

The moderator for my presentation was Richard Baumet, who is the president of the Vancouver PASS SQL Server users group. He introduced me at the beginning of the presentation, and at the end, read me the questions that people had submitted throughout the session.

Overall, I think my presentation went well, and I had slightly over 300 people attending at the peak of attendance. While I have not been able to watch all of the other sessions for the 24 Hours of PASS, I have watched some, and they all seemed to go very well. I think this is a result of the thorough planning that Rick did when he organized the event.

One thing that I found out shortly after giving my presentation was that the electricity in most of the buildings around the area where I live had a blackout right in the middle of my presentation. My home was only one of the few which had electricity, so I was very lucky. I am not sure what I would have done if the power had gone out in the middle of the presentation.

I want to thank Rick Heiges for coming up with the idea for this unique event, and for putting many, many hours into making it happen, along with many other PASS volunteers. I also want to thank the speakers, all of who donated a lot of time in preparing and giving their sessions. It is really great to see the SQL Server community come together to put on an event where we can share our knowledge among our colleagues.

While a recording of all the presentations from the 24 Hours of PASS will eventually become available on the SQLPASS.org website, you can download my presentation here.