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Paul Randal and Kimberly L. Tripp Offer an Inside Look at SQL Server Connections

Spring conference season is nearly upon us, and there are more in-person SQL Server–related events to choose from than ever before. SQL Server Connections is one such event that’s coming up March 27–30th in Orlando, and I thought it would be fun to get a behind the scenes look at how the sessions are chosen as well as recommendations about opportunities attendees should take advantage of at the event. I turned to SQL Server Magazine authors and SQL Server Connections co-chairs Paul Randal and Kimberly L. Tripp to give us the inside scoop on the conference.

How do you decide which sessions will be offered at SQL Server Connections? How do you determine which topics are most relevant for the SQL Server community at the time?

Kimberly & Paul: We usually have a huge number of submissions—sometimes more than 200—which makes picking 27 sessions very tricky. Kimberly and I always do 3 sessions each, plus our popular Follow-The-Rabbit session, so that narrows down the selection possibilities even more. We aim to pick speakers that have a lot of speaking experience, that one of us has seen speak in public before, and that are experts on their subjects—guaranteeing that attendees get the best value.

We’re both very active in the online SQL Server community, so we have a good idea of what topics people are interested in from discussions on Twitter and so on. Plus, we look at the satisfaction trends from previous conferences to gauge what balance of topic complexity and broad subject area to focus on.

What makes SQL Server Connections stand out from the other SQL Server conferences available?

Kimberly & Paul: As with any conference, the networking possibilities are a great benefit, as is the ability to kick-back and relax while learning away from the pressure of work. SQL Server Connections stands out because we make sure that all our speakers are experienced and laid back, plus we like to have fun and get to know some of the attendees. Of course, the overriding factor that sets SQL Server Connections aside is that there are several other co-located conferences running simultaneously, and attendees can mix-n-match from a broad spectrum of subjects and technologies.

Can you provide our readers with a look at some of the questions you’ve been asked during your Follow the Rabbit: Wrap-up Q&A session in previous years? What do you hope attendees get out of this session (other than answers to their own questions)?

Kimberly & Paul: That would be hard as we get so many questions on such a wide variety of topics! We always put up a slide listing topics we can answer questions on, and usually some of the other speakers come to the session and sit at the front to field questions that neither Kimberly nor I are experts in. We get some good discussions going between us all and the audience. We’re amazed by how popular this session is, and we had more than 100 people last time!

Which sessions (other than your own, of course) would you not want to miss?

Kimberly & Paul: Another hard one! We only pick the most interesting topics, so everything’s interesting to some degree. This time around, I (Paul) will definitely try to make it to

  • Denny Cherry’s session on clustering
  • One of Andy Leonard’s sessions on SSIS
  • Some of the SQL Server Central track sessions

Outside of the sessions, what opportunities do you recommend attendees take advantage of at SQL Server Connections?

Kimberly & Paul: Definitely talk to the presenters! All of us are very friendly and approachable, and we love to hear about what problems you’re having and help you to get over them. Also talk to the other attendees. Just like with dedicated training classes, you’ll be surprised at the hints and tips you can pick up from other people’s experiences. Most of all enjoy yourself!

Interested in attending SQL Server Connections? There's still time—register now!

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