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    Copyright © Nancy Hidy Wilson, 2010-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Hidy Wilson and nancyhidywilson.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

SQLSaturday #308 Houston – Selected Sessions Final

Thanks to everyone who submitted sessions for SQLSaturday #308 in Houston on May 10th. I think this was definitely the most difficult selection process of the 3 SQLSaturdays that we have held. Lots of great sessions were submitted from a really large pool of speakers. For those who were not selected – PLEASE do not take this personally! It primarily came down to a balance of session topics spread across as many speakers as possible – we have 48 speakers for 60 sessions.

If you only submitted one session and we had multiple similar sessions to choose from then if your abstract didn’t really stand out in that category, it may not have been selected. If you only submitted one session on a topic that no one else submitted and we did not select it, it may be because we thought the topic was too narrow or the abstract didn’t clearly express what you planned to present. If you think it may be your abstract keeping you from being selected, check out any of several posts that Brent Ozar has done over the years on Abstract writing for tips to improve. And, in the future I would recommend submitting at least 2 topics for program committees to choose from to improve your chances!

So, with that all said, here are the selected sessions alphabetized by speaker last name.

Last Name First Name Session Title
Adams Ryan SQL 2012 AlwaysOn Quickstart
Adams Ryan How Active Directory affects SQL Server
Bansal Amit R S Mind your IO: Resource Governor shows you How
Barnes Bill Fill Factor: Performance or Nuisance?
Bell Chris The Spy Who Loathed Me – An Intro to SQL Security
Bertrand Aaron T-SQL : Bad Habits & Best Practices
Bertrand Aaron Top 5 Ways to Write Effective triggers
Bourgon Michael SQL Watchdog – find out instantly when SQL changes in production
Brown Wesley Fundamentals of SAN, NAS and IP Storage
Chaves Warner The Super Trace: Introduction to Extended Events
Cherry Denny Storage For the DBA
Clark Tamera 45 min to build your first SSRS report
Cook John SQL Server 2012 Analytic Functions
Costello Tim Windowing Functions
Costello Tim Pro Tips: Tuning the data flow in SSIS
Curnutt Mindy SQL Server Bingo – Install, Migration & Config
Cutshall Aaron The Lost Science of Set Theory and Relational Algebra
D’Antoni Joseph SQL Server–All About HA and DR
D’Antoni Joseph In-Memory Columnstore Indexes–Make Your Data Warehouse Fly
Edmondson Garret Measuring Data Warehouse Performance
Edmondson Garret Data Warehouse ETL
Edwards Lori SQL Server Statistics – What Are The Chances?
Gable Glenda Data Warehouse Indexes
Harp Vicky Edge Case Testing for the Database Professional
Harp Vicky Care and Feeding of Your System Databases
Hays Mike Troubleshooting Your Network Connections
Herold Amy Making the Leap from Developer to DBA
Hokanson Kris Beyond the Where: Full Text Search tips and tricks
LeBlanc Thomas Attributes & Hierarchies in Analysis Services 2012
LeBlanc Thomas Execution Plan Basics – Beginners
Lopez Carlos The Transaction Log Internals
Lopez Karen Database Design Contentious Issues
Lopez Karen Windows Azure SQL Database Design: Concepts and Trade-offs
Loski Russ Introduction to BIML and BIMLScript
Loski Russ SSIS project deployments with multiple developers
McCown Jennifer T-SQL Code Sins
McCown Sean DIY Performance Reporting
McCown Sean & Jennifer DBA Career Roadmap
Mendo AJ DBA Survival Guide: Daily Checklist and Server Monitoring
Mitchell Tim Scripting in SSIS
Mitchell Tim 15 Quick Tips for SSIS Performance
Moreign Valentino and Anthony {Tex} The Cloud and I
Murphy Jim Mission Possible: Interactive Performance Troubleshooting – Indexes
Norman Tom Converting Unreliable Deployments Into Consistent Releases
Parekh Aashish Speed, Depth & Flexibility – Having it all with real-time SSAS
Rodarte Rudy Expand your TSQL: Intersect, Except, and Apply
Schilling Dane Taming the T-Log
Serra James Best Practices to Deliver BI Solutions
Serra James Enhancing your career: Building your personal brand
Speshock Carl Microsoft Predictive Analytics/Data Mining Overview
Stein David Writing Your First BimlScript
Sterrett John Table Partitioning: the Secret Weapon for your Big Data Problems.
Sterrett John Proactive Monitoring with PBM and CMS
Stewart Robert SSAS – An Introduction to Multidimensional Cubes
Tidwell Lance SQL Server Agent: The life preserver for the drowning DBA
Wilson Derek Tabular Data Visualized by PowerView
Wong Jason Ah, ha, how do you automate database administration?

If you are thinking there are some pretty big topics missing from the above list, you are correct! We will be having 3 additional sessions presented by TechEd speakers on PowerBI, Hybrid Cloud, and In-Memory.

The final schedule will be posted on the SQLSaturday #308 website in the next few days! So stay tuned!


SQLSaturday #308 Houston – Speaker Selections #3

Today (March 21, 2014) is the final day for speakers to submit their sessions for SQLSaturday #308 in Houston on May 10.  We are already building up a great slate of speakers (announced here and here) and today we are pre-announcing that the following MVP speakers will also be presenting:

  • John Paul Cook (website)   – SQL Server 2012 Analytic Functions
  • Tim Mitchell (twitter | website) – to be determined SSIS topic
  • James Serra (twitter | website) – BI/DW or Professional Development session topic still to be determined

Stay tuned for the complete slate and schedule to be finalized soon!

Spread the news to your colleagues and register to attend this free training event now as space will be limited!

SQLSaturday #308 Houston – Speaker Selections #2

Last night I revealed the names of three speakers selected for our free training event on May 10 at San Jacinto College – South.  Today, I’m glad to announce that my fellow Texans Sean McCown (website) and Jen McCown (twitter | website) the husband and wife team also known collectively as the MidnightDBAs will also be speaking.  We haven’t finalized which of their submitted sessions will be on the schedule, but you can probably expect something related to Backups, PowerShell, Code Sins, or Career Paths!

If you plan to submit, do it quickly as the call for speakers to submit their sessions for SQLSaturday #308 ends on Friday, March 21, 2014.

Otherwise, spread the news to your colleagues and register to attend this free training event now as space will be limited!

SQLSaturday #308 Houston – Speaker Selections #1

Although there are a couple of more days for speakers to submit their sessions for SQLSaturday #308 in Houston on May 10, we are excited to start announcing over the next several days who is confirmed to present so that both presenters and attendees can start making their plans.

We hope to have the final schedule determined by the end of next week around March 28.

So without further ado… the following Microsoft SQL Server MVPs are planning to present the session titles shown.

In alphabetical order:

  • Aaron Bertrand (twitter | website) – Top 5 Ways to Write Effective Triggers
  • Denny Cherry (twitter | website) – Storage For the DBA
  • Karen Lopez (twitter | website) – Windows Azure SQL Database Design: Concepts and Trade-offs

We are looking forward to hosting these speakers and announcing more speakers over the next few days.

Spread the news to your colleagues and register to attend this free training event now as space will be limited!

Speaker Submissions for SQLSaturday #308 Houston Still Open!

Speaker submissions for SQLSaturday #308 Houston on May 10th are still open, but you only have until next Friday, March 21, to apply!  As of 5:30pm CDT on March 14, we have 33 distinct speakers who have submitted, but we will be selecting 50-60 sessions!  Thus, there is still plenty of opportunity to submit with a high probability of having your session selected.  However, be sure to check out what others have already submitted (under Submitted Sessions) and come up with your niche topic!  So, write up that abstract this weekend and apply

SQLSaturday #150 – Baton Rouge – Signup Now!

There’s an awesome FREE technical training event coming to Baton Rouge on August 4, 2012. That’s right; SQLSaturday and Tech Day 2012 will be held at LSU’s new College of Business facility.  This is the fourth year that the Baton Rouge technical community has held this event and they expect around 400 people – if you live anywhere close by, then you should be there!  William Assaf (blog | twitter) even got some local TV exposure for the event this year.  

This event is bigger than your normal SQLSaturday. In addition to tracks for the SQL Server professional, there are also tracks for .NET developers, Windows Phone developers, SharePoint, and general professional development. Check out the full schedule here, and then sign up here.

Why am I plugging this event? Well, for one thing the Baton Rouge SQL Server community has always come west across the state line to support our SQLSaturdays in Houston. Secondly, I’ll be speaking at their event this year on “Managing SQL Server in the Enteprise with TLAs”.  TLA is “Three-Letter Acronym” for those unsure. We have lots of those in techno-speak. I’ll be covering CMS, PBM, EPM, MDW, and more…. If you work with SQL Server and don’t know what those are or how they can help you, then register today for SQLSaturday #150 and come to my session at 8:20am in Room 1700! 

Addendum: I’ll now also be presenting a second session “SQL Server 2012 Database Engine – Why Upgrade?” in the 2:45pm slot in Room 1700.


If you can’t attend this event, then check here for all the currently scheduled SQLSaturdays in the US and around the world! 


I’m Speaking at SQLSaturday #150 in Baton Rouge

I will be presenting my “Managing SQL Server in the Enterprise with TLAs” session at SQLSaturday #150 in Baton Rouge on August 4th! 

However, this is more than just a regular SQLSaturday, as this is a “SQL Saturday & TECH Day” and is presented by the Baton Rouge Chapter of the Professional Association for SQL Server along with the Baton Rouge .NET User Group and Baton Rouge IT Pros User Group.

Therefore the sessions offered will cover the gamut from SQL Server DBA, Business Intelligence, and SQL Development tracks to SharePoint to .NET Development to Windows Phone to Career Development.

Check out the complete schedule here and sign up today for this FREE training event!

See you there!


SQLRally 2012 Dallas – Recap

PASS and NTSSUG (North Texas SQL Server User Group) hosted this year’s SQLRally. As the chapter leader for HASSUG (Houston Area SQL Server User Group), I was also part of the host team and volunteered on the program committee and served as a room monitor during the conference. Putting on a conference of this size with mostly volunteers (there is some paid staff from PASS HQ, but the majority of the work is by volunteers) is no small feat and the NTSSUG team did a great job of organizing.  

Sessions Attended

Based on the sessions offered at SQLRally, I set my focus on learning about SQL Server 2012 features, investigating areas outside my current area of expertise (enterprise deployments), and considering my future career development.

  • Bob Ward – What’s New for SQL Server 2012 Supportability
  • Craig Purnell – Upgrade Roadmap: Let’s Delve into SQL Server 2012
  • Kathi Kellenberger – SQL Server 2012 T-SQL
  • Denny Cherry – Using SQL Server 2012’s Always On
  • Suresh Kandoth – SQL Server 2012: Memory Manager Rebooted
  • Tim Mitchell – Introduction to Data Quality Services
  • Robert Davis – TempDB: Performance and Manageability
  • Erin Welker – So, You Want to Start a Career in BI
  • Andy Warren – Building Your Professional Development Plan

All of the sessions were top quality and I will definitely use what I learned in both my day-to-day work and overall career development.


SQLRally had lots of opportunities for networking, both informal and formal. The scheduled opportunities included:

  • Wednesday night’s “Meet the SQL Professionals”
  • Thursday night’s “SQLKaraoke”
  • Friday morning’s “SQLRally at Starbucks”

During lunch and between sessions provided ample opportunity for informal networking. And, I took time off during one session timeslot to continue networking and be available at the PASS Community Corner to promote local user groups (continuing the networking after attendees get home) and the virtual chapters. As several people have confessed (among them Andy Warren, Brian Moran, and Tim Mitchell), the networking aspect is actually probably the most important activity when attending a conference. This is how #SQLFamily is built.

Things Done Well

  • Guidebook – This mobile app is a great way to keep attendees up-to-date with speaker/session changes. Other than seeing that a printed agenda was in our attendee bag, I never looked at it and used Guidebook exclusively for checking where I needed to be next!
  • SQL Clinic – This was a “must-have” with the event in Dallas so near to the SQL CSS team’s home and didn’t disappoint with members of SQLCAT also in attendance.
  • Networking opportunities – already mentioned. Good job by the planners!
  • Bus – looping between convention center and SQLKaraoke site was a win!

Things to Improve

  • Guidebook (yes, it is on both the “done well” and the “to improve” list!)
    • Include room numbers along with the Session Title and Session Number in the main entry, if possible. You had to click the session to find the room number; simple once you knew to do this, but many people didn’t realize it.
    • Include all activities in the “schedule”:
      • Welcome Session 
      • Closing Session
      • WIT Luncheon
      • Include all “extracurricular” activities – from SQLKaraoke to Starbucks Networking.
  • Beverage choices during breaks – coffee or nothing – how about some water and sodas?
  • Ensure bottled water in the sessions rooms for each speaker.
  • Signage to A4 ballroom from the majority of session rooms could have been better. It was confusing to most attendees that one session room (A4) was far away from the majority of the session rooms and on a different floor level. 
  • Station volunteers at the top of the escalators and along the hallways, not just at the rooms to help attendees find their way. 
  • Where to find the speakers’ slide decks? I had several people ask me during the conference, but I had not personally looked for them yet and couldn’t answer. Now, I have looked and I can’t find them either!
  • Overall Event Evaluation form – I hear they will be done electronically after the event, but I would have liked to have it available to comment on as I experienced the conference real-time.

Event Format

Instead of 2 pre-con days, consider having only 1 pre-con day or splitting into a pre-con day and post-con day. Consider having the post-con session on Saturday. The success of SQLSaturday has already shown that many of us are willing to give up some of our personal time to improve our skills.  As part of the purpose of SQLRally (at least in my mind) is to provide a “taste” of Summit and at a lower price point, I don’t see many people justifying being out of the office 4 days (or 5 if Monday is a travel day); that would be practically the same as Summit (unless they are local).  By combining the SQLRally 2-day main event with a post-conference Saturday all-day seminar, maybe more people could convince their employers to pay for SQLRally and the post-con since in theory it isn’t all on “company time”.  Attendees can make the case that they and their employer have a joint investment in their training.

Personally, there was a pre-con on Tuesday that I probably could have justified, but not one on Wednesday which fit my development needs. Since I was coming from out-of-town, this just didn’t work for me logistically or financially. Consequently, I didn’t attend any pre-con. If I could have attended that all-day session on consecutive days with the main SQLRally days, then I would have done that – even if one of the days was a Saturday. However, I recognize that this format (especially using a Saturday) may not work for others and may not work with venue rental. I know PASS has tried the pre-con\post-con format in the past with Summit, but is back to two days of pre-cons for whatever reasons. I think the host team for the next SQLRally, however, should seriously reconsider this concept for maximum attendance.


Overall the event provided great technical content and networking opportunities to the SQL Server community. While many people who attended SQLRally have previously attended a PASS Summit, I talked to just as many people who have not attended a Summit, but now have it on their list of things to do! I think the event also did a good job of reinforcing the value of local user groups, and even encouraged some folks to consider starting a user group or hosting a SQLSaturday in their area.  This was only the second SQLRally event in the United States, so it will be interesting to see how this event evolves for 2013 filling the gap between Summit and SQLSaturdays.

Improving Speaker Rating Evaluations

I finished compiling all the individual session speaker ratings from SQLSaturday #107 held in Houston on April 21, 2012 and sent the results to the speakers this past weekend.  We used the default form provided on the SQLSaturday Admin site, which had two basic inputs.

1) Expectations:  Did Not Meet \ Met \ Exceeded. 

2) Overall Quality of the Presentation: rate 1-5 where 5=great.

Plus there was a request to write any other comments on the back of the form.  A few people did provide some constructive criticism which the speakers can use to improve; many people provided positive encouragement; but most wrote nothing.

Anybody have a problem with this form?  I do; and I’d like to make it more useful for both organizers and speakers.  But, how?

We’ve been conditioned since early childhood in school to receive a grade for our performance. Consequently, we tend to provide evaluations with number ratings so that we can come up with an average rating for each speaker.  The problem with this type of rating for speakers, in my opinion, is that there are no defined criteria for the students (e.g. graders) to use in their evaluation – it is purely subjective and purely based on the individual’s experiences which could vary wildly at an event like SQLSaturday.     

The “Expectations” rating to me is really not very useful – it is too general.  There are two things that I, personally, am gauging from an “expectations” basis when I attend a session: 1) the content to be delivered based on the abstract provided; 2) the quality of the speaker based on the presenter’s professional credentials.  However, what if I’m so new to a topic area that I really do not comprehend what the abstract means (although I think I do) and therefore my expectations of what I’m about to experience are very different than the reality?  Or, what if I have really high expectations of a well-known speaker and I feel like their presentation is just average? How do I handle this in my evaluation? Based on what I saw in our SQLSaturday evaluations, it seems to me that most people whose expectations were not met also rated the overall quality of the presentation low.  But, how can that be, when the majority of the other attendees at the same session believed that the session met or exceeded their expectations and gave a high rating on the overall quality?  I saw this anomaly several times.

One of the goals of SQLSaturday is to grow the speaker base. I don’t know about you, but “grow” to me doesn’t mean just numbers, it means providing experience and maturity. How do we get the necessary feedback to the speakers to enable them to improve their presentation skills in order to better train us?

Speakers, what input would you like from your audience?  If you were to redesign this simple evaluation form, what 2 or 3 questions would you ask? Do you derive value from a subjective numeric rating?

SQLSaturday organizers and User Group leaders, how would you like to see speakers evaluated to help you in selecting sessions for your next event?

Please post your comments here.

SQLSaturday #107 – Event Evaluation

April 21, 2012, marked the 176th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, my nephew’s 14th birthday, and the 2nd “annual” SQLSaturday in Houston hosted by the Houston Area SQL Server User Group! If you follow us on Twitter, then you may have noticed that @HASSUG uses as its picture the San Jacinto Monument.

HASSUG PicSo, I could delve off into Texas history now and remind everyone that this epic 18-minute battle ultimately resulted in the United States acquiring present-day Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah, and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma. But, I’d better get back to SQLSaturday #107 and the topic at hand ….

Our actual attendance this year was about 250 – or 73% of those who registered for this FREE training event showed up. We had 60 sessions on the schedule provided by 15 Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs), several Idera ACEs, and some first-time presenters as well.  

Yes – 60 sessions is quite ambitious! But, because we were using a school facility (YES Prep Public School – North Central Campusplease go read about them!) with an average “comfortable” capacity of 25 students per classroom – we needed to run 10 sessions in each time slot to accommodate the number of attendees that we expected! Thanks to the large number of attendees who used the session builder tool, we were able to move the session with the highest anticipated attendance in each time slot to the Auditorium\Cafeteria. However, I’m acutely aware that in at least two time slots we still had sessions in the regular classrooms which were SRO!  Amazingly – I’ve not found a single complaint about this in the overall event evaluation forms – so THANK YOU for being so understanding of the limitations of the facility!  

I do want to apologize for the break-down in communication during one of the morning time slots. We did not have a volunteer stationed outside the room of the session which had been moved to the Auditorium and we did not have adequate signage about the move. Unfortunately, a room full of people sat waiting on the speaker who was actually in a larger room speaking to an unexpectedly small audience for quite a while before we got the anticipated audience redirected to the correct room for the session they wanted to hear. So, again, my sincerest apologies to both the speaker, Benjamin Nevarez (twitter | blog), and to the attendees who really wanted to hear his session, Inside the SQL Server Query Optimizer.

We had a couple of other “issues” that I want to mention in hopes that other event teams take note and don’t have the same oversights. One, provide lots and lots of coffee all day – enough said? Two, ensure any directional signs you plan to put out in the vicinity of the event site are in place well before the scheduled “start” time (and have them onsite ready to go the night before). Three, communicate schedule\room changes as “loudly” as you can – with BIG BOLD BRIGHT signage updates and volunteers stationed to help people adjust. Four, SpeedPASS is great – if the attendees remember to print it out and bring it with them; however, we should have had two laptops and printers for those who didn’t do this ahead of time instead of one. We also experienced a technical glitch such that only if the attendee knew their PASS ID and password to login, then they could print it as opposed to us using the SQLSaturday Admin site to print on-the-fly for them.  PASS has promised to get that issue fixed. Even so, I was amazed (I don’t know why!) at the number of people who did print their SpeedPASS and bring it with them. So, strongly encourage this in all of your communications with your attendees.              

Lots of things did go right thanks to the great team we had this year. On the Steering Team with me were: Jonathan Gardner (twitter | blog), Malik Al-Amin (twitter), and Lynn McKee (twitter).  Core Team members were: Eric Cruz, Ken Goins, Vicky Harp (twitter | blog), Will Howard (twitter | blog), and Amy Muehleman. At the risk of overlooking someone (please comment if I’ve left you out!) – the Friday night setup crew and bag stuffers included Leah Guzman, Martin Mason, Revathi Iswarya Nambi, Brandon Smith (twitter), and Kendal van Dyke (twitter | blog).  Saturday volunteers included Linda Harmes, Allen Kinsel (twitter | blog), Robert McLeroy, and Jenny Yang, plus a whole slew of Idera folks and the previously mentioned Friday night crew.    

But, at the end of the day, how did the attendees feel about the event? Last year, we tried online evals and as techie as we all are – the response was abysmal. So, this year – we killed a few trees in the name of collecting more feedback (data) in the form of an overall event evaluation form, plus speaker session evaluation forms. We asked attendees to rate their experience in the following categories on a scale of 1-5, where 5=great. We had 89 people turn in the event evaluation form and here are the averaged results:

We recognize from the ratings that the bar has been set pretty high. If you have any additional feedback for us to help us provide an even better experience next time – please comment here!

Additionally, we asked the attendees to list their favorite session and the best speaker they heard. The top vote-getters are:

  • Favorite Sessions:
    • T-SQL Brush-up: The Best Things You Forgot You Knew (Jen McCown)
    • Avoid Errors on Errors (Rick Morelan)
    • Eating the Elephant: SQL Server Table Partitioning (Mike Fal)
    • SQL Admin Best Practices with DMVs (William Assaf)
  • Best Speakers:
    • Kalen Delaney
    • Thomas LeBlanc
    • Jen McCown
    • Sean McCown

Thanks to all the speakers for giving so generously of your time to prepare and present, and in many cases travel significant distances. That high overall event score is due to the value of the content that you provided to the attendees making it worth their while to give up a beautiful Saturday to further their career development.  

And, finally THANK YOU to our sponsors! Platinum sponsor Idera provided not only funds at the highest level, but man-power to assist with the event as well. Idera was also the sponsor for the precon with Kalen Delaney (twitter | blog) on Friday. I can’t thank Amy Muehleman enough for all of her hard work coordinating the precon, speaker dinner, breakfast catering, and after party for us.  Red-Gate and HP were Gold-level sponsors and provided lots of great swag.  Silver sponsors were Confio, Texas Memory Systems, Joes2Pros (who also provided books and training DVDs as swag), Fusion-IO, Insource Technology, New Horizons, and PASS. Bronze sponsors were CozyRoc (who also provided pens & notepads for attendees) and SQLWatchmen (also the proud sponsor of the precon VGA cable). The publishers McGraw-Hill, Morgan Kaufman, and O’Reilly generously provided technical books for swag. Sponsors, your generosity to the SQL Server community enables us to provide SQLSaturday free of charge to attendees.  Thank you for partnering with us.

In wrapping up, I must share my favorite feedback on the day (which someone told me at lunch) – “Oracle has nothing like this!”  

Thank you SQL Server Community!


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