SSWUG Virtual Conference: Follow-up Thoughts

Ok a few weeks ago was SSWUG‘s second virtual conference and my first experience with the virtual conference experience. Granted this review is a bit late but better than never I suppose. First off I have to tip my hat off to Stephen Wynkoop, Chris Shaw and the rest of the folks at SSWUG that put this event together.

First off this conference was a fantastic value at only $99 for 3 days of high quality SQL training. For those who haven’t experienced a virtual conference before, it is layed out much like a real conference you would attend. You enter the conference and are placed in a lobby-type page that leads to either sessions lobby, exhibit hall or on demand section (sessions are available on demand after the conference). Entering the sessions lobby lets you select which conference you registered for. This conference offered a track for SQL Server, Business Intelligence, Sharepoint Once inside you are presented with several rooms to choose from. Like a real conference you choose which session you want to attend in which room.

The sessions are pre-recorded videos and while you’re watching the session there is also a chat room dedicated to that room. During the session the speaker is in the chat room answering any questions anyone has regarding the content. I thought this was great as normally you wouldn’t have this sort of interaction with the presenter. The other great thing is that sometimes the conversation in the chat would spin off on another great topic/point. Granted the downside to this format is that your attention is drawn away from the video but that’s the beauty of them being on demand!
The other great communication tool that was implemented in to this was Twitter. SSWUG placed a Twitter feed in the main lobby that allowed those not on Twitter to see what was going on with those Tweeting about the conference. This was done by encouraging participants to tag their tweets using the #sswugvc hashtag. I’m now a big Twitter user so this was a major plus for me. Another place to interact was, of all places, the vendor booths! During this conference it seems like the Quest Software booth was the place to be as most of the people I interact with on Twitter made their way over there. In addition to hocking Quest products in the booth I actually got to know people a little better like Tim and Lori Edwards, Brent Ozar, Chuck Boyce Jr. and Tom LaRock to name a few.
At noon everyday there was a part of the conference that had to be, hands-down, one of my favorite parts and that was the live Q & A sessions with Stephen Wynkoop and Chris Shaw. They would have a general topic of discussion and take questions live over the chat room and Twitter. It’s great seeing two major players in the SQL Community discussing their thoughts on things. Plus with the live aspect of things we could ask questions and the conversation could go in various directions. Another fun thing that came out of the live talks was the keynote bingo that I came up with on the last day. I think everyone that participated had fun with that and funnily enough Stephen and Chris got in to it as well as they purposely started mentioning things from the card towards the end of the final live session for kicks.
All in all I thought this was an absolute blast! Granted I was watching the sessions in my office and got sidetracked every so often with work but that’s also the beauty of it. Your organization still has you around so you’re still work-functional (sorry) but you’re also getting your training out of it. If you miss something you can either catch the afternoon replay session or just take advantage of the on-demand option or order the DVD from them which includes all demos, scripts, videos, etc. The other thing that this conference made me realize was the true power of social networking specifically Twitter. Out of this conference I got a slew of followers and managed to cement relationships with other SQL professionals. Plus out of Twitter came the infamous SQL Editions onlsaught of Tweets which I believe actually originated from the people hanging out in the Quest booth!
A huge thanks goes out to SSWUG and all the vendors who sponsored, an event like that couldn’t be put on without your support. Events likes this are also key when the economy is in the state it is in. For me, sadly, I don’t think I’ll be able to attend PASS this year due to travel restrictions with our organization right now but hopefully I’ll be able to attend next year. Until then virtual conferences like this will be key to my on-going training as well as attending regional and local events such as SQL Saturday and local user group meetings.