The PASS organization announced last week that the 2020 Summit, originally planned for Houston this November, will now be held virtually. This is bittersweet for me, since going to the Summit has been the highlight of almost every year since 2003. I had decided, however, that I would not attend in person this year unless I would somehow be immune from Covid-19 by then.
Each year, PASS Summit has hundreds of great sessions, and I must admit that I don’t attend a lot of them during Summit week. I typically spend my time networking and taking advantage of things like the Microsoft Data Clinic where you can ask questions of the people who build and support SQL Server and the rest of the Data Platform. Since Microsoft had announced that they were switching all events to virtual through July 2021, I suspected that the clinic would be absent this year had PASS decided to stay in-person. Hopefully, PASS will figure out how to do most of the things that make it a wonderful event each year while being virtual.
While I’m happy that the PASS Summit will be virtual in 2020, I also know how tough it is to pull off a great virtual event. One big problem is that it’s much harder to pay attention to virtual sessions than in-person sessions. For example, I attended the MVP Summit virtually in March from my desk, and even though I had full support from my manager to focus on the sessions, it was not easy to ignore my to-do list.
One big advantage of going virtual for PASS is that it will be easier for people who have never attended before, especially from around the world. This is also a great opportunity for people to submit a session (they also re-opened the call for speakers) who have only dreamed of speaking at Summit due to the cost of travel or getting the time away from work.
I also wonder what the attendance would have been like in November had it stayed in-person. At that time there could be even more travel restrictions in place or a surge in new infections. Probably just a fraction of those who normally attend would make it to an in-person event.
It’s up to PASS and the community to be creative so that this event will not only be educational but also be a way for people to connect as they do each year. I know it won’t be the same as the traditional Summit, but I hope it is still fun.
While holding PASS Summit virtually is disappointing for many people, I do think it was the right decision and I plan to make the best of it.