This past week the pre-conference sessions for the 2018 PASS Summit were released. There’s a good list of topics and speakers, returning and new presenters, that you can choose from. If you’re planning on attending the Summit, I would review the options and if any of these are relevant to your position, I’d bundle the cost of a session into your request for Summit funding. I’ve seen plenty of people ask for the registration fee without a pre-con and then try to negotiate additional funds later. Do yourself a favor and ask for everything at once.
Are these sessions worth the time and money? Most are, and a single day packed with information is often easier to digest than a full week. However, you’ll still have days of random learning slots during the regular conference, so plan on spending a day learning and then shifting into a different mode for the rest of the conference. There is a lot of information presented in an all day session, and you’re likely to miss some of it. Most presenters provide a good set of materials to go with the class, but you should plan on taking lots of notes and then spending a few hours here and there across the next month reviewing and practicing what you’ve learned.
I’ve often found that a pre-conference session is the best way for me to dive deep into a topic that I haven’t had the time to investigate on my own. Time is a precious resource and finding time in my busy work and family life is hard, especially for a full week class. I’d still like to get to a week long sqlSkills class, but I can’t seem to find the time. Maybe after next year when I have no more children at home and fewer commitments.
I used to take a computer to classes, but the last few years I’ve moved back to paper and pen. I find that sketching out notes by hand is quicker and easier, I ignore typos, and somehow the act of writing cements things in my mind more. I’d recommend you try both, though certainly having your phone around to take a picture of something is incredibly handy at times. I’ve tried OneNote and a digital pen on a laptop, but again, it’s not as quick or smooth as pen on paper. The one thing I did like is that I could add pictures to my notes.
A conference is a large investment, whether you make it or your employer does. Adding in a day of training on a topic is often a relatively small incremental increase. It’s worth the time and cost, if you’re already going to be gone for multiple days. I’m not sure if I’ll get to a pre-con at the Summit this year, but I’m hoping to get a day of watching and learning on a single topic in at one of the events I attend this year.