This post is from OUR perspective. The next one I'm going to do is from our attendee feedback!
Last week was our first week delivering a new style of Immersion Event. And, now that the class has finished, we're really happy with our decisions on content and naming. The name was new because we had originally called these Master Immersion Events and the class was somewhat new because we replaced our ONE 5-day SQL Immersion Event (Internals/Design/Performance/Maintenance) with FOUR new 4-5 day classes (19 days total).
Why were they "master" events and why did we remove that part of the title? First, let me begin with with we did add it! We added "master" because these new courses cover the wide range of topics as required by the exam and practical for those working toward their Microsoft Certified Masters – SQL Server certification. However, soon after, we ended up dropping the "master" part because it lead to confusion (some folks thought that the class was meant ONLY for those preparing for the exams). And, we changed them from SQL Immersion Events because we significantly extended the content to cover a wider spectrum of topics but also rearranged them to create concise, individual weeks of training. So, while they're still our fun, deep, focused Immersion Events, we have a lot more depth and content (19 days just in this area) covered for those who really want to design, tune and manage SQL Server systems effectively. Paul wrote an excellent post about it here: Leaving the Land of Confusion…
For those who attended, the feedback was fantastic and I have a post coming about that. But for this post, I just wanted to give you some insight into how the class was run and what it's like to attend an "Immersion Event" with us!
Why do we deliver these at hotels?
We set up to deliver our event at the Marriott Suites Market Center in Dallas, TX and everyone that was not local stayed at the hotel. While being local is definitely nice for folks that don't have to travel, staying at the hotel with attendees is really the icing on the cake for these events. We've chosen Hiltons/Marriotts (in general) because they're comfortable and usually have good food and a nice lounge. And, don't think that I'm talking about drinking heavily every night. No, that's not really conducive to absorbing all of the content that we're going through. In fact, I didn't even have my first drink until Friday (but, I'm also a big wimp and I can't be impaired in any way if I'm going to lecture for 10 hours!!).
What the hotel/lounge/atmosphere allowed us to do is really focus on learning. We didn't have leave to forage for food. We didn't have to think about parking or traffic or having to arrange with a facility that we wanted to run over into the evenings. We were able to retreat to a warm and cozy lounge with a fireplace and relax together, have a drink and just kickback before heading off to bed at a reasonable hour. The days were intense and these events really take a lot out of you… Many commented on how relaxed they were and how comfortable the hotel was for them. Specifically, let me give you a picture of a typical day.
A Day in the Life of an Immersion Event Attendee
- 7:45 am – Breakfast (thanks to SQLSentry's sponsorship we added a Full American breakfast – yum!)
- In Dallas we had a Full American breakfast with plenty of bacon. And, eggs, pastries, fruits, cereals… high carb or low carb, vegetarian or not - you were covered.
- 8:30 am – Dive right in
- Content: We don't dance around, we don't waste time. We were ALL about the content and as much of it as we could fit in 5 days…
- Breaks: We'd take 1-2 breaks in the morning for a total of about 20-30 mins of break time. But, even these we often filled with chats around the coffee/tea or chats with one of us around the whiteboard.
- Whiteboard: Speaking of the whiteboard… we do A LOT of whiteboarding! So much so that we have our OWN whiteboard shipped to the event (the flash created a bit of glare in the pic but we fixed that with lighting). And, for this one we had two (we had a second smaller whiteboard in the back where we could write notes to the attendees however, this one turned out to have the MANY twitter aliases of attendees).
- 12:30 pm – Lunch (again, sponsored by SQLSentry which was fantastic, we had plenty of food and plenty of choices)
- Lunch was served at 12:30 pm and what was great here is that no one had to leave the hotel to go forage for food somewhere. We could really take a break and relax. Again, people could network and chat over lunch as well. This really adds to the Immersion experience.
- 1:30 pm – Dive back in
- The afternoon was much like the morning but we know it's always harder to focus while digesting… We took more breaks to get people moving/stretching but often shorter breaks just to break up the time sitting. We also had dessert served as part of an afternoon break along with a coffee refresh and a host of low-carb snacks as well.
- ~5:30 pm – Wrap-up
- Officially class would end around 5:30 but most days we'd go a bit longer with questions…
- 6:30 pm - There was always something going on in the evenings…
- Monday night: We all gathered in the bar and did our "meet'n'greet." We bought the first round, chatted with everyone and ended up staying until around 8:30 or so. It was a really nice way to get the week rolling and make sure that no one was nervous to ask questions. However, I don't think anyone was shy even by Monday lunch!
- Tuesday night: SQL Sentry delivered a session on how to use their FREE Plan Explorer tool. Greg Gonzalez (t|b), President/CEO of SQLSentry flew in for the evening presentation. After the presentation, we all retired to the lounge and spent a bit more time talking about the tools, SQL Server and how fit Greg is! (CrossFit is definitely a powerful workout!)
- Wednesday night: Immersion Event attendee and Director of Engineering Services for SQL Sentry, Steven Wright (t) delivered a session on how to use their Performance Advisor tool and the new features of v6.
- Thursday night: some attendees offered to give micro sessions on some of their favorite topics and we thought that was a great idea! We ordered a bunch of appetizers, opened a tab at the bar, and away we went! For those that asked, we also provided speaker feedback to help folks improve their speaking skills. Trevor Barkhouse (t|b), Martin Catherall (t|b), Eric Humphrey (t|b), Brian D. Knight (t) and Kendra Little (t|b) all presented 20 min sessions and informed/entertained us all! It was the PERFECT way to host our last evening of the class… And, we think this might become a staple at future Immersion Events!
- Friday night: Even on Friday… we had to pack a bunch of stuff but many stayed and chatted and then we all headed over to the lounge for dinner and drinks. I finally relaxed and had a nice big glass of wine! What a great way to end the week!!
First off, we had a fantastic group with 29 attendees from as far away as New Zealand. Four attendees were winners from our contest (Martin Catherall (t|b), Eric Humphrey (t|b), Kendra Little (t|b) and Sankar Reddy (t|b)) and most were not local. In fact, one attendee used to work with Kevin Kline (t|b) in Hermitage, TN when I first met them (and a few others) back in the mid-90s. It was a bit of a blast from the past!!
And, many of the attendees were on twitter and have blogs too. All of these things continued to add to the content learned during the week and the connections made. Most folks are now following each other and keeping up with what they're learning and uncovering with SQL Server. And, we're going to see a few of them in Dallas in March for our second Immersion Event on Performance Tunng. In fact, 8 attendees for the class coming up in March are folks that have attended the week 1 (Internals and Performance) Immersion Event either this year or last and a couple are coworkers of those who have attended. So, it will be great to meet up with them again and see what they're up to!
The End Result
We love the new format and we love the feedback we've received so far. We had a great time sharing our experiences and delivering our new style Immersion Event and now we're going to put a few more on the schedule. If you're interested in immersing yourself in SQL Server – check out our Immersion Events.
And, consider becoming a SQLskills Insider as well. For our London class in June, we've already offered a discounted rate and an early early-bird registration site. And, the hotel has a wonderful pub, internet access, and a full English breakfast (Paul's *very* happy about that). We're really looking forward to heading over! And, we're planning to add another US event (Immersion Event on Internals and Performance) to the schedule for early to mid-May.
If you want to get the scoop early – become a SQLskills Insider now!
Thanks for reading!