Oct 18 2016

SQL Cruise as a Speaker and Sponsor

Sponsor SQL CruiseSQL Cruise offers a number of unique opportunities for everyone involved, including speakers and sponsors. I’ve written before, several times, about the benefits of SQL Cruise. As an attendee of the cruise, you will get to sit in classes by amazing people (and me) talking about all aspects of the Data Platform. Further, you get the opportunity to sit down, for long hours, with these people and get, for want of a better description, free consulting time. What about as a speaker and a sponsor though, do we get benefits?

As A Speaker

Tim Ford is quite a bright fellow. He has tweaked and tuned SQL Cruise. I have been on SQL Cruise a number of times over the last five years, and it has changed radically since my first cruise in 2011. He keeps getting the format better and better, trimming away a little fat here, adding a little muscle there. All this results in a better SQL Cruise experience which, as a speaker, gives me three things; engagement, time, and follow-up. Let’s talk about these.


The people who attend SQL Cruise run from almost complete amateurs within the Data Platform to MCMs who know more than I do about, well, everything. All these people are at SQL Cruise to take part in SQL Cruise. They’ve read the brochures, the web site, and testimonials from people like me. They know that this is an opportunity to get their learn on in a way they won’t get elsewhere. This means those people show up demanding the best out of you. They want you to deliver information that will be useful to them, and they’re going to pay attention to what you say. They ask questions. They engage and they engage directly and well.

As a speaker, this engagement is exciting. It means I have to prepare, properly and thoroughly. I have to pick my topics well (and oh boy, do Tim and I go round & round on that). The engagement means I’m going to have a good time presenting. Don’t believe me? Present a session to your wall. That’s a complete lack of engagement. Was it fun? Now go and present on SQL Cruise where everyone is hanging on your every word. It’s a blast.

Further, the engagement does mean that I have to prep well to present to these people. That means I’m learning the topics I’m going to present on even better. I’ve heard it said, and I believe it, if you really want to know a topic well, teach it. If you want to know a topic more than well, teach it on SQL Cruise.


The class-time on a SQL Cruise is currently about two hours per session. Pick a topic like the Query Store and try to present a substantial chunk of it in your standard one-hour time slot. It’s going to be either highly detailed on only a sub-set of the topic, or it’s going to be very superficial. Two hours gives me enough time as a speaker to delve into the topic and explore it. With an engaged audience, I get lots of questions, and still have time to do the entire presentation. At no point am I feeling rushed. I’m not forced to dump lots of things until later. I have the time I need to get the point across that I hope to teach. However, I have even more time because of the follow-up.


SQL Cruise does not simply consist of class time and then bar time. There are also the Office Hours. This is dedicated time to let the attendees and the speakers mingle. You can sit down, yes, with a drink in hand if you’re so inclined, with the people you’ve just been talking to for two hours and have a more in depth conversation. It’s not simply standing in front and dictating to people. These are your peers. Some of them may become your friends. You get to drill down on topics and connect these topics to other topics. With the topics well established you have the opportunity to tie it all back in to people’s every-day jobs. The follow-up turns a typical teaching experience into a much more intimate affair where you can really share in ways you just can’t at an event with 400 people in attendance.

As A Sponsor

Why on earth would Redgate spend money sponsoring people going on a cruise? After all, we’re only going to talk to 30 people. Couldn’t we invest the same amount of money in an event with 300 people and get ten times the impact? If only sponsorship in events worked that way. Vendors would simply fight with one another to support only the largest events because if we’re at an event with 300/3000/300000 people, we automatically get that many eyeballs, right? Nope. It doesn’t work that way at all. SQL Cruise is worth investing in because we get the eyeballs of the right people who will amplify our message.


Working the booth at events for Redgate Software, I’ll talk to a ton of people. At a well structured event, all the attendees will have walked past my booth several times. All that attention probably results in a good engagement with, maybe 10-15% of the event. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I’m not sharing the hard numbers (and yes, we count). That number is a subset, but not at SQL Cruise. At SQL Cruise, as a sponsor, we get all the eyeballs. They’re ours, not just for 10 minutes, but for several days. No, if you’re on the cruise it’s not some long advertisement, but you’re aware of the sponsors. You know who they are. If they have a representative there, the attendees, each and every one, talks to them. It’s 100%.

The Right People

Even more important than the fact that we’re getting 100% of the people to hear whatever message we care to share is the fact that we’re sharing with the right people. The people on SQL Cruise are the ones who can convince their boss, a little against common sense, that not only will going on a cruise be good for the individual, it will be good for the company. You think I don’t want to show these people how we can help them solve problems? Yes I do. Sometimes the person on SQL Cruise is the boss. Do I want to talk to them? Yes. Every so often, the person on the cruise is junior, or just getting going. Do I still want to talk to them? Yes, because these people, along with the others provide amplification. As a sponsor, amplification is everything.


Very few people come out of SQL Cruise that are not impassioned with what they’ve learned. They’re rested, recharged, and filled with new information. They let the world know. Further, many people come out of SQL Cruise and change their careers. I know a large number of speakers, bloggers, writers, all of whom got their start on the cruise. They share. They share a lot. One of the things they share is the messages of the sponsor on the cruise. Suddenly, instead of the 30 eyeballs that I reached on the cruise, I’m reaching a lot more. That’s because the people on the cruise become very active, very vocal, and very supportive of the sponsor that helped provide them with a life-changing experience. This provides a huge impact for us as a sponsor.

Ready To Cruise Again

I’m taking part in the next cruise in January in the Caribbean. I’ve already worked out with Tim the topics I’ll be covering. I’m prepping the material now because it does take that long to get things ready for SQL Cruise. I’m lobbying work to get on the Alaska cruise later in the year. In short, I’m ready to go on SQL Cruise again. I’d sure like the opportunity to share the experience with you. Go here to sign up.

Dec 01 2015

It’s Not Too Late

You know you want to go on the SQL Cruise. You can. You just have to convince the boss that it’s worth doing. It is. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it as necessary, SQL Cruise changes peoples lives. I’ve watched people go on the cruise with a job and come back with a career. People don’t just learn on the Cruise. They get energized. They get engaged with the data professional community.

How do I profit by promoting SQL Cruise?

I don’t.

Tim Ford is a friend and I’m supporting him. My company, Redgate Software, is a sponsor of the cruise, so I’m supporting them. I could just be doing the bare minimum in support of these parties. However, I’m not getting paid anything special by anyone for doing more. Instead, for me, personally, SQL Cruise is all about the ability to share.

Understand, I love my job. I spend a lot of time teaching about the Microsoft Data Platform, Azure SQL Database, SQL Server, deployments, development, automation, performance tuning and all of it from the perspective of Redgate Software. I get to share. A lot. However, I only get to share the way I do on SQL Cruise, on SQL Cruise. It’s intimate. It’s direct. It’s personal. I’m not standing in front of a group of 75 people with another 200-5000 waiting outside the door. It’s just 25-30 people, all the time. We get close. We talk. It’s the lowest level, most fundamental kind of interactions. I benefit from it personally, and I get the opportunity to share. This is why I love and support SQL Cruise.

And yeah, there’s classroom time. I’m really looking forward to learning from David Klee, Tim Ford, Jason Hall and Jes Borland. These are some of the most amazing people you’re ever going to meet and learn from.

I’m putting on a couple of classes too:

The Query Store and Query Tuning in SQL vNext

For the most part, query tuning in version of SQL Server is pretty much like query tuning in the next. SQL Server 2016 introduces a number of new functions and methods that directly impact how you’re going to do query tuning in the future. The most important change is the introduction of the Query Store. This session will explore how the Query Store works and how it’s going to change how you tune and troubleshoot performance. With the information in this session, not only will you understand how the Query Store works, but you’ll know everything you need to apply it to your own SQL Server 2016 tuning efforts as well as your Azure SQL Databases.

Azure SQL Database for the Earthed DBA

Everyone knows that Azure SQL Database only supports a small subset of SQL Server functionality, small databases, and has really bad performance. Except, everyone is wrong. In fact, Azure SQL Server Database is ready to support many, if not most, databases within your enterprise. This session reintroduces Azure SQL Database and shows the high degree of functionality and improved performance that is now available. You’ll leave this session with a more thorough understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of Azure SQL Database so that you can make a more informed choice over when or if you should use it within your environment.

Go and have that chat with your boss. You won’t regret it. I promise, this experience will change your life.

And there’s rum.

Jul 03 2015

Speaker of the Month: June 2015

With my travel schedule, I don’t always get out to events where I can see a community speaker. Sometimes, I just see pros. That’s the case this month. Instead of skipping the month entirely, which feels wrong, I’ve decided to do a special award.

Speaker of the Month for June 2015 are all the speakers (except me) on SQL Cruise Mediterranean 2015.

I’ve said it before and I don’t mind repeating myself, SQL Cruise changes people’s careers. There are a lot of reasons for this. The number one reason is all the work that Tim & Amy Ford do to put together the cruise, create the itinerary, ensure plenty of structured and unstructured time on the boat to ensure intense interaction, and all the rest of the stuff that they do. The second reason is the people that they get to staff the event as Technical Leads. These really are some of the smarter, knowledgeable, and most importantly, friendly and approachable, people in the industry. Look at the list: Stacia Misner, Andrew Kelly, Argenis Fernandez, Aaron Bertrand. Want to learn about BI? Done. Interested in hard core system tuning? Done. Want to know how to properly write your T-SQL? Done & Done. Most importantly, want to sit down on a couch, hand Aaron/Argenis/Andrew/Stacia a drink and have a nice long chat about ways to improve processes at your work, how to get started blogging, how to make the next jump in your career path and get answers to these questions from people who know what they’re talking about? Seriously and thoroughly done. Let’s not dismiss other Technical Leads from other cruises which includes: David Klee (flat out one of the single smartest AND nicest people you’ll meet), Jes Borland (probably the single fiercest community advocate going, plus a bundle of unbridled energy and intense knowledge), Kevin Kline (I’m not worthy), and Jeff Lehmann (let’s talk cross-platform knowledge as well as process and experience).

All these people working within the structure that Tim & Amy have created have more than earned Speaker of the Month. These are the people you want to learn from and they teach the knowledge you need.

Bad news is, next month won’t have any community people either. After that, back on the regular community speaker track.

Jan 06 2015

Execution Plans, Performance Tuning and Rum


This is me on the last cruise

In just a few more weeks I’ll be setting sail on the first of two SQL Cruise events this year. I’m honored beyond my ability to appropriately express it to be included as one of the Technical Leads for both the cruise in February (7-14, 2015, I think there’s a seat or two left) to the Caribbean and the one in June (14-21, 2015, definitely a couple of seats left) to the Mediterranean. Lest you think that this is just an excuse to hang out and drink, you ought to know a little about how sessions are presented on the cruise and the sessions I’m presenting.

Don’t mistake sessions on the boat for your typical one hour session at a SQL Saturday event. These sessions are two hours long. That means two things. First, I can spend quite a bit more time on my topic so that I get to put out some real in-depth information rather than the high level or glossed presentations you can do in one hour. Second, you get to ask questions, make comments, directly interact in an environment where, even if I say we’ll have to talk about this after the session, I’m right there so we’ll be talking about it after the session. Plus, you’ll still have the other Technical Leads there to help answer questions.

Because the most important aspect of the SQL Cruise is your access to both the Technical Leads and the other cruisers (including MVPs, MCMs, and just awesome and amazing people). This is the single most important aspect of SQL Cruise, the ability to sit down with people like Kevin Kline and pick his brain, without pressure, without the need to run to another session, without the ability of Kevin to escape (ha, not that he’d try, he’s one of the most helpful and kind people I know). The same goes for all the other cruisers and Tech Leads.

I’m doing two sessions on the cruise. The first is called “Execution Plans, What Can You Do With Them.” Yeah, yeah, yeah, query tuning. Whatever. You’re right, it is one of the important aspects of what execution plans do. But, in this session, instead of exploring an execution plan to try to improve performance, we’re going to explore execution plans to see what they tell us about how SQL Server works. What happens when you insert data? What happens when there’s a calculated column? How do the queries and the internals of the structures get resolved by SQL Server? Well, I can’t tell you everything about that because the execution plan is still an abstraction layer. But, there’s a ton of really interesting information available within these things. We’re going to dig around in them and see what we can see and just talk about what an execution plan shows us and how we can explore it. I’ve been working obsessively on a bunch of, what I think, are interesting plans with fun little details to explore. And, I’ll share all the scripts so you can explore them on your own.

Next, I’m doing a session on a performance checklist. I’m going to just flat out give away the stuff I go through and look at when setting up a server, designing a database, or consulting on performance problems. But more importantly, I want to discuss with you why I’m doing everything I’m doing. I’m counting on the fact that with all the MVPs and MCMs in the room, I’m going to be able to say a few things that they’re going to jump into the middle of. Oh yes, we’re going to have some excellent conversations during this session. I promise. I make a few suggestions that almost no one agrees with. We’re going to have fun. You won’t want to miss it.

Oh, yeah, and we get to do all this awesome learning, sharing, talking and laughing while basking in warm sunshine and sipping on the beverage of your choice (make mine a Mojito, no, wait, a Mulata Daisy, hang on, how about a Caipirinha? Yeah, I know, that’s not rum, it’s still good, and who knows, the rum might be gone).

SQL Cruise quite literally changes the life trajectory of people involved with it. The direct, extended, involvement between the people on the cruise energizes people to make positive changes in their lives. And we learn stuff. And we have fun. Don’t miss out.

Dec 18 2013

Speaking in 2014

I love that I get to travel around and learn from my #sqlfamily. We’re still filling in the majority of the 2014 schedule, but the plans are to go to as many events as Mrs. Scary will let me. I’d like to alert you to a couple coming up in January, and then I should be able to get a fuller schedule for the first quarter posted soon (that way you can complain to me in person about Managed Backups).

On Friday, January 10th, I’ll be presenting a SQL in the City Seminar on Database Deployment in Cambridge, UK. Presenting in the UK is just fantastic. And this is a live event. And it’s at the stately Red Gate Towers. Oh, and this is a free event, but seating is limited. Make sure you follow the link and register soon. I can’t guarantee you a seat otherwise.

At the end of the month I’ll be speaking at SQL Cruise. I’m pretty sure that’s sold out at this point, so I’ll see you there if you’re going. If not, you missed out. Keep an eye on Tim’s web site for the next one. For a lot of people, this trip changes their lives. You’d think it was just an excuse to work on a sun tan and ride on a boat, but Tim makes it an Event by bringing together great speakers and knowledgeable engaged people who interact, guide, teach and just plain chat about all things SQL Server and all things SQL Family. Get on the next boat.

Sep 26 2011

Book Review: Smarter, Faster, Cheaper

In my continuing quest to not get personal visits from Buck Woody (blog|twitter) I’m making sure that I make good on my commitment to read 12 personal development books in 12 months. We’re up to #4 (again demonstrating the degree of fear that Buck can put in a person) and the book is Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: Non-Boring, Fluff-Free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business by David Siteman Garland (blog|twitter).

The extended title on the book covers what it’s about quite well. David Garland is considered one of the top marketers these days and he seems to follow the processes laid out in his book. I say this because I received a tweet from him after I tweeted that I’d finished reading the book. One of the processes laid out is to set up search routines to keep an eye out for your name, your companies name, your book’s name, and go to where those things are being posted and respond, in person.

I can sum up a huge part of the book in those last two words, in person. He’s very much about the concept that what you’re selling is not a widget, but yourself and that the more and better you sell yourself, the more and better your widgets will sell. The focus of the book is on marketing and selling, which is good, that’s what I expected and wanted. I’m just still having trouble wrapping my brain around the fact that I’m in sales & marketing. But, the good news, for me anyway, is that David Garland’s idea of sales is to generate useful content. Wait, what was that? You mean writing books, blog posts, articles, recording videos and presenting online & at user groups is sales & marketing? Sweet! I’m in favor.

The point is, you have to move away from the ideas of marketing the old way, buying commercial time on TV and move into using the intertubes to do your marketing. That marketing is done by becoming a trusted advisor, or as Seth Godin has it, a linchpin. You do that by generating material, like this blog, and handing it out for free. You take part in discussions in forums, twitter, whatever, and grow yourself into a trusted resource THEN, you carefully sell. I’m sold. Of course, I’ve been sold. I got this message a year ago, right before I changed my career path. The book goes on to discuss various mechanisms of engagement and production you can use to build up that material which will turn you into a trusted resource. There’s a lot of great advice about how to manage your online presence, how to overcome fear (of failure, success, what have you), produce video, and probably most importantly, building a community. The book is all about building out a community of people that you help and who in turn help you. A real community, not just a bunch of readers or viewers, but an interactive group of individuals. Again, I’m in favor.

Unusual enough for a modern book, he has an Index. In fact, he has a good index. When I saw that I had to check to see if I was reading one of my history books or a technical book. No one puts indexes in books any more (apart from historians & geeks). Excellent.

So that’s what the book is all about, how did it affect me, personally? I have to say, I’m a bit… meh, about it. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a very well written book and I believe in what David Garland is pushing here. I think he’s 100% correct and I think the book would be very useful to others. Unfortunately, I’ve read several of Seth Godin’s books and I’ve been pursuing this line of approach already, so… while the book reinforced the things I know, the approach I’m taken, the beliefs I’m working under, it didn’t add a lot to them. But I think the fault here is the reader, not the book. However, I still found it useful, if for nothing else the reinforcement that I’m at least striving in the right direction (which is very nice to have).

I did find the chapter on reputation, “Your Reputation in the Transparent World We Live In” … scary and useful. I’m sure that doesn’t sound good, but it is. I’ve made several adjustments to how and what I do online over the last year and I suspect I’ll be making a few more changes based on this. I’m just nervous about going too far and becoming boring (right, right… more boring).

Anyway, on to the next book, Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself by Daniel H. Pink.

Jun 20 2011

Make the Optimizer Work Harder

One of my favorite indicators for whether or not you have a good execution plan is when you see the “Reason for Early Termination” property in the TSQL operator like this:


The optimizer considered this particular plan “Good Enough.” which is what you want to see. When you see “Timeout” as the reason, that’s an indication that the plan you have may be sub-optimal. The question is, can you make the optimizer spend more time on your queries. Well, actually, the question is, should you make the optimizer spend more time on queries. During my session on SQL Cruise I answered the original phrasing of that question, no. As usual when I present in front of people smarter than I am, I was wrong. Brent Ozar (blog|twitter) pointed out that there was a trace flag for forcing the optimizer to spend more time on queries, 2301.

According to Microsoft you can set this trace flag on your system or per user session. Either way, it doesn’t simply make the optimizer spend more time. In fact, what it does is turn on a whole new set of possible optimizations, which causes the optimizer to spend more time. What optimizations you ask? Here’s an excellent article by Ian Jose (blog) outlining exactly what you’re enabling by turning on this traceflag.

Do I recommend that you enable this trace flag if you’re looking at Timeout as the early terminator for your execution plan? Nope. Not at all. I recommend you spend time tuning that query. Break it down into smaller pieces. Not that I like hints, but see if a query hint will solve the issue. If none of those approaches work, I’d at least consider testing trace flag 2301. But even before you do that, I’d validate that any of the additional optimizations outlined by Ian Jose are applicable to your issue. If you are not facing those specific situations, setting this trace flag could hurt your performance.

There’s surprisingly little documentation on this out there. The one story on it I found comes from Brent (which is why he evidently knew about it). He turned it on which solved a problem and then had to turn it back off because it created others.

This particular trace flag definitely sounds like you need to apply primum non nocere as your guiding principle.

Jun 08 2011

SQL Cruise Alaska 2011


Yes, I went on the SQL Cruise to Alaska. Yes, it was as grand as you’ve heard. Yes, I’m going to be putting up a series of blog posts about it. This is the first. It’s also part of my class work done during the cruise.

Three Reasons for Choosing to Cruise

1. My first, and most important, reason for coming on the cruise is because I thought it would be good for Red Gate Software. I’m still figuring out how to do my job as a product evangelist, so I’m experimenting with contacting audiences in as many ways as I can. This is one way to make that contact.

2. Frankly, I thought it would be fun. Fun because I knew a bunch of the people running the show and I’d get to hang out with them. Fun because getting to tour through Alaska and see things I’ve never seen would be fun. Fun because it’s a different adventure and I like to have as many of those as I can.

3. I also came because Red Gate wanted to send someone to see what this Cruise business was all about, explore the space, see what’s there and what people are doing.

Just so you know, the above was written, in class, during the cruise. I have tons & tons of notes I took during the cruise. I’m putting together another posting assessing what happened during the cruise, along with posts on my upcoming reading lists, new personal goals, and a number of technical questions that came up during my presentation on the cruise. I suddenly have a big fat writing list in front of me. Yee ha!

Oh, and that admitedly dull photo up there was taken using my Asus Transformer, which I used to take notes during the whole week, so I have a review of that to post soon. Short version: I’m impressed and quite happy with it.