PASS Summit 2016 – My Session Evaluations

No Sessions For You!

The announcements of the speakers and sessions selected for the PASS Summit 2016 were recently announced, and I was not picked for any sessions.

I do not have any ill feelings to those that go through the herculean effort to create the reviews and the Summit in general.

Am I upset & disappointed? Sure, who wouldn’t be! Rather than get all upset and whine about it though I made a decision to continue to improve. More details on that later.

This year I took a bit of a risk and submitted two 1/2 day (3 hour) sessions based on a couple of the more popular sessions I do as well as a couple of regular sessions.

There are fewer spots for 1/2 day sessions, but I would rather have the time to answer questions and relay the information that cut short and leave people hanging on the 2 apparently popular topics.

That gamble did not pay off this year with getting picked, but that’s okay.

Jumping on the bandwagon, here are my submitted abstracts and review notes for Summit 2016.

Submission 1:

Session Name:

Hacking Exposé – Using SSL to Secure SQL Server Connections


Half Day Session (3 hours)



Session Abstract:

You know all the ways to protect your database when it is at rest, but what about when someone connects and starts running some queries?
What if they connect and don't do anything?
Just how exposed is that data?

In this session we assume the role of a hacker and, by using a simple technique, sniff packets on a network to reveal what data is being sent when someone connects to SQL server from SSMS and other tools.

You may be shocked!

We will then secure our SQL connections with a couple of different SSL/TLS certificates, including a special one that SQL Server can generate.
Once secured, we will once again take on the role of the hacker and look to see what, if anything, has changed.

*Warning – Do not try these demos at work without proper permissions as actual hacking techniques are used.


This session only requires you to have a basic knowledge of SQL Server configuration and an interest in protecting the data in your database.


Learn what is exposed when using the default, unprotected connections to SQL Server.

Learn how to configure SQL Serve to use an SSL/TLS certificate to encrypt connections.

Learn ways, with proper permission, to capture and check network packet to confirm data in transit is protected.


Perhaps 3 hours are too many for this session, but topic is very cool

Abstract: well written, interesting, appreciate the warning
Topic: catchy title
Subjective: this is definitely a session I am interested in.

Abstract: Well written abstract with clearly defined goals.
Topic: Great topic. I like the spin on this for taking a look at security from the perspective of a hacker.
Subjective: I think this would be an interesting session to have at Summit 16. Slightly concerned that it could fill 3 hours, but given the topics being covered, it should be doable.


Interesting that this seemed to get positive responses and interest shown, but didn’t rank high enough to be selected. I have given this talk many times and have streamlined it, but by adding the steps to add 3rd party certificates certain takes it up to 3 hrs easily. When I first ever presented this session it ran close to 2 hours just showing a self-signed certificate process and no real questions. I will continue to work on this series and see where it goes in the future.


Submission 2:

Session Name:

Protecting Data While Maintaining Performance Expectations


Half-Day Session (3 hours)



Session Abstract:

As the number of data breaches rises so does the requirement to encrypt and protect sensitive data for a lot of us. The general problem though is SQL Server performance taking a huge hit when we have to encrypt a key value that is used in searches.
We will take a look at just how bad a performance hit to expect when data is protected, and learn how, with one simple T-SQL coding trick, we can get a majority of the performance back. We will also take a hands-on look at the new SQL 2016 AlwaysEncrypted feature, implement it, and learn just how, if at all, it handles the performance hit inherent when protecting data.


Basic knowledge of SQL Server native encryption with keys and certificates. Basic T-SQL skills.


Improve query execution time on encrypted fields using a technique that can be used in versions as early as SQL 2005.

Learn the pros and cons of the new 2016 AlwaysEncrypted feature

Be confident that protecting data doesn’t have to affect the performance of your SQL Server.


Objective: I would like to attend this session

Abstract – Level of detail is insufficient. Goal #2 would have been a better title
Topic -Title could be improved.
Subjective – Really would have liked to have graded this higher as the additional notes should have been part of the abstract.

Abstract: detailed, compeling
Topic: new and relevant
Subjective rating: interesting

The outline seems to clearly describe the contents of the presentation. The topic and goals should be compelling to attendees. The topic appears to be timely, new and relevant. There appears to be a reasonable amount of live demonstrations in relation to the topic being presented. There appears an appropriate amount of material for the subject matter.

Abstract: Details an important concern regarding SQL encryption. Hands-on discussion covering 2016 AlwaysEncrypted feature is a significant concept as SQL 2016 nears RTW.
Topic: Title captures interest. I would want to attend.
Objective: Live demo concepts will help illustrate the topic.


This is another topic I’ve been doing for a while, and I expended by adding SQL 2016’s new always Encrypted to the session. THis session already pushes the boundaries of time and adding in the complexities of AlwaysEncrypted would certainly push it along to at least 2.5 hrs, with lots of questions I’m sure. I found it interesting that just the mention of adding a 2016 feature reference made those evaluating it instantly assume it was all about 2016 and that the title should reflect that. That is not hte case wit hthis. Reality is most people will not get to play with 2016, so this session shows a method you can use today, and also how it may, or may not, be easier in 2016 using a baked in feature.


Submission 3:

Session Name:

Statistics & Cardinality – How They Work to Find Data Efficiently  (Picked as an alternate)


General Session (75 minutes)



Session Abstract:

Are your statistics up to date?
Yes, it’s that dreaded phrase you hear all the time when it comes to performance tuning your SQL Server. What does it matter? Why should I care about statistics? Aren’t they automatic or something like that?
In this session we will go over why statistics matter, how they are generated, how they impact performance, and even how to maintain them. Once we have that all settled, we will take a quick look at how the cardinality estimator uses statistics to determine a ‘good enough’ plan to use. We will close out the session by taking a look at the performance impact from a simple upgrade of your SQL Server to 2014 and using the new cardinality estimator.


This session only requires you to have a basic knowledge of SQL Server and an interest in learning more about how the engine works behind the scenes.


Learn what SQL Statistics really are.

Learn how statistics are generated.

Understand how statistics and cardinality work together to find data efficiently.


Abstract – should have reworked details on the cardinality estimator in the beginning and make this the central theme of the abstract.
Topic – Could have a better title. Is level 300 appropriate for the goals of knowing what stats are? Should be 100 or 200
Subjective – Not sure if I would attend this with just a basic knowledge of SQL Server and still meet a 300.

Abstract: detailed
Topic: not new, but interesting
Subjective rating: I like New cardinality estimator topic

Abstract: Concise details. Goals align w/ abstract description.
Topic: Title reflects content.
Objective: Level and prerequisites match goals


The most boring title & abstract I think I have ever had for one of my sessions, not great comments, yet somehow this is the only one to have gotten onto an alternate list.

The focus of the session is more the statistics and how they are created and work than the cardinality estimator, so changing this to reflect the lesser of the 2 topics is not really an option IMO.

I can agree that 300 may be too high for this, but it gets attention. Having been on a session review board before it was noted that those with a lot of  experience over many years have a hard time picking level 100 & 200 sessions since they tend to think ‘why is that not known already? How can they work in SQL and not understand that.’ (my words and observations, suck it up).


Submission 4:

Session Name:

Would You Just Load Already?! Maximizing Your SSIS Data Load


General Session (75 minutes)



Session Abstract:

Loading data via SSIS is great! It’s fast too! Until you hit a bad record. Then things aren’t so great. Now you probably have to waste time dumping and reloading all the data, or worst figure out where the bad record is and try a partial load.

In this session you will learn a simple method to load data via SSIS and identify, remove, and record those bad records allowing you to maximize the amount of data loaded while ensuring data integrity.


Basic knowledge of SSIS and data load process.


Learn to filter bad data from your data loads.

Learn to maximize the speed of your load, even with bad data.

Ensure maximum data loaded while maintaining its integrity.


I think this session aims at a common SSIS load problem.
Maybe it’s a well know solution for some, but I think it could attract a fair few attendees.
Quite demo centric. has potential

Abstract: Title, abstract and goals are nicely aligned.
Topic: Interesting topic.

More BI track than app dev.

Should be in BI track. Title is confusing.
Good topic for loading data. Shuld use more characters in abstract and goals to explain

while the topic is not latest, its of interest and relevance to most ETL/Database developers. abstract is a bit short and could benefit from more details about session contents. goals are a bit terse and could benefit from more tangible details. high demo % is a plus.

This does not sound like a 300 level session, nor does it contain enough detail to make me think the full 75 minutes will be covered.

Abstract: “or worst figure” == “or worse, figure”


Ok, yes, this should have been in BI track. I swear I had set that right, but in the “rush” of getting abstracts submitted in the short window I must have missed that, and the typo / grammar mistake pointed out (thanks for pointing that out, it is very important!). That’s all on me.

This is a newer session for me showing a simple technique I’ve used for years. It is getting surprisingly popular and packing rooms. The timing has been dialed in and it right on the money with Q&A added in. I’m enjoying it as well as it is a slightly different crowd than just the performance tuners and DBAs. Not sure how the title is confusing, just because if you’ve done ETL, I’m sure you have said it out loud quite a few times.


Final thoughts:

I find it interesting how there is generally good feedback, but sessions did not rank well enough to be selected.

I also found it very interesting the ‘boring’ session was selected as an alternate, while the others were not.

I have no idea how they ranked score-wise, nor any idea what my speaker score is with PASS either.

Hopefully our speaker scores will get released to us so we get an idea of how much that may impact our being selected and thus we can work harder to make that better as well.

We’ll just have to wait to see how it all plays out.


Will we still see you at Summit this year? You got an alternate session, so, maybe?

I’ll be blunt.


You will not see me at Summit this year.

It isn’t because of being upset or annoyed that I wasn’t picked to speak.

Not that at all.

I was actually stressing a lot of how to make Summit work with MVP summit a week later (hopefully), then SQLSaturday DC & SQLLive360 a few weeks after those. That’s a lot of time off and away from everything.

When I received notice I had pretty much already made the decision that I probably would not be going if I was not selected to speak.

I did get an alternate slot picked, which would mean all the same prep leading up to the event. The same deadlines, etc. but no guarantee of being more than an attendee. That wasn’t really enough for me to commit the time and funds to going to Summit this year.

Instead I have signed up for a 3 day workshop in Fort Lauderdale the week before MVP summit so I can continue to improve myself as a presenter and therefore get those who attend to learn SQL and other topics even more enthusiastic and passionate about what they hear and learn from me.

In closing: I’m not going to stop presenting or speaking because of this.

In fact I’m going to do just the opposite and only get better.

Just you watch.

Comments 3

  1. Pingback: Feedback On My #SQLPASS #Summit16 Abstract Submissions

  2. Pingback: Choosing Content for the Summit – Voice of the DBA

  3. Sorry you won’t be presenting at summit. You are one of my favorite SQL presenters and those sessions sound great. There is an unfortunate lack of security related topics in general.

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