The PASS Summit for 2014 is nearly upon us, and the MVP Summit is immediately prior, in the same week and the same city. This is my first MVP Summit since early 2008. I've been invited every year, but I simply haven't prioritised it. I've been awarded MVP status every year since 2006 (just received my ninth award), but in 2009 and 2010 I attended SQLBits in the UK, and have been to every PASS Summit since then. This year, it's great that I get to do both Summits in the same trip, but if I get to choose just one, then it's an easy decision.
So let me tell you why the PASS Summit is the bigger priority for me.
Number of people
Actually, the PASS Summit isn't that much larger than the MVP Summit, but the MVP Summit has thousands of non-SQL MVPs, and only a few hundred in the SQL space. Because of this, the 'average conversation with a stranger' is very different. While it can be fascinating to meet someone who is an MVP for File System Storage, the PASS Summit has me surrounded by people who do what I do, and it makes for more better conversations as I learn about who people are and what they do.
Access to Microsoft
The NDA content that MVPs learn at the MVP Summit is good, but the PASS Summit will have content about every-SQL-thing you ever want. The same Microsoft people who present at the MVP Summit are also at the PASS Summit, and dedicate time to the SQL Clinic, which means that you can spend even more time working through ideas and problems with them. You don't get this at the MVP Summit.
Obviously not everyone can go to the MVP Summit, as it's a privilege that comes as part of the MVP award each year (although it's hardly 'free' when you have to fly there from Australia). While it may seem like an exclusive event is going to be, well, exclusive, most MVPs are all about the wider community, and thrive on being around non-MVPs. There are less than 400 SQL MVPs around the world, and ten times that number of SQL experts at the Summit. While some of the top experts might be MVPs, a lot of them are not, and the PASS Summit is a chance to meet those people each year.
Content from the best
The MVP Summit has presentations from people who work on the product. At my first MVP Summit, this was a huge deal. And it's still good to hear what these guys are thinking, under NDA, when they can actually go into detail that they know won't leave the room. But you don't get to hear from Paul White at the MVP Summit, or Erin Stellato, or Julie Koesmarno, or any of the other non-Microsoft presenters. The PASS Summit gives the best of both worlds.
I'm really looking forward to the MVP Summit. I've missed the last six, and it's been too long. MVP Summits were when I met some of my oldest SQL friends, such as Kalen Delaney, Adam Machanic, Simon Sabin, Paul & Kimberly, and Jamie Thomson. The opportunities are excellent. But the PASS Summit is what the community is about.
MVPs are MVPs because of the community – and that's what the PASS Summit is about. That's the one I'm looking forward to the most.