Category: SQLSaturday

My Full-Day Power BI Pre-Con for SQL Saturday 453 (Minnesota)

Greetings, friends! I am delighted to announce that I will be providing a full day pre-con on Power BI as part of SQL Saturday #453 in Minnesota in October. Woohoo! As you might guess, I am really excited about Power BI. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. It’s the old branding, but that’s fine for now. Hey, Microsoft, if you want to send me one with the new branding, I wear an XL. Thanks.

Embedded image permalink

You have a account, right? Right? Get a FREE one here.

I love the way Microsoft has been enabling users with the self-service offerings over the past few years. With Power BI, they have not just created a new offering, they have established an ecosystem for growing the Data Culture in pretty much any organization. Below is the abstract for this pre-con that just barely scratches the surface of what is possible with this fantastic technology. With their plan to release updates to the service on a weekly basis and Power BI Desktop on monthly basis, it will be even better come October. 🙂

Click, Click WOW: The Exciting World of Power BI

With Power BI, Microsoft makes working with data even easier… AGAIN. After years of enabling IT and Power Users, they have released a new set of capabilities that truly enables EVERYONE. The NEW Power BI includes a cloud service,, as well as a FREE, standalone application that combines Power Query, Power Pivot, and Power View into a single environment completely independent of Excel called Power BI Desktop.


This Pre-Con will cover the entire Power BI user experience, from creating dashboards in the Service to using Power BI Desktop to create data models that help you get the answers you need.


Power BI Service

·         What is Power BI?

o   General offering overview

·         Datasets

o   Importing data from a number of sources, both on-premises and in the cloud

o   Scheduling data refresh

·         Reports

o   Visualization overview

o   Pinning Reports to a Dashboard

·         Dashboards

o   Putting it all together in Tiles

o   Using natural language search to create new Tiles

o   Sharing your Dashboard with others

·         Configuration

o   Setting up the Power BI Personal Gateway to access on-premises data

o   Managing Groups for sharing and collaboration


Power BI Desktop

·         Getting/Transforming Data (Power Query)

o   Importing data from a number of sources, both on-premises and in the cloud

o   Renaming, combining, splitting columns

o   Changing formatting like Capitalization and removing unwanted spaces

o   Creating new columns

o   Replacing invalid values

o   Brief introduction to the M language

·         Designing Your Data Model (Power Pivot)

o   Creating relationships between tables

o   Using DAX to bring your model to life

o   Modeling and DAX Best Practices

·         Visualizing Data (Power View)

o   Choosing from the vast array of visualizations

o   Configuring visualizations for color, formatting, etc

o   High-level data visualization best practices


Microsoft’s goal with Power BI has been, “Five minutes to WOW!” Imagine how many WOWs we can get in a full day pre-con!

My Remaining 2014 Presentation Schedule

Greetings. Since I do a fair amount of presenting, I like to keep people up to date on when and where I will present. Below are the presentations I have left in 2014.

SQL Saturday Winnipeg – November 22

In addition to serving on the committee that is organizing Winnipeg’s first SQL Saturday, I will be giving two presentations:

Analysis Services Terms and Concepts for the DBA

MDX Trek: First Contact

Minnesota BI User Group – December 2

I will be presenting a Case Study along with someone I worked with at a client. This is a make-up for September when a back spasm prevented me from delivering this presentation.

Case Study: Monitoring SSAS Usage with Extended Events

How do you measure the success of a Self Service Business Intelligence initiative? While the answer to that question has several components, a vital one is Adoption. Are people using the assets created for that initiative? Since Business Intelligence is using data to make better decisions, why not use data to help answer this question? At Capella University, we did just that.

This case study will describe how we used Analysis Services Extended Events to track the usage of Tabular Models that Capella built for Self Service BI users. We will demonstrate the following:

The business case for capturing asset usage

The particular goals Capella had in this case

How easy it is to get started with SSAS Extended Events (far easier than it looks)

The end-to-end solution created: from the event trace itself thru to the Power Pivot model created for analysis

Lessons learned (some learned the hard way)

We hope you will come away from this presentation with less trepidation around SSAS Extended Events as well as a foundation you can use for your own solution.

Minnesota SQL Server User Group (PASSMN) December Meeting – December 16

I will be participating in an Improv-style group presentation based on the format of the TV Show Whose Line is it Anyway? with other speakers from the Twin Cities.


Pragmatic Works Free Training Series – December 18


Analysis Services Terms and Concepts for the DBA

This is a make-up for September when a back spasm prevented me from delivering this presentation.


So, that’s it for the rest of 2014. Overall, it has been a pretty busy year as far as presenting goes. I hope to continue that in 2015.

My First Pre-Con: SQL Saturday 332–Minnesota

It is with tremendous joy (and a little trepidation) that I announce that I will be doing my very first Pre-Con as part of SQL Saturday 332 in Minnesota in October. I have been presenting for several years now and feel that it is time to take this next big step. Since I love presenting so much, the idea of presenting for a whole day is just awesome. There is a also quite a bit more pressure in this scenario. But that is part of what makes this a great growth experience, stretching myself like I have never done before.

Over the past several months, I have done a lot of client work in Excel dealing with Power Pivot and Pivot Tables. I have also been doing a bit using Power View up in SharePoint, the vast majority of which carries to Excel 2013 as well. I have always been a fan of enabling users to do more with data and learn to be more self-sufficient. My experiences in Excel have reinforced the idea that Excel is a fantastic platform in the Self-Service BI movement. The past several months working with data in Excel have been some of the most fun in my career. So, when I needed a topic for a BI Pre-Con, the choice was easy.

You can find information on all the SQL Saturday 332 Minnesota Pre-cons here. It is an impressive line-up, to be sure. The abstract for mine is below.

Microsoft Excel: The Business Intelligence Platform For The Masses

From gathering and shaping source data through data modeling and visualizations, it is staggering how much you can accomplish in Excel. This Pre-Con will walk you through creating an interesting and powerful BI solution in Microsoft Excel 2013. Whether you are a business user or a technical developer, you will get good value from attending.

1. Power Query 

• Using Power Query to gather source data from various sources both on-premise and in the cloud. 

• Use various transformations on the Ribbon

• Travel back and forth through time via Query Steps

• The basics of Power Query Formula Language (M)

2. Modeling Data With Power Pivot

• Importing Data from various sources

• Linking Tables to data residing directly in Excel sheets

• The importance of Date Tables

• Best Practices

3. DAX 101

• Introduce DAX syntax beginning with Calculated Columns including the mighty Related function

• The basics of the Calculated Fields (Measures)

• Row context/filter context

• The power of the CALCULATE function

• More…

4. Power Pivot/DAX Design Patterns

• Solving real-word problems with Power Pivot

• Many to Many relationships

• Parent-Child Hierarchies

• Segmentation

• More…

5. Excel Pivot Tables/Charts

• Connecting Excel to data sources like SSAS Cubes, Tabular Models, and the internal Power Pivot model

• Pivot Table basics

• Filtering methods and Slicers

• Conditional formatting

• Pivot Charts

• More…

6. Power View

• The basic visualizations (Bars, Columns, Matrix, etc)

• Advanced visualizations (Multiples, Cards, Scatter/Bubble Charts, etc

• Filtering views or the entire report

• Design tips to take great advantage of Power View’s capabilities


I will be focusing on using Excel 2013 on my machine. There is so much to cover that trying to add in Power BI-specifics is just not in the cards. But I think that makes sense as SO many more people have Excel on their machines than are using Power BI right now. And SO few of those people are taking advantage of even a tiny subset of what Excel has to offer. A major goal of this Pre-Con is to help change that.

Upcoming Presentations Spring 2014

It has been a while since I posted a list of upcoming presentations. In fact, some have come and gone without a blog post.

Recent Past:

SQL Saturday #241 Cleveland, OH – February 8, 2014

MDX Trek: First Contact

DANGER: The Art and Science of Presenting

West Michigan SQL Server User Group – February 27, 2014

MDX Trek: First Contact

* I ended up having to cancel this one at the last minute. I am really bummed about that and will discuss lessons learned in a separate post. 😦

Pragmatic Works Free Webinar Series – March 11, 2014

MDX Trek: First Contact

On the Horizon:


SQL Saturday #287 Madison, WI – March 29, 2014

DANGER: The Art and Science of Presenting

PASS BI/DW Virtual Chapter – April 2, 2014

MDX Trek: First Contact

Montreal BI User Group – April 16, 2014

MDX Trek: First Contact

SQL Saturday #291 Chicago, IL – April 26, 2014

MDX Trek: First Contact

DANGER: The Art and Science of Presenting

Minnesota SQL Server User Group (PASSMN) – May 20, 2014

Power Query: The Data Chemist’s Laboratory

This is what I have on my schedule so far. I have to say that I am really happy about how often I have been able to speak at events and user groups over the past few years. It is an important part of my career development and I just love doing it.

Upcoming Presentations: SQL Saturday #241 Cleveland





It is with great joy that I announce that I will be presenting at SQL Saturday in Cleveland on February 8th. I have driven through Cleveland before, but never stopped for long. So, this will be my first real visit. Although, if it helps, I used to love to play as the Cleveland Browns in Tecmo Bowl back in my Nintendo days. I will be giving two sessions.

MDX Trek: First Contact

Cube space; the final frontier. In this Star Trek themed introduction to MDX, we will discuss the fundamentals of cube structure and vocabulary, including tuples, members, sets, hierarchies, and more. We will introduce and demonstrate the basic syntax of MDX with queries that include navigating hierarchies and even some time-based expressions. This session will give you the tools you need to write simple, yet meaningful, MDX queries in your own environment.

Session Level: Intermediate

I love this MDX session. I have given it many times over the past few years. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. It turns out that my view of the Cube space is a bit revolutionary. I have heard that writing MDX was like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube in your head. When I first started dealing with MDX, I understood what that meant. But I soon found that it need not be that hard. In this session, before diving into code, I explain my model of looking at the Cube space that is much easier to deal with and understand. The Star Trek theme also keeps this really fun.

DANGER: The Art and Science of Presenting

Is there a great difference in the brain chemistry of someone fleeing a hungry mountain lion and someone presenting to a group of colleagues in a corporate board room? The answer is: NO. Over the past decade, a lot has been learned about the chemistry of the brain and why humans react the way we do to events in our environment. The concept of EQ (Emotional Intelligence) is a compelling and growing concept that applies this knowledge in a set of learnable, improvable skills for leading human beings. While EQ is often applied to corporate leadership, the parallels to presenting are fantastic. This session will explain the basics of EQ and demonstrate how you can apply it to make your presentations better in the following areas:

* Crafting better slide decks
* Preparing yourself for presenting
* Delivering your content
* Dealing with the unexpected

Understanding and practicing the concepts of EQ can make your presentations a better experience for everyone in the room–including you.

Session Level: Beginner

In this session, which I gave at the PASS Summit in Charlotte, I introduce the concepts and skills of Emotional Intelligence as they relate to presenting. This, too, has been incredibly well received and the feedback has been spectacular. Presenting is definitely a strength of mine and this session shows some of the mechanics behind my philosophy. This session can not only help you with presentations and their delivery, but also lays a great foundation for leadership and working with other humans.

I am also excited to announce that Digineer, the consulting firm I work for and adore, is a Gold Sponsor for this SQL Saturday. As such, I will also be giving a shorter presentation during lunch. This presentation, “Keeping The Business In Business Intelligence” lays out our philosophy around BI. While this session will touch a bit on Digineer and who we are, it will also be grounded in solid content for achieving success in Business Intelligence initiatives.

SQL Saturday has been a hugely successful program. I have participated in as many SQL Saturdays as I could over the past several years. You can read about many of my experiences in previous posts on this blog. I have to say that SQL Saturdays have been a hugely important part of my growth in working with SQL Server and related tools. The idea of members of the SQL Community (dubbed SQLFamily with good reason) sharing their expertise with others at free events is just exciting and inspiring. I am proud to be a part of these events. I also consider it part of my own personal mission to help encourage new speakers. If you have questions about speaking (or blogging), please come chat with me. I love helping people get started. The more people we have sharing their knowledge and passion, the stronger a community we are.

Upcoming Presentations and More

Wow. I have the tremendous joy to have 4 presentations coming up in the next few weeks. I love when that happens.

October 12 – SQL Saturday #238 Minnesota

I will be giving two sessions at the SQL Saturday here in sunny Minnesota.

1. MDX Trek: First Contact

2. DANGER: The Art and Science of Presenting

PASS SUMMIT!!!! For Real!

I get to give my first Summit presentation ever. I’m really excited for this.

3. DANGER: The Art and Science of Presenting

In addition to presenting, I will be on the Blogger Core, live blogging keynotes and sharing my observations all week long on Twitter. I also have the great privilege of getting interviewed on PASS TV! My interview will be from 4:30pm to about 4:45pm (Eastern) on Wednesday, October 16th. I am sure I will also be spending plenty of time in the PASS Community Zone. Please stop on by and say hi. Meeting new people is one of my favorite things to do at PASS events. I volunteered to host a Birds of a Feather Lunch table as well. That should be tons of fun. It’s going to be quite a week. 🙂

October 19 – SQL Saturday # 237 Charlotte BI Edition

I will be staying an extra day in Charlotte to present at the SLQ Saturday.

4. MDX Trek: First Contact

All in all, it will be quite a busy time.

SQL Saturday #239 East Iowa Recap

I just returned home from a fantastic SQL Saturday in Iowa City. Ed Leighton-Dick (Blog|Twitter) and his team did an excellent job. Many thanks to them and to all of the folks that worked so hard to make this event what it was. FamAtFieldOfDreams

I had the joy of presenting twice. In first time-slot of the day, I co-presented Hailing Frequencies: Analysis Services Terms and Concepts with my friend, Doug Lane (Blog|Twitter). In the final time-slot, I gave my MDX Trek: First Contact presentation. Both went well and I want to thank those who attended these sessions when there were other great topics to choose from. I LOVE presenting and the chance to do it twice at a single event was outstanding.

In addition to presenting, I went to great sessions as well. Ed Leighton-Dick gave an excellent introduction to Service Broker, a topic near and dear to him. It was very clear and concise and provided troubleshooting tips and lessons learned. I also went to a great session by Time Mitchell (Blog|Twitter) on SSIS Incremental Load Design Patterns. In addition to quality content, there was meaningful discussion. I went to Doug Lane’s session, From Minutes to Milliseconds: High-Performance SSRS Tuning. Doug gave great tips on memory/IO as well overall architecture choices. I learned valuable new things in every one of these sessions.

In addition to seeing #sqlfamily down in Iowa, I brought my wife and kids along this time. We stopped at the Field of Dreams baseball field in Dyersville, Iowa on the drive down from Minneapolis. That was really cool. My wife, a far bigger baseball fan than I am, absolutely loved it. Actually, she is watching that movie with my ten-year-old as I type this. 🙂 It was great to turn a SQL Saturday into a mini-vacation for my family as well. If you have a chance to do that some time, I highly recommend it.

SQL Saturday is such an important part of PASS and the overall #sqlfamily. It makes me so happy to see how SQL Saturday has grown so mightily over the years and spread across the world. That wouldn’t happen without people like Ed Leighton-Dick and his team who put in so much work to make these events happen. The people that give so much of themselves to put on these events deserve our Thanks and appreciation. 🙂

Upcoming Presentations–April 2013

I have the great joy of presenting at a handful of events in April. I absolution love presenting, so having 3 opportunities to present within the same month is pretty great.

PASS Business Analytics Conference – April 10-12, Chicago IL

Hailing Frequencies: Analysis Services Terms and Concepts

SQL Saturday #211 Chicago – April 13, Chicago IL

Hailing Frequencies: Analysis Services Terms and Concepts

SQL Saturday #175 Fargo – April 27, Fargo ND

MDX Trek: First Contact

If you happen to be attending any of these events, please stop by.

SQL Saturday Nashua (146) Recap

FenwayGateBOn October 20th, I had the pleasure to attend SQL Saturday 146 in my hometown of Nashua, NH. To speak in the vocabulary of my youth, it was wicked good. I have decided to have parts of this post be in Bostonian, the dialect of English that is common in a pretty wide radius around the fine city of Boston, MA. I will note the Bostonian sections by using the <Go Sawx!> tag at the beginning and the ending tag of </Go Sawx!>.

I know that Fenway Park is actually in Boston, but the majority of people in southern NH are Red Sox fans. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to come clean: I married a Yankees fan.


<Go Sawx!>

The Speakah Dinnah was on Friday night, and it was a wicked pissah. Meetin’ Mike Walsh (blahg|Twittah) and Jack Corbet (blahg|Twittah) for the first time was awesome. It is so much fun meetin’ people you have only chatted with on Twittah and stuff. I also got a meet a ton of new people and have a really good Seafood Samplah. It was a sweet time. And the SQL Satuhday hoodie all the speakahs got is spectaculah.

</Go Sawx!>

Saturday, I showed up early to help set up the PASS table and staff it with mighty Joe D’Antoni (blog|Twitter). As two PASS Regional Mentors, part of our job is to help out with the PASS table at events like SQL Saturdays. I spent pretty much all of my time there when I wasn’t in a session (or the bathroom, but we won’t go into that). I had a great time chatting with the attendees about PASS. The overwhelming majority of the attendees said it was their first SQL Saturday. It was fantastic to see the enthusiasm of people so new to SQL events.

I gave my MDX Trek: First Contact presentation during the first session of the day. It went well and I had good questions asked. It was really fun and I got some great feedback. Thanks to those who attended and endured my Star Trek nerdery.

I then sat in on Matt Masson’s (blog|Twitter) EIM – Bringing Together SSIS, DQS, and MDS session. I had not seen much of Data Quality Services before. That was pretty cool and great to see those tools put together to great effect.

I spent the third session hanging in the speaker ready room with Bill Pearson (Twitter), Andy Roberts (blog|Twitter) and Slava Kokaev (blog|Twitter). It was great to just sit and relax a bit and chat about Business Intelligence.

The fourth session of the day for me was with Bill Pearson in his Overcoming Barriers and Avoiding Mistakes With BI presentation. It was actually more of a group discussion format. That was cool and a refreshing change from the typical presentation format.

<Go Sawx!>

The aftah pahty was at a restarant called Mahtha’s Exchange (Martha’s, actually). I hung out with some really cool people and had killah appatizahs. It was low key and just really fun. Any chance to spend time with othah SQL people is a great time. Oh, and that Peanut Buttah Pie was frickin awesome, guys.

</Go Sawx!>

Mike and Jack put together one great SQL Saturday. The feedback from attendees and presenters alike was overwhelmingly positive. With the help of awesome volunteers like David Taylor (blog|Twitter) and so many others, SQL Saturday 146 in Nashua a great success.

SQL Saturday Minnesota (149) Recap

My customary post-SQL-Event post is a Top Ten List. I have decided that I do not wish to be bound by the limitations of the number Ten. Therefore, from here on out, my plan is to do a more free form recap.

SQL Saturday #149 just took place in Minneapolis, MN, on September 29th. There were also some Pre-cons offered on September 28th. I shall arrange my recap chronologically.

September 28th

I attend the Unlocking Insight – Be a Data Hero pre-con given by Dan English (b|t) and Brian Larson. The content was on the BI stack in SQL Server 2012, with special focus on Tabular Models and Power View. I got a lot out of it and had fun, to boot. Nice work, gents.

I had to miss the Speaker Dinner this time around. But, if you will bear with me, I will imagine some events that may or may not (likely not) have taken place:

Llama1. Jason Horner (b|t) showed up riding a llama he personally befriended while on a hiking trip through the Andes. Her name was Gertrude and her ability to juggle was astounding.

2. Jason Strate (b|t) decided to challenge Gertrude to a game of chess. Fortunately for Jason, Gertrude’s hastily constructed Sicilian Defense was no match for his knights. Well done, Jason.

3. Jes Schultz Borland (b|t) demonstrated that she can actually levitate over a stack of SQL Server books by uttering a very long, high pitched, “SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” It was truly impressive to behold.





September 29th

I attended the POSH Eye for the BI Guy presentation given by Jason Horner (b|t). It was about using Powershell for managing objects in SSIS, SSRS, and SSAS. Jason showed great agility by doing an impromptu intro to Powershell when he learned that the vast majority of the attendees had never used it. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to playing with Powershell to do all kinds of cool stuff with the BI tools.

I attend the Design and Implement BI Like Edison session by Bill Pearson (t). He did a great job combining fascinating facts about Thomas Edison with Business Intelligence. It was a lot of fun.

I helped Mike Donnelly (b|t) distribute lunches to the experts in the lunch breakout sessions called “Topics on a Stick,” which is a great reference to the numerous stick-bound foods one can get at the annual Minnesota State Fair. I then hung out at the PASS table with Sarah Strate (b|t) to have my lunch and do my part as a PASS Regional Mentor.

I had the honor of giving my MDX Trek: First Contact presentation. I have a blast with this one. Thanks to all who attended and for the great feedback.

I attended the session called Fast Track to Spatial Reporting by Jason Thomas (b|t). Jason did a great job explaining the use of spatial data with Reporting Services 2008 R2. As someone who has only done basic stuff with maps in SSRS, I found it really helpful.

For the final session of the day, I went to Real-Time Analytics With SSAS Tabular DirectQuery by Paul Doyle (t). It was a really interesting look at the DirectQuery option for the new Tabular models in SSAS 2012. Paul and a colleague demonstrated how to set it up, track it using Profiler, and went over some of the caveats. It was a good session on a new topic for me. Nice work, gents.

The after party was a great time. I hung out with old friends and made some new ones. There was SQLKaraoke, which is always a good time. The SQL Saturday after-parties are just awesome. Spending time with the fine folk of the SQL Community is just awesome.

That pretty much wraps it up. Huge thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make this event the great success that it was. The people who give so much of their time and energy to put on events like SQL Saturday are truly an asset to the SQL Community and deserve way more recognition than they tend to receive.