Execution plan training around the world

Execution plan training around the world

I sometimes hear that query performance tuning is a dying skill. But that is not true! Even in the modern day, with workloads moving to the cloud where you can increase performance by just moving a slider, where a lot of work is done by data analysts, using low-code or no-code solutions with an abstracted view of the data model, and where investments by Microsoft have taught SQL Server how to automatically improve performance in many ways, there is still a need for professionals who know how to investigate and fix a performance problem. Perhaps that need is even growing!

Going to the cloud doesn’t mean you do not need to optimize your performance anymore. Quite the contrary! In the cloud, depending on the type of service you use, you either pay for all the performance used, or you pay for the maximum capacity. In both cases, improving performance will not only increase user satisfaction because they get their reports and responses faster, but it will also reduce cost!

And shifting focus to a data analytics workload also doesn’t mean that you don’t need to worry about performance. Low-code and no-code solutions do not magically work without queries. They still send queries to the database. And those queries can still cause terrible performance issues. The only difference is that now the query is generated instead of manually written by you. But it still needs to be tuned if it performs bad! So whether you are the DBA of a server that is used for data analytics, or whether you are the data analyst, you can benefit a lot from knowing how to investigate performance issues!

And while Microsoft’s new tools do indeed manage to automatically apply workload optimizations in many situations, they are still automated tools. They may apply their rules in situations where they won’t help, or even backfire. They might not be able to see the less obvious issues in more complex workloads. They might even cause new issues that you didn’t have before! And because all the easy, standard optimizations are now identified by these new tools, the job of the consultant has become harder and more challenging. So you need to be good at it, and then become better!

Execution plans are a critical tool for finding the root cause of performance issues, as the first step towards finding a fix. It is therefore very important, arguable more important than ever, to master this tool!

Do you want to learn, in depth, about execution plans and performance tuning? Do you prefer to learn this from me? And are you now concerned that I might never be close enough to where you live? Then this post is for you, because for the rest of this year (2024), I will be doing a lot of travel and presenting about execution plans in many different locations!

Down under

I am very excited about my upcoming trip to Australia and New Zealand. There will be three different conferences there, in just three weeks, and before that I will also (virtually) attend a user group event.

June 26, 2024

On June 26, I will present for the Christchurch (NZ) Power BI, SQL Server & Data Management User group. The one-hour presentation Execution plans … Where do I start? targets people who want to or are just getting started with query performance tuning. I explain why execution plans are important for identifying performance issues, show you where you can find execution plans, and teach the basics of how to read the information in the execution plan.

July 19 – 20, 2024

On July 19, I will present a full-day precon, Execution plans in depth, for Data Saturday Brisbane, in Australia. The target audience of this precon is everyone who has some prior experience with and/or knowledge of execution plans. At the end of this day, you will not be sent home with a bag of tricks that you can use to identify and fix common issues on execution plans. Instead, I will teach you what each operator in an execution plan does, how it does this, how it interacts with other operators, and what this means for performance. In the “give a man a fish, teach a min to fish” analogy, this precon does neither, but instead gives you knowledge about how fishes live, so that you can always find the best fishing spot and choose the best kind of bate, even when the local fish population changes. Does this seem like the kind of training you need? Then sign up here!

On July 20, during the Data Saturday Brisbane main event, I will present two sessions: Advanced indexing and Here’s the execution plan … now what?. The first of these two targets database professionals who already know the basics of heaps, clustered indexes, and nonclustered indexes, but who also want to learn about more advanced topics, such as included columns, indexed views, filtered indexes, index-related DMVs, and the risks of over-indexing. The second is a very demo-rich session, where I use three moderately complex and realistic examples to show how you can use the execution plan to find the root cause of an issue, find a possible fix, and then verify whether that fix does indeed work.

July 26 – 27, 2024

A week later, I’ll be in Christchurch, New Zealand, for Data Saturday South Island / SQL Saturday South Island. Here I will once more present the full-day precon Execution plans in depth. People who have no previous experience with execution plans at all are heartily recommended to go to the June 26 user group meeting first, as that will give them enough foundation that they will get value out of this precon. If you want to attend this day, you can sign up here.

The schedule for July 27 has not yet been announced, but a little bird has already told me that I will present two sessions here as well, both performance focused. So keep an eye on this website and on this website for when the schedule is released.

August 2 – 3, 2024

And then, yet another week later, I’ll still be in New Zealand, but now in Wellington, for SQL Saturday #1019. They have not yet released their schedule for either the precons or for the main event. So I cannot officially tell you that I will be speaking there. But if you want to learn about execution plans and about performance tuning, then I still suggest that you keep both the Friday and the Saturday free in your agenda, and that you regularly check back their website, to see if the schedule has already been announced.

North America

People in North America might now be worried. I have already been in the USA earlier this year, in March, to present my full-day precon class as well as a regular session for SQL Saturday Austin. Surely I won’t be flying all across the Atlantic Ocean again, in the very same year?

Well, you are wrong!

November 4 – 8, 2024

Early November, I will once more make the long trip to the United States, this time for the PASS Data Community Summit in Seattle. They are still busy finalizing the lineup of speakers and sessions for the three days of the main event (November 6 – 8), but their precon lineup had already been filled. And I am very proud that my full-day precon Execution plans in depth has been selected this year! It is the same precon that I will present in Australia and New Zealand, except of course that I constantly update it with new insights as I go – so it will never be 100% the same. So if you are based in the USA and you were kicking yourself for missing Austin, and cursing your fate for living too far from Australia and New Zealand, then just click this link and sign up for precon in Seattle, on November 5. (And perhaps check out the full precon schedule and see if you can also find an interesting topic for November 4).


Of course, I am not planning to ignore my home soil. I live in the Netherlands, so shorter flights, lower flight fares, less jetlag, and less loss of billable hours make it much easier for me to go to European events. Just check out the list below.

June 29, 2024

On June 29, I’ll be in Germany for Data Saturday Rheinland. I will present one session there: Here’s the execution plan … now what?. The same session that was also selected for Brisbane, so scroll up to read a description of what to expect when you attend my talk in Rheinland.

August 31, 2024

On the last day of August, I’ll move up north, to Norway. Data Saturday Oslo has put one of my sessions on their schedule: Here’s the execution plan … now what?. Yes, again that same session. It seems to be popular! 😊

September 7, 2024

Continuing my Scandinavian trip, you can find me in Sweden one week later, at Data Saturday Gothenburg. Their schedule is not yet public, so keep a close eye on their site for when they do. For now, just trust me when I tell you that you will have a good opportunity to get started with execution plans if you are in Gothenburg at that time!

September 30 – October 2, 2024

After that, it is back to Germany for me, to SQL Konferenz. For this three-day event, I have been asked to present a single session. On October 1, I will present, once more, Here’s the execution plan … now what?.

October 5, 2024

Including this date is, admittedly, wishful thinking. The organizers of Data Saturday Holland have not yet made their selection. So I do not yet know whether I will present a session at this event in my own back yard. But I do hope so!

October 7 – 9, 2024

The schedule for dataMinds Connect in Belgium has only just been announced. But I am extremely happy top be on it. They have select one of my internals sessions: Approximate functions: How do they work?. In this brand new session, I will look at three new functions that were introduced in SQL Server 2019 and 2022: APPROX_COUNT_DISTINCT, APPROX_PERCENTILE_CONT, and APPROX_PERCENTILE_DISC. These all return an approximation, rather than an exact number, which can be useful in some cases and very wrong in others. I will compare them with their exact (non-approximated) counterparts and show the performance gain. But most of the session is spent on the internals of the algorithm: how do those functions work, what tricks are used to find a very good approximation in just a fraction of the time?


What if you are not in Oceania, North America, or Europe? Or what if you are, but the dates do not align? Worry not. Even though Covid has become less dangerous, even though most of the conferences are now back at organizing in person events, there are still some virtual events as well. I have in fact already presented a few remote sessions earlier this year! But that will of course not help you. You want to know where and when you can find me in the rest of the year.

October 8, 2024

The Triangle Area SQL Server User Group (TriPASS) loves deep internal sessions for their virtual event. I already talked about debugging for them, earlier this year. But in October, I will (virtually) return to them, and present Five stages of grief – internals of a hash spill. As the name suggests, this is a session where I discuss what happens under the hood when a Hash Match operator runs out of memory and has to spill to disk. It is a level-500 session, but you don’t need to worry about exploding brains. The subject matter is advanced, but I tried to make the explanations simple, with animated PowerPont slids to visualize the various stages of a hash spill.


If you do not want to be bound by either date or location, you can visit my YouTube channel, where I have recordings of conference talks. Some of these are from actual live presentations for (in person or virtual) events. Others, such as my ongoing series on database design and normalization, were made specifically for YouTube.

Execution Plan Video Training

Finally, this list would not be complete without mentioning the SQLServerFast Execution Plan Video Training. This is a collection of very high quality videos, where I teach everything I know about execution plans. The format is based on my precons, but there is more content here. More demos, to show things I do not have time for in a single day. More details, that I need to cut in my precons. Three blocks (of the seven that are planned) are already finished. Together, they represent almost 18 hours watch time. The basic level of the first block (seven videos, almost two and a half hours watch time) is completely free. The rest is for sale, at a very moderate price.

And for those who want to save some money, I always give away codes for a 10% discount to attendees of my regular conference sessions, and even a 20% discount for those who attend a precon.


What do you say? Even more? Is this list not enough?

Well, to be honest, for 2024 it probably is. I might still find one or two more events to squeeze into my already packed schedule, but I would not count on it. But what about 2025?

So that is why I have this page on my website. A list of all my upcoming events, in order of date. I typically update this page about once per month. So, if you are interested in seeing me at an event near you, just keep an eye on that page!

And to organizers of public or private events who consider actively inviting me, you can check out this list of all my available sessions. Of course, it is also possible to get me to create a custom session for your event or audience. Just use this form to contact me, and we can work out the details!

Plansplaining part 31 – Dynamic cursors
Plansplaining part 32 – Keyset cursors

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