I was thinking today about why I submit sessions to speak at the PASS Summit.
My first summit was in Denver back around 2006 or 2007. We (my boss and me) saw an ad for it on SQL Server Central. We enjoyed every minute of the Summit and had about 100 things to go back to the office and implement. Problem was, there were too many ideas to implement and we weren’t to successfully at applying the changes. The trip did get us a list of speakers to watch for published articles and blogs, plus a consultant firm or 2 to help us expand the SQL Server environment at a growing company.
The next year our plan was to find 2-3 ideas from the Summit and come back to the office and implement one within a month, the second within 3 months, and hopefully get to the third. The first was Clustering and that went well and on time. The second was Data Mirroring and that took a little longer. I do not remember the last item.
One other thing happened. I sat in a session or 2, and both me and my boss were like ‘I can do that.’ Meaning, we both could have gave that talk. Not really, but that is what we thought.
Patrick LeBlanc had started a SQL Server User Group in Baton Rouge and they were looking for speakers. I signed up. My boss (or bosses at the time) helped me refine the session and off I went. I had been doing Lunch and Learns at the last 2 jobs which helped this process. Everything went well until I got to something I did not have experience, and I could not answer the question posed from the audience. This set in motion a drive to learn more about SQL Server.
I submitted to SQLSaturday in Baton Rouge and prepared for an advanced session. Not many SQLSatuday attendees come for an advanced topic. This got me thinking that sessions at SQLSatuday need to be more introduction to topics or intermediate instead of advanced. This started a successful session building list of ideas: Focus on helping 3-5 individual learn more about SQL Server. That is why I first went to the Summit.
After 2 years of local user group and SQLSaturday talks, I got selected for a PASS Summit and the first SQLRally. The other thing I learned to have a better chance at getting picked is to find topics that are not a lot of submissions for. The second part of my process is to go watch successful sessions at the PASS Summit and find out how they present (style), abstract writing (catchy descriptions) and what the person does before and after the sessions. Blogging is also helpful for ideas and practice.
This may sound mean, but I also stop going to sessions by Microsoft speakers even though the subject was something I needed to learn. This is not a knock to the speaker or session or Microsoft, but I found it better to watch presenters with industry experience. The Microsoft sessions can be learn/watched later online or the information is in White Papers. This was just a personal opinion.
New Features is another topic I avoid right now because so many people want to talk about that new feature. Without some experience, I am not the right speaker (at the present moment) to do those talks. But, it is not a bad idea to talk about something you do not have a lot of experience with. This determination will get you to spend time (more than usually) learning about that topic or feature. The is what I have done to advance a feature at the companies I worked for.
I hope we all continue growing the community of speakers, bloggers and experts to keep the SQL Server community healthy and exciting.