How To Speak At SQL Saturday Events

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The PASS SQL Saturday events are meant to be a place to grow the pool of speakers, provide a mechanism for the speakers to learn, and fulfill the PASS goals of Connect, Share and Learn. So, you’ve decided you want to start speaking at a SQL Saturday event. Cool. You went to the <Insert Large, Popular, SQL Saturday> event last year, so you submitted this year… and didn’t get accepted. Now what?

First, submit. You won’t get accepted if you don’t try.

SQL Saturday, especially the big, popular ones, may not be the best place to present for your very first time. In fact, with the large ones, you may not get accepted because people who already have a reputation are submitting to those (we all want to talk to big audiences and go to the good venues). So, start smaller. Find your local user group and speak there to get started. Better still, contact the person running the SQL Saturday event. Most of them are also running their local user group, or are associated with it, and most user groups are desperate for speakers. Go and speak at the organizers user group. That’s going to do two things for you. You’ll get some practice in a friendly space, and you’ll get your face and name in front of the SQL Saturday organizer. PASS maintains a list of local user groups that are associated with PASS as Chapters.

Next, go to the SQL Saturday web site. Find the one that you’re thinking of submitting to. Go to the Schedule page. You’ll see a list of people and topics they submitted. At the bottom, there is a place for suggested topics. Sometimes, but not always, you’ll see the stuff there that the organizer wants to see. They’re looking for a session on the VARIANT data type and you’ve written 33 blog posts on VARIANT in the last six months? GOLDEN! Submit under that topic. You can also try contacting the organizer to see what they’re looking for. Ask them, what topics they’re interested in presenting? Now, be sure you actually can present on that topic, but, here’s your in, giving them what they want.

Go to a smaller event. Yeah, presenting at the big event so you can hang out in the speaker room with <Insert Popular Speaker> would be cool. But, it really is hard to get into some of those events because everyone wants to do the same thing. So, start smaller. Some of the events just aren’t drawing lots of big name speakers. Personally, I don’t think that matters at all (people disagree on this topic), but, it’s an opportunity for you. These events need speakers. I know some where they’ve accepted every single session submitted, turning down no one (and I even presented a couple of extra sessions while I was there to help out). So, if you want to speak and, if you drove an extra hour or three you could speak, done.

Finally, your title and abstract do matter. The abstract needs to define a clear problem and solution that you’re going to present. The title… my opinion, let’s have a clear, descriptive title. I intensely dislike the cute and clever titles. Further, I don’t think they help people, especially new people, get accepted. I think they work well for the name speakers because it shows off their personality, and sometimes that’s what people are going for. You’re just getting started, tell us what you’re presenting.

None of this guarantees you get in, but it should all collectively help to get you in front of an audience at SQL Saturday.

8 Comments

  • Jes Borland

    Yes, yes, yes, yes yes yes. All of the above.

    User groups need and want new, upcoming speakers. Small SQL Saturdays are still great venues with great attendees.

    I see this trend of people submitting their very first session to PASS Summit and I think, “ARGH! You need to practice first! You need to know you can handle it!”

  • Andrea Martorana Tusa

    Few weeks ago I spoke for the first time to a SQL Saturday in Italy. This was my second attempt. I’ve already tried to submit a session for a SQL Saturday, but it was rejected.
    The first time the topic was wrong; for the second chance I believe I chose a good argument.
    I agree small events are the best places to begin. I was well received by the Italian SQL Server “guru”. They knew me as attendee not speaker, but they were happy to see that the community is growning.

    Only one observation: I’d be expected someone of the organizer attending my session to evaluate me, as it was my first time. Nobody did it. How can the community establish whether or not a new speaker is good?

  • That’s a great point Andreas. If you are just starting out as a speaker, ask someone to sit in on your session that you can trust to give you honest, useful, feedback. I try to sit in on as many new speaker’s sessions as I can when I attend SQL Saturday events. It’s not always possible.

    The organizers of a SQL Saturday are usually flat out with work, so they won’t be able to do this most of the time. However, I wouldn’t mind seeing some sort of process set up around that rather than just throwing the new speakers to the wolves.

OK, fine, but what do you think?