SQLSaturday #97 Speaker Selection Process
Posted by Wes Brown
First, thank you for submitting to speak at SQLSaturday #97 in Austin, TX. Myself, Richard Heim and Mike Byrd had a good time reading and discussing all the abstracts.
Now that we have rapped up the selection process let me say it was no easy chore. I’d love to tell you that it was a completely unbiased and the selection committee didn’t have any agenda at all. That simply isn’t the truth. Queue ominous chung CHUNG here….
The Most Un-secret Conspiracy Ever
SQLSaturday is a very unique thing. It’s a free regional event. It provides training. It also provides a venue for local speakers and teachers to sharpen their skills. If you have ever spent any time talking with Andy Warren about SQLSaturday you will find that he also thinks it is an opportunity to promote local over more well known national people. I also have a pragmatic view of things. There are three groups of people you are trying to make happy. In a perfect world there would only be one group, us. That just isn’t so.
You Can’t Make Everyone Happy
There are a lot of speakers these days, I know I’m one of them. SQLSaturday has been a huge boon to the new group of up and coming teachers and leaders. One of the things not to lose site of that a scant 3 years ago this pool was much, much smaller than it is today. There is a significant group of very active speakers on the “SQLSaturday Circuit” and we do rely on them to kick start things. If you are in a region where there just isn’t a very active local pool these fantastic speakers are a true asset. For me, it was a reassurance that we would have enough speakers and topics to meet the community need. Luckily for us in Texas we have a pretty sizable group of speakers between Austin, Dallas, Ft. Worth and Houston there are easily 30 or more speakers. It can also be a bit of a problem. Part of me wants to load up with the most seasoned and well known speakers to help draw a crowd. That isn’t the whole goal of a SQLSaturday though. So, I reached out to people in the area and made sure they submitted sessions. I worked with some of them personally to help with abstracts and presentations. I also made sure they had a spot to speak at the local chapter meeting to get them a little experience. You will see people on the schedule you have NEVER heard of. You may not know them. They are some of the best at what they do in our region. This also means I may have passed up a more season speaker to promote someone new. Remember, someone gave you your first chance to speak don’t begrudge me for doing the same thing for others.
This event wouldn’t be possible at all without vendors, end of story. It takes money to put on a SQLSaturday no matter how big or small. There are a finite number of dollars to put on these events and vendors have to pick where they think the money will do the most good. Not just in marketing terms, but in bolstering their local communities as well. I’ll let you in on a little secret, I’ve been the guy that had to choose where those dollars went. I had to look at the size of the market. Did we want to pull in more of the market share in that region. Would we be able to support a push by sales to continue the initial drive. All of these things are a factor. At the end of the day, will there be a direct or indirect benefit to the company. Why should I put dollars into your event and NOT into some other marketing channel? To that end, I want to see that you are stacking the speaker list to put as many butts in seats as possible. This isn’t 100% against the goal of getting some new people on the roster, but it isn’t a guarantee that we will maximize eyeballs on product ether. You will find that 99 times out 100 a vendor will gladly take that gamble.
Big names do draw a part of the crowd that attends a SQLSaturday. Not as much as most people think. You may look and see someone well known speaking but there is usually a lot of other content that you want to see. What I have seen is people going to the sessions that are teaching something they want to learn. What a shocker! Yes, people will pack a session if there is a topic that is hot and there is a well known speaker presenting. I’ve also seen well known speakers speak to a hand full of people. What I’ve found is a lot of the attendees have never been to a SQLSaturday or any event like it. They may not know that you, the veteran speaker, are totally awesome and they should come see you. Even if you are talking about turnips. You, as an attendee, may choose to come because there are some super stars speaking. Trust me on this one, you will learn from every session you attend.
It Ain’t Always Easy
Myself and my team have made every effort to balance the needs of all three groups as best we can. If you submitted this year and didn’t get a slot to speak, please don’t let it stop you from submitting again next year! If you opted not to be a sponsor I completely understand that too. If you choose not to attend that’s OK, there are other events in the region I hope you can make it to. We did our best to promote local, balance the schedule and make sure that there was enough solid content to make this a true learning experience. I hope everyone, speakers, attendees and vendors all get some benefit from our event.
I will make you this promise. I will never put myself on the schedule. I’ve been blessed with a job that allows me to travel and with the support of the community, I have been given lots of opportunities to speak. I will gladly make sure that a slot is held open for the next new person in hope that they grow into the next rock star and give back to the community.
A huge thanks to everyone that submitted a session, I cannot express how humbled I was to see the number and the quality of submissions. I look forward to having this same problem next year.