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PASS Update #22 (Speaker Bureau – Call for Comments)

One of my big projects this year is to build a speaker bureau, so in this post I’m going to write about some of the ideas I’m hoping to include – and then get some input from you!

The Goal: Build a centralized list of speakers that can used by Chapter leaders, community event leaders, and the Summit program committee when they need to find speakers, or are looking for speakers on a given topic.

For phase one I envision just putting together a list that we can share on sqlpass.org with Chapter leaders. We’ll need to get permission from speakers, but I don’t expect (?) too many objections. Here is what I’d like to share:

  • Name
  • LinkedIn URL
  • Twitter handle
  • Blog URL
  • Postal Code
  • Country
  • Available Presentation Titles
  • Available for LiveMeeting
  • Distance willing to travel

Maybe it’s just Excel to start with, and let chapter leaders do their own filtering. I can see them searching for interesting topics, or maybe asking their members to pick 12 sessions they would like to see and then seeing what turns out to me the most popular.

The first sticking point in the low tech implementation is controlling access to the speakers so they don’t get over run with requests (I can see a chapter inviting all the speakers!). Not a lot of cheap options:

  • Require requests to go through PASS HQ (staff intensive)
  • Have them connect via LinkedIn or Twitter, or search out an email from the blog url
  • Put an ‘email the speaker’ link on the site (requires some work, but not bad)

And that’s all for phase one. Get something usable about there, ask chapter leaders to submit local speakers not on the list, and see what happens.

Phase two is more ambitious and is a real software project. We take the information above, add to it any additional data points needed by the Summit or events like SQLSaturday, and create a management UI for the speakers (PASSPort remodeled, or different, have to see). Upload all the abstract history we have from the Summit as a starting point, and then ask speakers to populate abstracts for ones where we only have titles.

With that data in hand, we can then notify speakers any time an event is added to the PASS calendar. We’ll have to figure out the right level of filtering. Maybe it’s just a once a week digest of new events added that week and a switch to turn that on/off. We include in that email a link back to the speaker site where they can submit any or all of their abstracts to an event by just clicking – no retyping. What happens from there depends on the event type:

  • User groups: one email sent to leader per abstract submitted, link back to speaker profile too, plus contact info
  • SQLSaturday/other: automatically submit abstracts into the system (http post, web service, dropping an XML file on a share)
  • Summit: automatically post data into the program committee database for the Summit

I think that by itself adds a lot of value, but we can add more. We can add a UI for event leaders to proactively contact speakers (as in Phase 1), and we can ask them to post a summary of the evaluations received. That info in turn could be used by other leaders deciding on whether to invite someone – seeing a history of presentations and at least a leader evaluation would definitely be interesting. It also makes it possible for the Summit program committee to have a real view into a speakers participation in the SQL community. Certainly it shouldn’t be the only metric, but in my view we should be inviting speakers to the Summit that pay their dues in the minor leagues first!

I see having a public version of the speaker profile, something that speakers can share via blog and business card, and maybe even exposing that data as XML so that they can easily make viewable directly within their blog.

We’ll need a way for new speakers to sign up. What is the criteria, just wanting to? Maybe doing a local user group presentation is the cost of entry? It’s going to be very useful for the up and coming speaker who is trying to find a niche, they can look at whatever has out there across the whole community, and then find a place to start.

So…I’m serious about wanting feedback. This isn’t a detailed project plan, too early for that, but you’ve got a sense of where I’m going. I’ll take any feedback you have, but in particular I’d ask for your thoughts on:

  • As a speaker would you participate in this?
  • As a chapter/event leader, would you see this as adding usable value?
  • Does it make sense to look at Phase 2, or just go with Phase 1?
  • What could we do to make it more useful?
  • Is it worth spending 100-200 hours to build Phase 2, my really quick estimate of the time, and the associated $10k-$30k price?


I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.


Posted by Grant Fritchey on 12 January 2010

In order, yes, I'd participate.

Heck yes, as a chapter leader I need some mechanism besides leaning on the people I know to keep trudging down to Rhode Island.

I'm not sure. But I think you'll get more worth out of Phase 2 than simply Phase 1 alone. I think you'll get more participation as well.

Assuming the degree of functionality you're laying out, yeah, it's worth it. If you get solid speaker participation, the user group community that needs to track down speakers and isn't already hosted in a Microsoft facility will eat up this resource.

My first question is, except for the fact that it's from PASS (and therefore automatically better) how is this different than the UGSS, User Group Support Services? To a degree they're already doing this. However, I've tried getting speakers through it and it hasn't really worked. I've been registered as a speaker through it for over a year and have never been contacted. While the community may have a tool, it's not getting used.

Lists of abstracts for presentations from the speakers would be good, and yeah, opening it up is important. But then, you get the problem of validation. Does this person really have 36 different presentations on the loop join operator? Doesn't seem possible, but I could be wrong.

In general, I'd say this is a good idea.

Posted by Anonymous on 13 January 2010

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Posted by Anonymous on 13 January 2010

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Posted by John Allman on 1 March 2010

I think going directly to Phase 2 is a better idea.  I think it would have better reception.  

As a Chapter Leader I would welcome this as an addition to our "PASS Percs".

Once the data is searcheable, a mechanism to search it would be very valuable.

Yes it is valuable.  I know enough people in PASS to solicit speakers for my chaoter however I don't know whether they are available or not.  This will benefit me and really benefit a start-up chapter.  I think it could be a success factor in starting a new chapter.

Posted by Jason Brimhall on 10 March 2010



I think it makes sense to look at Phase 2

Not sure.

I like the idea, difficult to know whether it would be useful or not.

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