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Help Build the SQLRally Speaker/Topic Selection Process – Part 1

Last week we announced PASS SQLRally, the new event that we’ll be holding in May 2011 in Orlando (aka the “Spring Event”). A big item is deciding how we want to pick speakers and build the schedule. We have a process we use for the Summit and we could use that, but if we’re building something new, why not take a second look at this part of it as well? I’m going to list some ideas we’ve been working on and hope you’ll comment.

Pre-Con Seminars – 6.5 hours (4 available)

We’re pricing these at $149-$199 for the day. Speakers will be be paid a flat $2000 plus admittance to the main conference. Obviously the chance to get paid is enticing, and a big reason for us to build a strong and transparent process. We want great presentations of course. It’s a huge change to go from doing an hour to a day – managing time becomes much more important.

  1. Eliminate from contention anyone that presented a pre/post con at the 2009/2010 Summit (they’ve made it to the top, we want to grow next generation).
  2. Require candidates to have been a speaker at the 2009/2010 Summit (unless excluded above) (no short cuts, have to pay your dues by earning way to the Summit)
  3. Must submit a 1 page outline that explains seminar timeline and deliverables. One paragraph won’t do it. (This is what attendees look to to decide whether to attend)
  4. Can submit only one (No submitting 8 to increase chances)

Main Conference Sessions (36 to 48 available)

One of the things we’re still looking at is the possibility of doing some 2 hour ‘deep dive’ sessions and that decision will impact the number of sessions selected.

  1. Require speakers to have spoken at the PASS Summit or a SQLSaturday in the past 24 months to be eligible.
  2. Must have presented the topic at least one time prior to submitting it
  3. Must upload the deck (doesn’t have to be final) at time of submission.
  4. Can submit a max of ?? (2? 4?) presentations

The goal there is to have no newbie speakers – just can’t do it at a paid event. Quality has to be high. We also want to stop the madness of having speakers submit a lot of presentations that chew up valuable time in the selection process. Submit your best stuff and cross your fingers!


We want this to be a high quality event. We also want this to be the middle step in our speaker farm club system. You start at chapters or SQLSaturday, gather experience, earn your way into the Rally, then you’re a great candidate to move to the Summit. Same for pre/post cons. Pay your dues, earn some cred, get a shot at the big leagues.


Tell us how to make it better. Think about what you don’t like in the Summit system. Is the above fair and achieve the goals? Does it disenfranchise someone wrongly? Looking forward to your comments.


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 Steve Jones on 29 July 2010

A few comments:

Pre-cons - I might allow 2 per person. I'd also ask where it's been delivered. A one day class needs some practice to work out kinks.

Regular sessions: I might try to find out what people are interested in. I'd limit it to 2 items, but it would be helpful to get an idea of what the attendees want to see, or issues they would like to see solved. Maybe a pre-submission for a month on general topics, 5 or 6 per person, let people vote, then get speakers to finalize what they want to submit.

Posted by Rafael Salas on 30 July 2010

Few things to consider:


* Speaking at previous Summits is only telling me he/she had a good abstract that made it through the Summit selection process. It may be a good idea to look at their reviews and attendance records.

* Only one submission may be too narrow. I would suggest at least 2.

Main Sessions

* A cap of 3 submissions per speaker sounds fair.

* I would include something that allows to judge the quality of the speakers skills. Though one, I know.

I don't have the details of the Summit selection process, but I have heard/read several times that selection is based in that attendees "want to see". I wonder what data is collected in that regard, and more importantly, how it is used. Transparency may open the door to new ideas.

Posted by Andy Warren on 30 July 2010

Rafael, there is definitely a quality aspect to consider, and Jack Corbett will talk more about that in a post in the  next week or so. I agree that speaking at the Summit doesn't guarantee quality, but it does mean that they have been vetted to some degree. What I'm trying to get to here is some minimum experience. It doesn't mean you're good, but if you don't have it, for our purposes you're not good yet!

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