One of the things I saw on Twitter yesterday was several folks saying their abstract submissions had been turned down because a lack of speaking experience credentials. I know that feeling. And even if you're professional speaker quality, you've still got to "pay the dues." I remember the first time I submitted for the PASS Summit and was turned down on all abstracts. I looked at my speaking credentials. They were:
- Trained and worked as a drug/alcohol prevention specialist.
- Taught (and still teach) Sunday school every week
- Preach on occasion (fill-in... this isn't my primary role where I serve, nor do I want it to be)
- Lead children's / youth ministry groups
- Mentor for my department (DBAs)
Only one of those speaks to anything technical, and that's the last one. But that's a small, friendly audience and there is no public feedback of how I did. While the others imply that I might have some speaking skills, there was no way for the selection committee to get a reasonable idea of how I might do presenting a SQL Server-related topic. And that's really the key. They want to see a body of work that gives them a better feeling that you're going to do a good job. They don't want to set up anyone to fail. That's counter-productive. It makes the presenter look bad, it wastes the time of folks who attended the presentation, and it makes the selection committee look like a bunch of fools. If for no other reason other than self-preservation (that last reason), they'll try to do look for folks with enough speaking credentials to give them a comfort level. That's reality.
So if you're on the wrong side of that line, how do you change that? You look for opportunities which welcome new speakers. Opportunities like:
- SQL Server user groups
- INETA user groups (some are SQL Server-related, but most are Microsoft.NET affiliated)
- SQL Saturdays
Not enough around you within your travel limits? Consider speaking virtually via:
When you can, ensure at least one person whom you can trust to give you honest feedback is at a session where you present. Listen to that feedback. Take it constructively. Improve your presentation accordingly.