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Gaining Speaker Experience Credentials, Part II

In a previous post I gave suggestions on how to get speaking credentials for consideration at a larger event, such as the PASS Summit. I focused mainly on SQL Server specific opportunities, but there are others.

Other Technical User Groups

This was suggested by Grant Fritchey (blog | twitter). Some of my best speaking experiences have been at Microsoft.NET user groups. In fact, when I first started speaking around South Carolina, the .NET groups in Columbia, Florence, and Charleston were ones who gave me an opportunity to speak. The key here is to tie your content to what's useful to the audience. This is true of any presentation, but here the distinction is fairly easy to see. There are also SharePoint and Windows groups out there as well as general technology ones. All are an opportunity to gain experience, obtain feedback, and learn the craft of giving technical presentations.

Non-SQL Server Specific Technical Conferences

Again, suggested by Grant. I've spoken at code camps in Columbia and Charlotte. In Charlotte was where I first ran into SQL Server MVP Alejandro Mesa and I have gained tremendously from that meeting both in knowledge of SQL Server but also in how to be a quiet leader and professional. If you know Alejandro, you know what I'm talking about. Remember that these events aren't just about speaking but also about networking. However, don't forget that you can use them to gain valuable speaking experience.

But What About...

"university experience" or "teaching technical classes" or "toastmasters presentations" or some other type of experience? I will say it can't hurt, but don't automatically expect it to help. Teaching a class does give you some presentation skills. And if we're talking about a pre-con or post-con, then the ability to speak for longer than 75 minutes like one would have giving technical courses is part of what should be looked at. But there is an inherent difference between speaking as an instructor in a class and giving presentations. I've done both and I've come to realize that the difference is sometimes extreme. So when a selection committee is trying to determine who is a best fit for a limited number of sessions, they will naturally look for like experience. For a pre-con or post-con that would be MCT, university instructor, or technical trainer type of experience. For a session, not so much. I'll give you an example of the difference between the two.

If I'm teaching a class, say on security, I can slowly build on a comprehensive security model to protect SQL Server. I do just that in a half-day course for auditors that I've taught twice. Over those four hours, I have time to lay foundational stuff, explore some areas that seem like rabbit trails but aren't, and revisit areas we've talking about to expand an area because of a threat we're looking at that wasn't previously under consideration. For instance, if we're considering SQL injection, simply using parameters in code was considered to be enough. But as we talk about exploiting web servers who build pages from code pulled from databases, we start to realize this isn't enough. So we start talking more about proper input validation at the code level.

When I'm giving a presentation on security trying to cover a similar topic like a comprehensive security model, time is a limiting factor. I have somewhere between 45 to 75 minutes to say what I'm going to say in a way that is clear and attendees can clearly see the value of what I'm saying. So the slow build which is often very useful in a classroom setting just doesn't work in that presentation. In the case of a presentation I'm giving the facts and I'm giving short but telling examples of why I'm saying what I'm saying. I'll address SQL injection as a single topic, mention that at first we used parameters, but now we're seeing website defacement where the code is stored in the database and presented by the web site, and therefore we need to do input validation at the code level. Short, sweet, and then I'm moving on. I don't have hours to discuss this in detail.


if you want to get credit for your speaking experience, seek to get like experience for what you want to do. If you're applying for a 75 minute session at some conference, build credibility by giving presentations of similar length at events. If you want to do a full-day class, seek to garner full-day teaching experience, especially public experience, where you can. This latter one is harder. But it is doable especially as more SQL Saturdays do pre-cons. The key to remember is like for like.


K. Brian Kelley - Databases, Infrastructure, and Security

IT Security, MySQL, Perl, SQL Server, and Windows technologies.


Posted by Steve Jones on 22 July 2011

Good suggestions and nice to see someone thinking outside the box on how to build some content for speakers.

Posted by stephanie.sullivan on 25 July 2011

Could you revise the link to the earlier post please as it links to the post editor and I am interested in reading the first half of this article.

Posted by K. Brian Kelley on 25 July 2011


Posted by John Sterrett on 30 July 2011

Hi Brian,

I would like to recommend a great AITP as a great non-sql group. Most local chapters have a wide range of attendees from interns to CIO's. Personally, I usually give my presentations their first before I do a SQL UG. So far it has worked out well for me.



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