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Experiences of Submitting a PASS Session

The PASS speakers were announced a quite a number of weeks ago now for PASS 2015 in October – and I felt pretty damn honored to be one of the 160 or so selected to speak at the conference (…and as a quick aside I also note a reasonably large contingent of Aussie & Kiwi presenters too!).

It will be my 2nd conference, but first time speaking at it.

It actually came as a (welcome!) surprise having attended my first PASS in 2014 (actually on recommendation of fellow Aussie Rob Farley) and then to go-on and submit a session for PASS 2015 (on suggestion of yet another fellow Aussie Victor Isakov).

Both guys are also presenting at PASS 2015, checkout their sessions.

So what was my experience of submitting a PASS session, and how did the process unfold? (read on!)

Experience of Submitting a PASS Session

I had not really considered submitting a session for this (or any) PASS really until it was recommended to me.  Presenting at PASS always seems like one of those impossible things – perhaps its a function of my living some 8500 miles from Seattle (Mmmm, could be an Azure ML model in working out if that’s true or not…)

Nevertheless – I had two session ideas in my mind’s eye that were interesting and fun (or, well, at least I thought it was!) so I pulled together the Session Abstracts, updated my Speaker Profile and submitted the sessions.

Then waited

About the Speaker Profile –

It was quite in-depth and requested a lot of history on past speaking.  Luckily I have done a number of gigs already such as a few TechEd’s, SQL Saturday’s, SQL User Groups, Roadshows, etc so that was OK.

Did speaking experience count?  Dunno, but I would probably say YES, else why so much emphasis on it from PASS?

Long short – I suspect if you don’t have much speaking experience it would make sense to build on this at local SQL User Groups and SQL Saturdays.  And honestly doing that isn’t just about PASS, its about contributing to the SQL community where you live and building great skills you can call on throughout your career – applying those skills later at PASS is just a bonus.

About the Session Abstracts – 

Surely this is the easy part, right?  Just a catchy title, some descriptive words, set a technical level and a few categories — and BAM!  Er, no.  This was in fact the hard part.  Everything is character limited so you need to make every word, every letter, count.

Furthermore – the abstracts are read by multiple PASS moderators, cross checked, cross validated, cross examined and seemingly interrogated in quite some depth.  So its got to be well constructed, fit for purpose, be relevant to the title and categories and be absolutely clear in its goals and objectives.

Lastly (and most importantly) up until the time you actually utter your very first word in the session, the abstracts as written are the only interface between your session content and the attendee – and its exactly that what attendees will read to determine if your session is for them or not – so honor their time and try to get it lined up correctly!

Oh and finally, PASS also offer an awesome confidential Abstract review service where you can submit your content and have it assessed so you then know if you are going in the right direction, or you are off the mark, and by how much.

So What Happened Next?

I submitted 2 sessions, and I didn’t use the awesome confidential Abstract review service.

One session was selected, and one rejected.

A really great thing PASS does is provide anonymous written feedback from the Abstract moderators.  I received 10 comments on each session.  The rejected session was about SQL Spatial positioning systems and was a bit complex to explain, and thus the feedback indicated it wasn’t as clear as it needed to be – so I should have used the awesome confidential Abstract review service.

Lesson learned.

Upon Being Selected…

Once you have been notified as being selected, and you have stopped giving high-5’s to everyone you meet (a few weeks later), you come to the hard realisation you’ve got an August deadline for Deck & Demo submission so PASS can go though more moderation.  This is both perfectly reasonable and sensible from PASS as early deadlines are a massive motivator.

Now, presentations don’t write themselves – so balance that with work, life, play, work, kids, holidays, work, work – and suddenly you realise you have no time to do anything else, let alone dash out a blog post (…and yes, this is my first post since session selection).

And So, In Summary…

So that was my experience of the PASS process, and overall I thought it was well run, well organised and ultimately a positive one (so far at least!).  Now most of my session content is done (albeit not yet moderated!) – I am now really looking forward to actually presenting it!

Hope to see you at PASS !

AND of course, as I always say, please review all materials and validate this yourself as your results may vary!


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Filed under: Azure Machine Learning (ML), Career, General Interest, SQL Server Tagged: Presentation, SQL Server

Mr. Fox SQL

Rolf Tesmer works as an Azure Data Solution Architect (DSA) in Australia for Microsoft. Rolf has an MCSE in Data Management & Analytics, an MCSE in Data Platform and an MCSE in Business Intelligence (BI). Rolf has been working with the SQL data platform since v6.0 (that’s 1994!) and has done just about everything you can around data related platforms, solutions and architectures ever since then and has scoped, designed and delivered 100’s of data solutions in that time. Rolf has had the opportunity to present extensively at Ignite, PASS, TechEd, SQL Saturday, SQL User Groups, MeetUp’s and Seminars, Roadshows, etc and really enjoys sharing and learning new ideas.

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