Inside SQLSaturday – Sessions

I had planned on titling this “Mommy, where do SQLSaturday Sessions come from?”; but since I already had this series going I thought I would stick to the proper format.

Speakers: Where do they come from?

Every SQLSaturday is hosted on the PASS SQLSaturday website. When an event goes live, there is generally a couple hours until some 2000+ emails are sent out to ALL folks that have ever presented at a SQLSaturday. Since these events can go live anywhere from 6 months to 180 days before the event it is hard sometimes for speakers to remember when an event is. This also means that we get emails for EVERY event from Banja Luka to Bangladesh and beyond.

Speakers are not paid by the event to be there; in most cases speakers are paying their own travel expenses to be at an event.  This means they choose which events they submit to very carefully.  This year I could not submit to #SQLSatATL because I was going to be flying in from DC and discovered I couldn’t get home from Atlanta. No kidding, a rental car 1 way from ATL to Nashville was $1,000 and to fly (which meant renting a car for the weekend, driving an hour to and from the ATL airport) from ATL to BNA was $500 each (plus a 45 minute drive south to our house and a $110 car/driver).

So, speakers decide what events they want to submit too. Now I do have some persuasion with my #SQLFamily, and as an organizer, asking sometimes does the trick. As an organizer and speaker I get to meet other speakers in that ever-so-famous speaker ready room. This is great because I carry cards and can solicit my event to these new people. Also, locations are a very big incentive–our first event I heard from speakers that they had family here, or their wife did and we heard a lot of “I’ve always wanted to go to Nashville.”

Sessions

Well here is where the crap shoot begins. Speakers submit sessions that they want to. Many speakers have a handful of sessions and will submit several, giving organizers an opportunity to choose. Some speakers might chose to only submit one for fear of having to present more than one that day (ME! It’s ME! I only put one in.) This pretty much means that organizers are at the mercy of speakers submitting content that their community would find useful.

Since I have been in the #SQLCommunity for a while there are many of the speakers that I know so I can ask them if they have a different session or could do something on a topic I feel is missing in my available choices.

Session Title

Speakers have 65 characters to give their session a title. They hope to name their session something that will catch your eye, something witty and even something that tells you what the session is about. People can’t make 140 characters in twitter work so they opt for text in photos and extended tweets, I am positive 65 characters is HARD to do. But hey this has to fit on the schedule!

Category/Topic/Track

Event organizers have the ability to update the track list for each event. Here is a small sample I grabbed from the SQLSaturday Site.  As you can see not all the tracks are used at each event and some are named/grouped differently. It is up to each speaker to pick a track that best suits their session topic. Sometimes more than one track could be used but you are only allowed to select one.

Event

Categories/Tracks

Denver Application & Database Development BI Information Delivery BI Platform Architecture, Development & Administration Cloud Application Development & Deployment Enterprise Database Administration & Deployment Professional Development Strategy and Architecture Other
Pittsburgh Advanced Analysis Techniques Analytics and Visualization Application & Database Development BI Information Delivery BI Platform Architecture, Development & Administration Cloud Application Development & Deployment Enterprise Database Administration & Deployment Information Delivery Professional Development Strategy and Architecture Other
Orlando Advanced Analysis Techniques Analytics and Visualization Application & Database Development BI Information Delivery BI Platform Architecture, Development & Administration Cloud Application Development & Deployment Enterprise Database Administration & Deployment Strategy and Architecture Other
Houston Application & Database Development BI Platform Architecture, Development & Administration Cloud Application Development & Deployment Enterprise Database Administration & Deployment Professional Development Other
Nashville BI Analytics and Visualization BI Architecture & Management Cloud Database/Application Development & Deployment Database & Application Development Database Administration Other Professional Development PowerShell

Difficulty/Level

The website has built in session levels of: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. These are not eligible to be edited.  Speakers select this at the time they submit their session. As a speaker, this is probably one of the most difficult tasks in creating a new session. You’ll talk it over and figure out what you think is best, only to deliver the session and have 10 sessions feedback forms tell you 3 different things; “OMG this was too hard!”, “OMG this was too basic I knew everything already” and “Great! I loved it, just right”.  Since the level of difficulty is so individually-driven it is really hard to pin this down. Where does one draw the line between Intermediate and Advanced?

About Nashville

We have the great timing of our speaker cut off being right after PASS Summit every year. This means that I can make a list of speakers I would love to have at my event and a list of topics I feel are missing. I can then hunt folks down and give them a personal reminder. I also print business cards every year with event details on them, handing them out to speakers, sponsors and potential attendees as reminders.

We also narrowed down the track list to make it simpler, it is sometimes really hard to draw a line between some of the built in tracks.

Final Thoughts

As you can see every SQLSaturday is at the mercy of speakers. We depend on them to submit sessions, we depend on them to create good titles and abstracts so attendees want to be there, we depend on them select the best track for their session and we depend on them to choose an appropriate difficulty level for that session. As a speaker, I know that sometimes I just get it wrong. Since no one is getting paid we can’t hand out session titles/abstracts and tell folks to make a presentation (yes that gets done at some conferences). So:

THANK YOU SPEAKERS!

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