A Speaker’s Dilemma

I read Eddie Wuerch’s post on cross-submissions for SQL Saturdays and found it hitting close to home. It provoked a few thoughts, and I wanted to write a little bit about what I think since it’s something I think more and more people will deal with over time.

The idea behind SQL Saturday was to get more local events, more local speakers, and improve our industry at a grass roots level. That was Andy Warren’s vision, and it was something we strived for as we grew the SQL Saturday framework. Over time it’s evolved into something we never expected, with many speakers traveling from remote locations to talk.

It’s also grown so much that many of the weekends of the year have multiple events. This year we have 58 events (completed or scheduled) and we have multiple collisions, including

  • 3 on Apr 21, Apr 28, Aug 4, Sept 15, and Sept 29,
  • 5 on Apr 14

There are also plenty of weekends with two events.

As a speaker, I like attending these events. I’ve been to quite a few, and I turn many more down because of scheduling conflicts. I try to get to 4-5 a year, and meet a lot of people. These are fun events, and I’d like to do more, but travel is hard and it takes away from other things in my life.

When I decide to submit to a SQL Saturday, I usually start making plans to attend. I don’t book travel, but I free up my schedule, and I don’t submit to events on consecutive weeks. Traveling two weeks in a row, while it might not seem like much, is a big impact to my family, and to me.

My method for dealing with multiple events and choices is to contact the organizers of my first choice. I don’t ask them for a favor, but I do ask if they would like me to submit and attend. I’ll give him an idea of what I am prepared to talk about and let them know that I don’t want to submit if I’m not being chosen, only because I would like to attend some event that weekend. If they decline, and I have had some decline, I thank them and contact my second choice.

I don’t like the idea of adding in more rules, or restrictions, or even asking the organizers to work out among the various events who will get speaker X. I think it’s the burden on the speakers to make as little an impact on the organizer’s workload.

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3 Responses to A Speaker’s Dilemma

  1. The only comment I would add (and I don’t want to sound in any way disrespectful) is that it is a little different for Steve Jones than it is for Joe DBA in some regards. I think your methodology of checking with the organizer on your topic, etc., to see if there is interest makes perfect sense for a top flight speaker like yourself, but may not make as much sense to the average speaker, and do SQLSat organizers really want everyone who submits to speak contacting them ahead of time and asking “Are you interested in having me speak?”

    Of course the average speaker may not travel far to speak anyway so it defacto might not matter {-:

    Just a thought.


  2. way0utwest says:

    Andy, absolutely fair comments. I struggled with that a bit writing this, because I know that I may get special treatment. It’s a struggle, and I try to put myself into the shoes of someone else.

    I have been turned down for events, for different reasons, and I certainly tell organizers that they can put someone else in my place if that works. The contact them advice works if you really want to travel that week. I don’t think many people are hung up on that, and it’s a minority of speakers that travel, so it shouldn’t be too much of a burden for organizers.

    The goal of SQL Saturday was also to get more local speakers. We used to have a 50% local rule, but I’m not sure that applies to some events.

    This is just advice, and I know organizers don’t want every speaker contacting them, but if it matters for travel plans, I think you can make it work.


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