Debuting Talks at the Summit

This is a series of posts on the PASS Summit and SQL Saturdays. I’m outlining some thoughts here, sometimes for the first time, but on topics that I think make better events. These are opinions and thoughts, not mandates or demands. I’ve written previously on choosing speakers.

One of the interesting items at the recent Speaker Selection Town Hall from PASS was a question about wanting sessions submitted to the Summit. The question was about whether the sessions could be given at a SQL Saturday (or other event), or if the Summit should be the first place the talk is given.

I’m torn on this.

One one hand, the Summit needs to attract people. This is a business and original content goes a long way to exciting people. I submit and speak at conferences that want this, and I’ve also given sessions at the Summit, which was the first time that I’d ever presented the content in front of an audience.

On the other hand, we want good sessions. If I had one complaint from many Microsoft sessions, it’s that there are many speakers that struggle to give a good talk because they’ve never practiced it. I appreciate they’re busy, but I would love if they had to present a couple times internally and practice.

The same thing occurs for us. The two times I’ve presented new content at the Summit (or other events), it’s very stressful. I’ve also struggled with timing and flow. Even having one talk at a local user group to 3 people will help make a better session.

This isn’t perfect. I’ve seen speakers give the same talk 5 times and not improve or adjust their pace. My preference is to give the benefit of the doubt that speakers will work to improve over time. Note, if they don’t, give them the feedback.

I also see value in having great sessions repeated. I’ll pick on a couple people here. Aaron Bertrand has given T-SQL: Bad Habits & Best Practices at many events. I think I’ve seen it twice. It’s great, and worth seeing. DBA Mythbusters from Paul Randal is great. I know Paul adjusts and grows content over time, and this is one I could see being on the schedule every year. I’ll also say that almost anything Itzik Ben-Gan presents is worth having at every conference.

I don’t know what percentage of repeat sessions should be allowed, but I wouldn’t rule this out. I also think it’s fine to pick sessions presented at other events, if they make a good event. One thing to keep in mind is that if you take advantage of every slot at the Summit, you’ll see 13 or 14 talks.

14/112 (or so)

You won’t see everything. I doubt you’ll watch everything, even if you a super motivated and buy the content on USB.

The same thing occurs at SQL Saturdays. At one of the smaller events, Sioux Falls, there were 3 tracks, but only 4 time slots, so you could see 4 of 11 talks at best.

No one sees all content.

While you might want Grant to have something new at the Summit that you haven’t seen at SQL Saturday Boston, there are lots and lots of other people that would like to see Grant present, even if it’s the same talk from SQL Saturday Boston.

If I could wave the magic wand, what I’d want PASS to do is this:

  • Have 80% new content (content not given at a previous Summit), but content that has been practiced somewhere. In fact, I’d ask that many speakers schedule a user group talk (or a SQL Saturday) prior to the Summit to work out any bugs. This might mean some crunches for user groups in the Aug-Oct range, but that’s fine.
  • That means there would be 20% content that’s being repeated. I think that’s OK, if there are great sessions worth repeating. Certainly I think some of the talks that speakers have given could be updated a bit, but many are worth giving again.
  • Of course, that’s just an idea, and one that doesn’t mean we have hard numbers. Maybe the 20% is a hard ceiling, but the percentages can vary, just discuss why. As the committee makes decisions, keep notes and comments and then drop them in a post.
  • More I’d like to have PASS continue to disclose data, discuss this more, and adjust over time.

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3 Responses to Debuting Talks at the Summit

  1. Dave Mason says:

    Hi Steve,
    Where you suggested (via magic want) “Have 80% new content (content not given at a previous Summit)”…does that mean content that’s never been presented by the individual speaker? Or content that’s never been presented by *any* speaker?

    FWIW, I’m not opposed to repeat content in numbers greater than 20%, but I understand the argument.


    • way0utwest says:

      I meant 80% new sessions, with a PK of session + speaker. For example, Grant presents on Execution Plans, let’s say Grant builds a session called “Understanding Basic Execution Plans”. Jason Kassay also decides to build a session called “Learning about Basic Execution Plans”. They both might cover the same materials, but I think it’s perfectly acceptable for both of them to present these sessions at Summit ’16.

      Now, for Summit ’17, the PC is building a schedule and wants to get something on Execution Plans. Maybe they choose Jason’s “Learning about Basic Execution Plans” again, as a part of 20% repeat of great sessions from previous events. However, Grant might submit “Advanced Execution Plans for Performance”, which would be part of the 80% new content.

  2. Pingback: Choosing Content for the Summit – Voice of the DBA

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