This year the PASS Summit will be virtual, though not free. Until June 19, the conference will cost $500 for the 3 day conference, $900 with precons, and $349 for a single pre-con. SQL Bits is still scheduled for September, and I wonder if they will move to virtual. Microsoft has moved all events to virtual for the next year, which puts pressure on others. The flip side is Microsoft events are mostly marketing and many other events are fundraisers for their organizations.
PASS reopened their call for speakers, which is interesting. I wouldn’t expect any speakers to pull out from the event, but perhaps I’m wrong. Or maybe they’re expanding the schedule, since I know time zones will be an issue and I suspect we’ll see some broadcasting across the 24 hour clock. To do this isn’t free, as the infrastructure and coordination of staff to make an event happen cost money. Microsoft can just lose money on staff, but for PASS, SQL Bits, and other events, they need help. Even with volunteers helping, you need some staff. Staff requires money.
This means the request from PASS this year is for every speaker to essentially donate their time to create a presentation and deliver it for little to no compensation. They can watch other talks for free, there will likely be some speaker gift, and there is some marketing and exposure from speaking at the Summit, but this is different than getting an admission to the live event. I don’t know how employers, clients, etc. view anyone’s speaking experience at the Summit, but it’s on my speaking CV multiple times and I’m proud that I’ve been able to speak there.
I didn’t submit earlier this year when the call for speakers opened. The timing was bad for me, personally, and I decided to forego attending. When the call re-opened, I decided to submit. I am happy to support the community, and a virtual event means that travel and timing is less of a factor.
I have seen some speakers question whether being asked to deliver a talk for free that will be behind a paywall is a good idea. They question if this is a fair trade for their time and effort. I think each speaker can make their own decision. I don’t mind if you speak, or if you decide this isn’t for you. It is a fair question, and there are plenty others we can debate: the financial structure of PASS, the decisions about the Summit, and the future direction of the organization.
PASS already had a deficit in their budget this year. The Summit will likely generate less money and potentially the deficit will be larger. If I can donate a few tens of hours to build a session and deliver it, and help with the financials of PASS, I am happy to do so. I plan to support a few other events later this year as well, helping organizers where I can to weather this difficult time.