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Andy Leonard

Andy Leonard is an author and engineer who enjoys building and automating data integration solutions. Andy is co-host of the Data Driven podcast. Andy is no longer updating this blog. His current blog is

Pre-Conference Sessions at the PASS Summit

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Published Sunday, May 30, 2010 2:04 PM by andyleonard

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unclebiguns said:

Interesting.  I knew Spotlights were by invitation and assumed that is how pre/post-cons worked as well.  I assume that there are more people invited to submit a spotlight than are chosen, so I would think that there is a selection process there as well.

I think you are right that a change to the process would be good, but I'm not sure that eliminating prerequisites and going the pure invite route is the way to go either.  Perhaps highly rated spotlight speakers might get an invite for a pre/post-con as I would bet most of those would meet 4 of the 9 prerequisites already

May 30, 2010 4:13 PM

Alex K said:

Hi Andy,

I am also not completely comfortable with the following: "You have been a SQL Server DBA for at least five years".

I am not sure if Adam Machanic "has been a SQL Server DBA for at least five years", but it is probably not his possible experience as a DBA which makes him an expert in CLR.

Similarly, I am not completely sure that Paul Nielsen and Louis Davidson are experts in database design because of their experience as DBAs.

I would rephrase it as this: "You have worked with SQL Server as your main tool for at least five years".

May 30, 2010 7:14 PM

a.m. said:

Hi Alex,

It's only four out of the nine conditions that must be met... I meet six of them, without the DBA requirement (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9). I assume the same is true of most people who teach the pre/postcons. So while I agree with you in spirit, I don't think it's a big deal :-)

Andy, I'm not sure the game is quite as fixed as you seem to believe. Sure, they're going to book Kalen et al, because they need to make money. But if someone who meets the criteria and is not "on the list" submits a fantastic session I would hope they would at least consider it. Although it's a big gamble, given the monetary figures you noted, so a lot of caution is certainly required.

I'll be submitting again this year; hope I get to do it!

May 30, 2010 11:28 PM

Rob Farley said:

I meet some - 1,4,6,9, plus 8 if you count Dev/BI time, plus 5 if you count SQLBits too, and 2 for the teaching I've done separate to being an MCT. But I'm not on a pre-approved list and totally understand if I'm skipped because of the number of people who might prefer a regular on the US tour of conferences. I know I'm very much a "gamble", so we'll see how it all goes.

Plus, my pre-/post-con submission is somewhat "unorthodox"...

May 31, 2010 6:25 AM

Kalen Delaney said:

And sometimes the people that are thought to be obvious precon speakers can't make it for various reasons, so there is a need to find someone else. Thus the list ...

May 31, 2010 2:50 PM

andyleonard said:

My friend Kathi Kellenberger disagrees and has posted her thoughts at

Her insight is especially cogent as she has worked on the PASS Selection Committee a lot in the past.

Thanks for your thoughts Kathi!

:{> Andy

May 31, 2010 9:02 PM

Kevin Kline said:

It's by no means a sure thing, Andy.  I just put in my submissions for a pre/post conference session.  The tone of the folks on the other end at PASS HQ was, and I'm just guessing, pleasantly surprised.

I almost interpret the crazy-hard requirements in the opposite direction, that is, not as a "we all know who this -really- means" sort of de facto invitation situation.  Instead, it looks to me more like "we've got lots of great speakers, MVPs, etc who can do one or even several sessions well, but might not realize HOW MUCH WORK it really takes to put together a full day of training".  I see it as a means toward protecting not only the audiences who might attend from mediocre (or lower) quality training but also good speakers from overcommitting themselves.

Oh and FWIW, I'm sure it's not important for the purposes of your example but don't forget that the PASS conference has fixed costs of over $200/day per attendee.  Don't get me wrong, pre/post cons are a fantastic revenue stream for any big conference.  However, it's not the mint printing press that it might initially appear.

Just a few thoughts to add to the mix. =^)


May 31, 2010 11:59 PM

Bill Graziano said:

I think you're seeing a couple of things driving this.  First, we do know many of the people that can deliver great pre-con sessions.  But we don't know them all.  We need a way to find the new people.  This is one way of doing that.  It also gives us a way for people to express interest in doing this.  I think we'll learn from who wants to deliver pre-con sessions.

Second, we're trying to be more transparent and objective around the submission and selection process.  It isn't perfect but it's gradually getting better.

I don't see the same tension between "best of" and invitation only.  When I was selecting pre-cons I was focusing on picking sessions that people wanted to attend.  

June 1, 2010 10:43 AM

andyleonard said:

My friend Steve Jones has weighed in on this as well:

:{> Andy

June 1, 2010 11:47 AM

Steve Jones said:

I'm a little torn on your comments. I see your point, and I agree that there ought to be set criteria. I think this list you saw was an attempt at setting these up. A few years ago there were few choices for pre/post cons and I was surprised to hear a friend that was speaking disclose a five figure salary for eight hours.

My guess is in the past it has been the "old DBAs club" and they are trying to formalize this as they get more submissions. I meet 4 requirements, so I'd be OK.

These pre-cons, however, are there to generate revenue and so the picks ought to be the ones that are most likely to attract the membership.

A few more thoughts:

June 1, 2010 12:33 PM

andyleonard said:

My friend (and PASS Board member) Andy Warren has posted about this:

:{> Andy

June 1, 2010 12:49 PM

a.m. said:

I wrote this on Steve's blog and I'll repeat it here since he said the same thing:


There is [no such thing as] "five figures for an eight-hour workday." Prepping to deliver in-depth content takes me an average of 12-15 hours PER HOUR of content. So that's five figures for, potentially, up to 128 hours of work. Which is an average hourly contract rate, nothing more.


This is not a big payday or a scam or a club or anything else. This is about finding people who can actually commit to over 100 hours of work ahead of time to deliver a quality session. The simple truth is that most people can't do that, and most people don't understand just how much work goes into it.

June 1, 2010 1:33 PM

Rob Farley said:

I absolutely agree on the comments about preparation time.

The other day I did a 24 Hours Of Pass session at short notice. I think I decided on my content about 15 minutes into the talk! But this really isn't typical.

The material I presented may have seemed 'off-the-cuff', but there had been a large number of hours spent preparing for this talk (albeit squeezed into less than a day) and others like it. I work very hard to be able to give the impression that talk preparation comes easy.

I just deleted a couple of paragraphs that seemed like a big whinge around the cost of preparation time and conference time. Really, it's all a matter of perspective. If I can persuade myself that the benefit of giving presentations at groups, conferences, etc is worth the costs, then I don't feel so bad about it. I would much rather be a presenter at any given conference, rather than being 'just' an attendee.

I really don't envy the jobs of people making the selection. It's hard enough to pick what sessions to go to as a conference attendee. I'm not a fan of the voting system, as it often gives a poor mix of topics, and favours the 'obvious names'. I would far rather a committee make the final decision, even if there is voting to help the process.

Ok, so I'm going to put a whinge in anyway... I'm not going to begrudge anyone earning decent money for giving a pre-con. If someone is worthy of getting selected for one, then they've put in a lot of yards over their career, and are probably earning decent money regardless. I'm just going to look enviously at all those who don't have to pay a ridiculous amount just to be in the right city. Travelling to PASS will cost me far more than the non-discounted amount of attending. But like I said, it's all a matter of perspective, and I just need to persuade myself that it's an investment. I'd love to get the chance to do a pre-/post-con and offset my expenses, but when I'm up against both Andys, Adam, Kevin, and all the rest, I know I have 'two chances'.

June 1, 2010 8:00 PM

Rob Farley said:

No pre-/post-con for me. Hopefully I'll get to do a regular session.

June 23, 2010 1:38 AM

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