I have some thoughts on the selection of pre-conference and post-conference session presenters at the PASS Summit.
PASS pre-conference and post-conference sessions are $395. Trainers and speakers in the various SQL Server fields (relational engine, business intelligence, etc.) are selected to deliver these day-long seminars before and (now) after each PASS Summit. I have attended a few and the quality and amount of the training easily justifies the $395 price tag.
I've submitted pre-conference PASS sessions the past couple years and I submitted one this year. Why? The answer is two-fold:
I submit lots of presentations to SQL Server and developer community events. I enjoy presenting for lots of reasons and consider it an honor. I get to meet and hang out with really smart people, I always learn a lot, I score new shirts; which are all good things.
PASS pre-conference and post-conference sessions are different: The presenters earn money for the presentation. To my knowledge, this is unique in the PASS business model - I don't believe other presenters are compensated beyond free admission to the event.
So my motives for submitting a day-long pre-conference are:
- The honor of presenting and hanging with people much more intelligent than me; and
- The opportunity to earn some money while on the trip.
Since I will be covering my own expenses for the 2010 PASS Summit, earnings potential has gained some importance in my mind.
Because of the financial component, these sessions are selected with different criteria. There's even a special list of criteria you have to meet before your submission will be considered. It's been revised since last year - which was the first year I saw it. You can find the information here. It reads:
Interested in submitting an abstract for a Pre/Post-Conference seminar?
To be considered for a Pre/Post-Conference seminar, a speaker must meet at least four of the following criteria:
- You have been, or are currently, a MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer).
- You have been, or are currently a SQL Server trainer (non-MCT), and have taught multi-day SQL Server training sessions for a national training or consulting company.
- You have taught at least one college-level, credit-based class at an accredited college or university.
- You have presented at least 8 formal SQL Server-related presentations (1 hour or more) during the last two years.
- You have previously a taught a pre-con for PASS, TechEd, PDC, DevTeach/SQLTeach, or SQL Connections in the past two years.
- You are a Microsoft MVP or RD.
- You are (or have been) a Microsoft employee specializing in SQL Server.
- You have been a SQL Server DBA for at least five years.
- You have attained one or more Microsoft SQL Server certification: MCDBA, MCTS, MCITP, or MCM
My first reaction to this list is: Why don't you just come out and say
"10. And your name must appear on the list below..."?
If you're going to select the same people 75% of the time, why pretend there's a selection process? Save everyone some time. Spend a day calling the people you want to present and make sure they're available and want to do PASS Summit pre-conference and post-conference sessions.
Wait. Keep Reading.
Selections for the PASS Summit already have a model in place that does exactly what I'm suggesting. Spotlight presentations - which are 90 minutes instead of 75 minutes and receive more visibility in the programs and advertising - are by invitation only.
The rules are pretty simple and explained up front. You get invited to do a spotlight session if you're friends with members of the PASS Board. Ok, I'm kidding (relax!). You get invited to present a spotlight session because the PASS Selection Committee saw something in a previous presentation or presenter and they want to give that person or topic more time. I was invited to present a spotlight presentation last year, and the email stated I was afforded this opportunity because a session presented at the PASS Summit 2008 received high evaluation scores.
Do I have a problem with that? Heck no.
Going in I know this is how the spotlight sessions work. I didn't submit spotlight sessions previously because I wasn't invited to do so, and the rules were the rules. No problemo.
What's The Beef?
The rules for pre-conference and post-conference sessions are... different. I don't think PASS has made up its mind about how to treat them. It's almost as if they want to sell it like a best-of- selection process and yet maintain some sense of invitation-only.
I understand why. Imagine 100 people in a room at $395 per person. That's $39,500 folks. You get a room here and a room there like that, and pretty soon it starts to add up to serious cash. I get it.
My point? PASS should set and stick to a policy for pre-conference and post-conference session selections. The current process appears de facto by invitation only. If it is, stop the prerequisites game and just invite the people PASS wants.