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Arnie Rowland

Discussion of issues related to SQL Server, the MSDN SQL Support Forums, the complex interplay between Developers and SQL Server Administrators, and our sometimes futile attempts to have a 'normal' life.

An Open Letter to the SQL Community: Requests of Speakers

(Part 2 of 2 -about and for Speakers.)

 

In the previous article, Speakers were acknowledged for their dedication, passion, sacrifices, and contributions to the global SQL Server community, graciously providing tens of thousands of hours of free training around the world.

 

Now I'm going to kick it up a notch, and say unequivocally, SPEAKERS, WE CAN DO EVEN BETTER! It really won't take much effort or time to propel yourself into the top tier of community Speakers.

 

After the recent SQLSaturday Oregon, we conducted multiple surveys, of attendees, Speakers, and volunteers; we even surveyed those who registered, but for various reasons, did not attend. We gathered quite a bit of very useful data -information that will most certainly inform our future event planning. I'm going to share some of the results that directly impact Speakers.

 

I'll start off by mentioning the obvious - please pay attention to details, especially in communications. I, too, am a Speaker; and we get a lot of invitations, requests, and notifications flowing through our Inboxes -I get it.  BUT after you summit an abstract, or accept an invitation, PLEASE pay close attention to communications from the organizers. It is incredible how often I receive an email, or get asked at the event, about some detail that was clearly described in a previous email notification. And since about  45% of our Speakers didn't respond to the survey request, I have to assume that they didn't read the email. I prefer not to acknowledge the alternative that they just chose to blow it off.

 

Let's now look at what the community wants from Speakers, as expressed in the surveys. I offer this with hope, and trust, that most Speakers will readily accept these as considerations for improvement.

 

  • Session Titles and Abstracts. The most comments regarding Speakers revolved around how the size restrictions on abstracts prevented attendees from having enough detailed information about the session content. Quite a few respondents were disappointed, feeling that the abstract was inadequate and led them to choose an inappropriate session.  Suggestion: Post a detailed session description and outline to your Blog or web site and include the URL in the abstract. Also, from my experience, I know that sometimes our session content may evolve over several presentations. If that happens, be sure to update the abstract.

 

  • Session 'Level' Consistency. Several respondents expressed concerns that they would go to a Beginner session and find the material way over their head. Some expressed frustration about what to them seemed like some form of more advanced  'insider' discussion between the Speaker and a few other attendees. And they felt left out, unable to keep up. Suggestion: Ask someone with the SAME level of experience as your session is tagged to review your material and let you know if it fits and flows well.

 

  • Marketing: Experiment with new opportunities to market your session. For our recent SQLSaturday, we invited Speakers to offer a 2-5 minute Intro video that attendees could use to better decide which session to attend. It was a resounding  success, with several respondents lamenting that all sessions did not have Intro videos. Suggestion: Create a 2-5 minute Intro video for your session, host on your web site and include the URL in the abstract. (For examples, see: https://youtu.be/ZK3jSXYBNak)

 

  • Deliverables. Quite a number of respondents expressed a desire to have deliverables (Slides and Demos) available immediately so that they could go home and capture this new information, and perhaps revisit the demos  while fresh in their mind. Suggestion: Post your deliverables before your session. By so doing, you are less likely to get busy and forget, and you will gain greater respect from your audiences.

 

Finally, consider 'owning' your own feedback mechanism. What is important for you to know in order to evolve in your quest to be a more comfortable and sought-after Speaker? Don't assume that the organizers will be on top of asking for audience feedback, or that they would ask the questions that would provide you the most value. Personally, I find that many of the questions often asked provide little actionable value foe me. Do a Bingle for suggestions about questions used for speaker evaluation. Bring your own evaluation forms, or use an online service, such as SpeakerRate.

 

And most importantly, have fun. If you aren't having fun, you're definitely overlooking something -and short-changing yourself in the process. Attend all Speaker receptions and dinners  you can, embrace the #SQLFamily, contribute to #SQLHelp, and ride the #SQLTrain.

Published Monday, December 11, 2017 10:02 AM by ArnieRowland

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