Thursday, September 9, 2010

PASS SQLRally – Session/Speaker Selection

SQLRally Winner
Hopefully by now you’ve heard about the PASS SQLRally event that will be held in Orlando, May 11-13.  Andy Warren, Kendal Van Dyke, and I are the local members of the planning team and we are making our best effort to give you a look behind the curtain to see what it takes to make an event like this happen.  Session/speaker selection is an area we are concentrating on because we would like to have the selection process be one of the differences between the SQLRally and the PASS Summit.  Andy has already shared his thoughts and Arie Jones has a very well-thought out response on his blog here
This post focuses on the regular community sessions while Andy had already blogged about the Pre-Con process.
So what are our goals in the session/speaker selection process?
  1. Provide a high-quality event that provides a “taste” of the Summit. 
  2. Provide a growth path for speakers. 
  3. Involve the community in the process. 
  4. Build a process that can be used as a template for other events.
So what are our plans for meeting the goals?
It really starts with being transparent in the process and getting input from the community along the way.  This is why we are making the effort to blog about what we are doing and thinking.  Some of our thoughts on session/speaker selection have been:
  1. Solicit abstracts similar to the Summit process but with a twist.  A selection committee, likely consisting of a representative from the host chapter and 2 representatives from other local chapters, would rate the sessions and present at least 3 sessions (as available) for each slot to the community for vote.
  2. For 8-12 sessions, invite 24 previous Summit speakers to take part in SQLRally.  We’d provide this list to the community who would pick the 8-12 speakers that they would like to hear from.  These would be the “name” speakers for the event that get your boss to foot the bill.
  3. Invite best of Summit speaker for each track to present their 2010 Summit sessions.
  4. Solicit topics from the community and then have speakers submit sessions for those topics.
  5. Allow chapters to “nominate” speakers.  Invite those speakers to submit abstracts.
  6. Assign session selection for different tracks to local chapters.  For example, Orlando and Richmond might vote on DBA sessions, Tampa and Atlanta on BI, etc…
These ideas lead to some questions where we would love to hear what YOU think:
  1. Is there anything wrong with the Summit process?
  2. Who would/should be on the selection committee?
Having selected sessions for SQLSaturday and been on the Program Committee for the PASS Summit 2010, the hard part is deciding what is more important the content or the speaker.  A great speaker can make poor content look good, while a poor speaker can make good content look bad.  So should the community vote on the speakers or the sessions?  Maybe a combination of both?
Speaker requirements:
  1. Except in special situations such as those Summit speakers invited to submit and voted on by the community, not a Summit 2010 presenter.
  2. Experience presenting at chapters, SQLSaturday’s or similar events.  We’d ask where, when, and what they have presented.
  3. Preferably a session that has been presented before.  As Arie points out this may mean we miss some “new” features, but when I pay for an event I want to know that the material has been done before.
A key point in all of this is that we want the process to be repeatable so subsequent events can re-use and build on the process.  While I wouldn’t say that the next local group that puts on the SQLRally would have to use the same process we use, I do hope that the framework we have laid will be able to be used to make their job a bit easier.
Please leave comments on the blog as we definitely are interested in YOUR thoughts on the process.  There are no guarantees that your ideas will be included, but they WILL be considered.

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