After losing everything in my blog, it’s good to finally post something again.
There’s a current debate happening on Twitter (well, I think it’s already done), and my take on it won’t fit in 140 characters, especially after including the @handles of everyone I’m copying. Thought I’d just blog a larger comment.
The debate centers around speakers submitting abstracts to multiple events that occur on the same day. These are in-person events; one person cannot speak at two SQL Saturdays on the same day.
There are a number of things affecting this from all sides:
- SQL Saturday is a terrific event, and its popularity continues to grow. As a result, multiple cities will host this event on the same day (I’m looking at you, September 15).
- Speaking at these events is a blast. Meeting everyone at these events is a blast. Getting felt up by the TSA sucks, but, hey, #firstworldproblems.
- Planning and running a SQL Saturday is a LOT of work. Selecting sessions from all the abstracts and building an event schedule that provides a rewarding day for a variety of attendees is hard, time-consuming work. After going through that, getting snubbed by a speaker is a real kick in the shorts. It’s not just a matter of grabbing another session to fill the hole – if you specifically picked a session to ensure a topic was included (say, a new SQL 2012 feature), and balanced the other sessions on the schedule for that, then your pool of available non-selected abstracts gets very small.
- Nobody likes to be told they weren’t the first choice, either as a planner or a speaker.
Having been both a speaker and planner, I get it.
Here’s my take as a speaker:
First, I’d like to say I’ve never submitted sessions for more than on event on any given weekend. I just can’t imagine the shame of writing the “thanks for picking me, but I’d rather go to the SQLSat in another city” email, should I get picked to speak in multiple places on the same day. I fear that day may be coming. I was passed over for the first two events to which I submitted in 2012. I don’t know why, but I can guess there were some good reasons for that:
- I’m far from a first-time speaker. One of the stated goals of SQL Saturday is to grow the speaker community, encouraging local new speakers to step up and get involved.
- I’m also still a regional speaker – there are places with people that know me and lots of folks will attend my sessions, but I’m just another name in many others. There’s no eval-reporting system in SQL Saturday. Many event planners have no idea how I perform as a speaker. Why should they roll the dice on me? (This is not a complaint about a lack of a centralized eval system – that would be a massive undertaking) Both of those events were in locations where I have never spoken.
- I’m not an MVP. I doubt I’ll be one anytime soon. I’m a production performance DBA for a very large, very busy system. Meetings and work preclude me from paying too much attention to #sqlhelp and message boards during the day. My community involvement is rather limited to speaking on the weekends.
While I enjoy repeating at locations where I have spoken, I’m still trying to build up my personal brand. I want to speak at the Summit. As becoming an MVP is unlikely, I see my only options are to keep building my cred or put dick jokes in my session titles. I’m sticking with the former.
Enough preamble, let’s get back to the original conversation: speakers submitting to multiple simultaneous SQL Saturdays. Here’s an example of my dilemma as a speaker: September 15. There are three, possibly four events that day:
- St. Louis, MO
- Providence, RI
- San Diego, CA
- Austin, TX (still listed as a proposed date)
I have spoken in none of these cities. They all are compelling locations – I can’t decide which is better – St. Louis is closest and I’ve met some of the folks at other events, I haven’t presented in New England or Texas, and San Diego will let me catch up with the folks I met at the Huntington Beach SQLSat and continue presenting in that area. That’s four events I’d like to attend. Good kind of problem to have but I still need to decide. The three that are officially on the schedule all have the same closing date for the Call for Speakers, making it impossible to try to hit one, and then shoot for another if I don’t get picked.
So what do I do about September 15? I have three choices:
- Pick one, submit abstracts to it, and stick to it. If I don’t get picked, I’m SOL for the weekend. By the time that event notifies me I’m not picked, it’s too late to apply anywhere else.
- Submit abstracts to multiple events. If I get picked at more than one of them, I’ll have to pick one of them and trash my reputation with the rest.
- Pass on the whole mess, book a flight to Mexico, and read the tweets on a beach with a beer.
Item #3 looks pretty good, actually.
This conversation was triggered by event planners asking speakers to cancel abstracts at other same-day events. Ballsy, but likely effective. To be fair, should I ever cross the line and double-submit, and you ask me to commit to you, then you damn well better commit to me. You may feel insulted by my submitting elsewhere, but please know that if I applied for your event, then I want to speak at your event. I’m not paid to do this, I’m not even encouraged to do so by my employer, and I cover all the costs myself. I apply nowhere casually. There are very few reasons why I would want to speak at one event over another on the same day – the only one I have right now is choosing Indianapolis over Sacramento because I’m part of the Indy team, and I won’t have to pay for a plane flight. Beyond that, the bigger pulls for me are personal cost and who else will be there.
After griping my way through this blog post I ought to get to a proposal. I can’t come up with an elegant solution, but at least I’d like to pitch something:
It all comes down to the closing date for the Call for Speakers (CFS). The first event on a given weekend that completes all of the paperwork and gets on the schedule as an official event gets the earliest CFS closing date. The next event must pick a CFS some interval behind that, like 7-10 days, to allow time for the first event to complete their selections and notify everyone. Not a great suggestion, not even sure it beats what’s in place now, outside of letting planners know that there will be speakers who simply like to attend SQL Saturdays, and when their events are on the same days as other ones, overlaps will occur.