One of the goals of the PASS Women in Technology (WIT) Virtual Group is to promote sessions presented by women, be that well-known seasoned speakers or new speakers just getting started. Presenting at technical events can advance your career by helping you build your brand, gain recognition, and lead to opportunities.

As a co-leader of the PASS WIT Virtual Group, I have put together a set of helpful answers to the questions I frequently receive from those wanting to speak. This information can be used as a resource for all individuals who are interested in getting involved in the PASS Community as a speaker.

Where can I present?

Check PASS.org to see if there is a Local Group in your area. A Local Group is the best place to start, and they sometimes have “lightening talk” nights or other efforts to recruit new local speakers. If a Local Group is not available, find out if you can present to your team or another group in your workplace.

PASS also has numerous Virtual Groups (like the WIT group!) who are always looking for new speakers. Presenting virtually has a different dynamic than in person, but some people find it easier.

SQL Saturdays or other local events are also great ways to start.

I really want to speak at PASS Summit, can I apply without speaking experience?


PASS Summit is looking for experienced speakers, so you should have completed several speaking engagements before submitting there. There is no minimum number of years or events, but, hopefully, you are feeling confident about your session before submitting and have presented a few times before. 

I really want to present, but I don’t think I have any expertise or anything important to say. What can I do?

No matter which of the many areas of the data platform that you work in, you solve problems every day. The knowledge you have gained is priceless, and there are many people attending these events who can learn from you. If you’re not sure about a topic, just keep a document with a list of ideas as they come up. One note of caution: check with your manager to make sure that your topic does not violate any company policies about confidential information. 

What if someone asks a question that I don’t know?

It happens to everyone. Don’t panic. Offer to follow up with the person asking the question. 

Any advice with PowerPoint?

We have a PowerPoint session, but my advice is that “less is more”. Short bullet points are almost always better than paragraphs, and pictures are usually better than words.

What about rehearsing?

Rehearsing will help you become more confident with the material and find places where it doesn’t flow well. You can recruit someone to watch or record the presentation. Even in a rehearsal, try to keep going from start to finish.

Any other advice?

Join Toastmasters International. I’ve listened to comedians and watched TED Talks to develop a relaxed style, so I recommend those, too! Here are some helpful links:

5 Easy Ways to Become a Better Public Speaker - Fast
7 Advanced Presentation Tips to Become a Great Public Speakers
TED Ideas Worth Spreading 

Looking to gain experience as a speaker? Reach out to one of the PASS Virtual Groups or the PASS Community Team at community.team@pass.org for more information. 

Note: This article was originally posted in the Women in Technology (WIT) Virtual Group Newsletter, and has been re-published here with permission.