Speaking at PASS Summit—You Can Too!

As a SQL Server professional, speaking at PASS Summit is the highlight of my year. It’s an opportunity to share my knowledge and perspective with an amazing audience of other SQL Server pros who are seeking to deepen their knowledge of the SQL Server platform.

PASS Summit also offers me the rare opportunity to listen to a wide range of speakers—from known community experts to community speakers just getting started—all eager to share their experience and know-how.

Program Committee members have the tough job of vetting speakers and sessions to get the right mix. They review a large pool of speakers to ensure that you have access to a broad range of experiences. They also spend a lot of energy identifying new speakers for Summit—people who have displayed potential to be great speakers. Program Committee members then work with the new speakers to ensure they gain the experience and skills to deliver outstanding sessions.

I recall being a first-time speaker at PASS Summit 2002 in Denver. I was largely unknown in the community at that time. Although I had created and delivered training internally in my organization and at client sites, I had never spoken at a professional conference before. Trey Johnson, a PASS Board member and in charge of the Summit program at the time, was working on a project with me and simply asked, "Why don't you speak at PASS?"

Hmmm… Why would they accept me? No one knows me. I am not an author and never answered questions in forums. I am not an MVP—just your average consultant who loves his work. More important, what do I know that someone would be interested in?

I had been working a lot with user-defined functions, a new feature in SQL Server 2000, and teaching folks at my client site how to use them properly. So Trey suggested that I submit that topic. I ended up submitting two session abstracts: one on UDFs and one on using Web services. Well, my session on UDFs got accepted, and I spent countless hours creating, rehearsing, and re-rehearsing my presentation and demos to get them perfect—just in case someone did decide to show up.
It turned out that I had a room full of folks eager to learn about UDFs! It was very exciting—and to be honest, nerve-wracking. Following that fantastic experience, I decided to try and speak every year that I could. I have since presented at a number of other conferences, including SQL Connections and Tech Ed, but none of those compare with the thrill of speaking at PASS Summit, where audience members often include folks from the Microsoft product team who are interested in seeing how the community is using the products that they work so hard to build.

If you haven’t presented at Summit before but have speaking experience, I strongly encourage you to submit abstracts for PASS Summit 2010 in Seattle. Find a topic that you are comfortable with and submit that. Don’t get disappointed if you are rejected the first time. The process of submitting is valuable in itself. PASS also offers a number of other speaking opportunities that can allow you to hone your speaking skills and build your name as a speaker. They include local PASS chapters, virtual PASS chapters, online events such as 24 Hours of PASS, and SQL Saturday events.

The Program Committee has compiled a list of valuable speaker tips and resources that you should look at before submitting. And you might want to check out the current submitted sessions page to see what other speakers are proposing—or not proposing. Good luck, and I look forward to seeing you in Seattle this fall!

—Rushabh Mehta,
PASS President