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PASS Summit Speaker Success Stories

The PASS programs team asked a selection of past speakers to share their experiences and journeys in becoming a PASS Summit speaker and how this has helped them further their careers. 

We received a ton of great blogs, videos, and responses and wanted to share them all with the community in preparation for our PASS Summit 2018 Call for Speakers on February 28 (stay tuned for more details on PASS News!):

Markus Ehrenmueller:

"PASS Summit 2012 was my very first time as a speaker in the US, and the second time that I did a talk in English language (after doing a talk a SQLbits in April, a few months before).

I was already a matured speaker, but very nervous, if my English skills will be good enough to explain the content of my talk on the one hand, and to understand any question of the audience, on the other hand. All went very well, and I grew definitely, as a person, as a professional and as a speaker, by casting me out of my comfort zone. Now some years later, I do more talks in English language, that I do do in German language (my mother tongue). I did many live talks, and webcasts as well (as eg. a 24hop in 2016, sneak previewing my talk at PASS Summit 2016) since. Being active in the community by talking at SQL Saturdays and other conferences, got me in personal contact with many great people, whose blogs and books I read and whose webcasts and talks I listen too. Some of them I even consider my friends now. My current topic is hierarchies and graphs in SQL Server, on which you can read on"

Itzik Ben-Gan: 

"Towards PASS Summit 2018, the summit’s organizers asked me if I could share an anecdote about my PASS speaking experience and how it affected me and my career. So let me share a funny little story that I never shared publicly. I’ve spoken in almost every PASS Summit since the early 2000’s. My first big public speaking experience was in Summit 2002 in Seattle. I was terrified! It wasn’t about the material—I live and breathe T-SQL, so I’m always confident about the content. I was simply afraid of speaking in front of a large audience. I was afraid that I’ll run out of air and that literally I won’t be able to speak. To make matters worse, I flew a few days earlier from Europe and had a terrible jetlag. Then, when I checked-in to the conference and examined the booklet, I noticed that my speaking room wasn’t a nice and cozy side room, but rather Ballroom 6C, with a capacity of hundreds of people. Oh boy!

I didn’t sleep even a minute for two or three nights. And then the time for my session arrived… In my mind I was already contemplating a scenario where I tell the audience how I’m just not cut out for this and walk away in shame. I went to Starbucks and got a quadruple espresso. I got a bucket of ice from the conference hotel, filled a sink with water and ice, and sunk my head inside. I then went to Ballroom 6C. It was packed with probably more than 500 people! My heart is pounding, boom, boom, boom, and I have no clue how to gather the courage to start. And then a couple of minutes before the session starts, one of the attendees approaches and says that he just wanted to thank me for helping him with a T-SQL problem. This somehow made me more relaxed. I started the session, and it went great.

Even 15 years later, I still get excited about speaking in front of big audiences, but over time it became a healthy excitement. I do prefer the smaller classroom setup where I can have a personal connection with people, but speaking to large audiences has its own unique qualities. The PASS summit is by far the largest SQL Server event in the world. One of the most gratifying things in my career, if not the most gratifying, is when someone approaches and says that my work helped them, had an impact on their lives, or made them choose their career path. You feel that you can leave this world knowing that your work made a difference. Big conferences like PASS are a great opportunity to extend your reach. You just need to learn to cope with your fears.

It starts with making sure that you’re really good at what you do and that you love it. I also once asked a good friend and teacher if he had any advice concerning public speaking, and he suggested thinking “it’s just another day in the office.” I adopted this mindset and it really helped. You also want to remember to focus less on yourself and more on the technology and the audience, trying to pass on what you can. And of course, remember to enjoy the whole experience. Hope to see you all at PASS Summit 2018!"

Marco Russo:

Matt Gordon:

Tracy Boggiano:

Hamish Watson:

Niko Neugebauer:

Ned Otter:

Reza Rad: 

Mike Walsh:

Swagatika Sarangi:

Drew Furgiuele: 

David Maxwell:

Melody Zacharias:

Dean Furness:

Thank you to all of our speakers for sharing your amazing stories!

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