0 to Speaker


March 23, 2015 by Kenneth Fisher

Recently the last day to submit a session for the 2015 Pass Summit rolled around. I mention this because I actually submitted a session. This is the first time I’ve ever submitted something for the summit and only the third time I’ve submitted a session anywhere. And no, in neither of the previous cases was it accepted. I don’t expect this session to be accepted either. Not because it’s not good. Honestly I think the abstract is very good (IMHO), but because I have absolutly no experience as a speaker. I don’t even have the presentation started, just an abstract and a few ideas. Unlike users group meetings and SQL Saturdays, Summit is a conference that you have to pay for. This means that those people from the community who select the speakers (a very hard job I’m told and I believe) have to carefully take previous experience into account. It’s not really the place for new speakers. Now I’m fairly sure they do give sessions to the odd new speaker, but I don’t think it’s very often.

So if I don’t expect to be selected, why submit anything? Well, a couple of reasons really. Practice is one. I’m not a natural writer. I’ve gotten good at blog posts over the last few years because I’ve written a lot of them. Articles still come hard for me and I couldn’t write an abstract to save my life without some help (more on that later). Peer pressure is another. Let’s face it, the speakers table is where all the cool kids sit. Any time I can use peer pressure to actually improve myself I’m going to do it. In fact right now I’m using peer pressure to battle a very strong case of stage fright. They are neck and neck, I’ll let you know how it goes. Lastly I was kind of pushed into it (and I appreciate it). This is a bit more of a story and again something that I’ll take advantage of when it’s useful.

So a couple of days ago on twitter Thomas LaRock (b/t) said “Ok, 2nd #sqlpass session submitted. Now thinking the next one should be co-presented. Anyone want to submit with me?”. Now I couldn’t let that one pass, so I responded jokingly “Wow that would be tempting if I’d ever presented before :)” and he told me to pitch him an idea. As it happens I had an idea I was interested in, so I did. I’ll kill a bit of suspense here by saying up front I am not co-presenting anything with Thomas LaRock. He was nice to let me pitch something to him, but as I said up front, I’m not a speaker. Yet. But now I have this idea in my head, so later when Tom Roush (b/t) challenged me by saying “Ken, I’ll submit one if you will. Tag. You’re it. :-)”. And when, a little later Mike Fal (b/t) jumped on the bandwagon as well, I gave in.

So off I go to write an abstract. Thomas and later Jes Borland (b/t) offered to help me out, which is good because as I said earlier I had no idea what I was doing. The first thing that Thomas asked me as what are the top three points I want an attendee to learn in my session. With a little help I ended up with:

  1. Attendees will learn about permissions, securables, and principals
  2. Attendees will learn how to extract security details at the database and server instance level.
  3. Attendees will learn how to apply best practices such as the concept of least privilege.

The next step was to turn that into an abstract. Thomas told me to turn those three thoughts into a 4-5 sentence story. I’m going to cut a long story short here and say I played with it several times until I got it right. No special advice here, just me passing ideas to Thomas and Jes and them saying versions of “Not bad, what about this”. Eventually I ended up with this:

In the modern age, data is a company’s most valuable resource and, unfortunately, data crimes are common. Because of this, everyone that works with SQL Server should have a basic understanding of database security. Attend this session to learn the what, how, and why of database security. Learn what permissions, securables, and principals are. Learn how to manage database security. Most importantly, learn what the best practices are and why they are important. Your company’s data is your responsibility, and after attending this session you can step up and keep it safe.

And so I submitted my first session for the Summit. Then I found out that 24HOP is calling for speakers, and specifically speakers who have not spoken at Summit before. Well that fits me too! So I submitted my session for that also.

So what’s next? Well now I start to write my presentation. Since, of course this is also new to me, I’m going to ask around (and Google) what types of fonts to use, what layouts make the best PPT slides etc. And as I move through the process I’ll be sure to write more posts in the hope that they can help the next person trying to learn to be a speaker.

So good luck to everyone trying what I am, and speaker or not, I hope to see ya’ll at the 2015 Summit!

14 thoughts on “0 to Speaker

  1. “I’m going to ask around (and Google) what types of fonts to use, what layouts make the best PPT slides etc.”

    Here’s one easy way to “cheat” – use the SQL Saturday PPT template. Saved me the trouble of trying to be creative, come up with readable color schemes & styles, blah blah blah. Let me know if you want a copy of the template.

  2. SQLAndy says:

    Kenneth, I’m glad you submitted. It’s a great adventure!

  3. Lee Everest says:

    Good luck Kenneth and enjoy!

  4. Tim Mitchell says:

    Kenneth, glad to hear you’ve submitted to speak. Let me know if I can help in any way. Good luck!

  5. […] you may know I’m preparing to write my first presentation. I have a great abstract and an outline of the presentation itself. Next step is creating the […]

  6. […] few months ago I wrote a post about the fact that I had actually submitted a session to PASS Summit. Well as I’m sure you are aware the selected sessions have been announced. They were […]

  7. […] a speaker is one heck of a journey. Early this year I submitted a session to speak at Pass Summit 2015 and was enormously shocked to be accepted as an alternate. Well that was 5 months ago now and a lot […]

  8. […] 0 to Speaker – Getting up the courage to submit an abstract and the process of writing it. […]

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