Posts tagged Big Ideas
Always on the lookout for ways to promote our best speakers from within, I stumbled into an idea the other day that was so brilliant I dont know why we havent done it before. Actually I know why but thats for a different blog post on a different day.
Promoting top speakers from within
PASS has many different types of events, these days, everything from a single chapter meeting with 5-10 people all the way up to the annual summit where I’d guess we top out over 3000 this year. I think as speakers hone their craft It should be our goal to reward them in any way we can. To that end, Im pleased to announce a couple of what I think are exciting things.
Spring 24 Hours of PASS
The Spring 2011 24 Hours of PASS was a great success with many great speakers and topics highlighted. We decided to pull the top 3 speakers (within some guidelines) and give them automatic session spots at the annual Summit that is being held in Seattle this year. These speakers will be given the opportunity to give a session on the same topic that was so successful at the 24hours of pass event. In addition, these abstracts will be in the running for one of the coveted Spotlight sessions at this years Summit.
The Guidelines for selecting top 3 were pretty simple, we used the session evaluations and removed the “rate the quality of livemeeting” question. The only additional eliminating factor was that we required the attendance number to have been in the top 75%, that is to say if a session was in the bottom 1/4 of attendance it was excluded.
Are you a presenter at this years Rally? If so, Id encourage you to bring your best presentation because we’re going to do the same thing for the Rally. The top 3 Sessions will get automatic sessions at the Summit and the ability to be selected as a spotlight. I havent decided on the exact guildelines for the selection yet but, I expect it will be very similar to the guidelines we used to select who received the spotlight invitations this year.
Just in case the top three 24 hours of PASS presenters want to know early, or you want to congratulate them! (their emails will be going out shortly)
Gail Shaw — Bad Plan! Sit!
Audrey Hammonds — T-SQL Awesomeness: 3 ways to Write Cool SQL
Edited to clarify the fact the top 3 were chosen based on 24hop session evals
After last years Summit we launched a feedback site http://feedback.sqlpass.org in hopes of gathering all of the feedback about the event in one place. The number one thing people have asked for on that site is for there to be a track of sessions in the 400-500 level range. The problems with the community desire for higher level sessions are twofold, one we dont normally get a huge number of session submissions that are at the 400-500 level. Two, I’ve been told by those who are qualified to present those types of sessions that an hour and fifteen minutes (spotlight) is often not enough time.
Cramped for space
In the past our conference size has dictated the floor-plans at the conference center and we’ve been maxed out at 14 concurrent sessions. This year however, because of anticipated attendee growth, the logistical geniuses at PASS HQ were able to add another session room (I’m looking at you Anika and Craig). With this new room I have options on what to do with the extra session rooms!!
Changes for the Summit 2011
This year we’ll be using the space we gained from the new room addition to have longer deep dive sessions. The current idea is to offer these longer sessions in hopes that they will attract presenters who are qualified to present these deeper dive sessions. Currently, the plan is to have a maximum of 6 deep dive (lvl 400 or 500 only) 3 hour sessions. Because of the way the schedule is laid out, we will run 2 of these sessions concurrently every conference day.
Rules… Yeah there’s always rules
We will accept abstracts for this new session type in the same manner as a regular abstract. That is to say anyone can submit a half day abstract. If you submit an abstract for a 1/2 day session it will count as one of your 4 allowed abstract submissions. The session selection for these sessions will be handled by the regular respective abstract review teams. Even though we are going to allow anyone to submit abstracts for these sessions, it should go without saying that if you don’t have prior experience or reputation for being able to give an extended, strong 400-500 level session it may be best to focus on a regular summit session. What I mean by this is for these particular sessions we will be instructing the review teams to weigh the speakers perceived ability to deliver the session higher than we normally would for a regular session.
Possible Hiccups i.e. Changes
Two things could change with these sessions.
- I am considering making the sessions 4 hours long (roughly 3 regular session slots). If we do that the maximum number of sessions would drop to four. I’m leaning heavily away from this but, if anyone has a strong opinion on this I’ll listen
- Depending on the quantity and quality of the abstracts we receive, we may have less than the maximum sessions shown above (4 or 6)
- Im still considering a single DBA 101 “Accidental DBA” type session for one of these sessions but havent been swayed that there is more interest there than there is in deep dives
Every year PASS asks the speakers at the Summit to agree to some relatively simple terms and conditions. I don’t consider them to be anything overly involved or overbearing. For those who haven’t seen them they basically establish that a speaker owns the content they are going to present, that the speakers act as professional as possible, don’t market their products, or their companies products, and allow PASS to record the sessions.
This year the hangup for me is related to that last tiny bit. For regular conference speakers asking them to allow recording of their 1 hour session isn’t a big ask. However where Im reevaluating what we’ve done in the past is related to the all day preconference sessions.
Last year PASS recorded the preconference sessions and offered them for sale to PASS members. Just like the preconference sessions where the speakers get a portion of the admission fee, the contract called for the speakers to get a portion of the sales from the DVD’s. At the time this seemed like a fair way to do things and I still believe that the revenue share is fair.
Ive heard from several different people that if these preconference sessions are recorded that it may become more and more difficult for PASS to attract the top tier SQL Server speakers to do precons. I can appreciate the position of some speakers on this, if they are giving their best content and we are distributing it digitally for what amounts to a few hundred dollars they run the very real risk of loosing actual sales of training material, or potential clients.
On the other side, I need to weigh the risks of potentially shrinking the pool of available speakers with the benefits to the community of being able to offer these recordings. The other benefit is of course the money PASS makes from these DVD sales. To be perfectly clear, the amount of money PASS makes off of DVD sales in general is merely a pittance in the scheme of things. Having the DVD’s available and leveraging the content however is very valuable to our members and something that I think is important enough to at least explore what can be done to hopefully find a good balance
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
The way I’m leaning on this is to leave things the way they are and see if we see an overall drop in the quality or quantity of our preconference presenters in 2011 onward. I have however thought a lot about possible ways we could create a workable model, where we allowed certain preconference speakers to opt out of recording. This could get really messy administratively, and cause some confusion/anger with attendees not knowing which sessions will be included in the recordings. The other alternative is to just stop recording preconference sessions totally, although I dont think this is a good option.
I guess what I’m trying to do here is expose an internal debate that Ive been having with myself. Ive found that often if I spend the time to write something out it helps me organize my thoughts. As a bonus occasionally, I get great comments/ideas from the 2 of you who read this.
I occasionally get into trouble for thinking that no one cares what I’m (we’re) doing for PASS. Frankly much of what I work on is BORING to a casual observer. Im still not convinced anyone really cares about the minutiae that we have to deal with week in and week out on the Program Committee but, I don’t know if that’s just myself becoming desensitized to the amount & importance of what I (we) do.
My friend Andy Warren (Blog|Twitter) mentioned something the other day about their being minutes posted on the PASS site (somewhere) from the meetings that are held in relation to the SQL Rally. In the Program Committee we’ve produced minutes for the meetings that we have for quite a long time (2+ years) and they were simply emailed about and stored on PASS’s intranet site, they’re mainly used for keeping track of deliverables.
Starting with our last meeting (first substantial meeting of 2011) Ive asked that we publish a copy of the minutes to the Program Committee webpage on the PASS site. http://www.sqlpass.org/Community/SpeakerResource.aspx Look near the bottom left of the page for the first meeting minutes. At some point, we may have to look at separating the Program committee info from the actual speaker info on that page but, for now this was easy and took basically no extra work from HQ or anyone on the team.
So, the question is (and I rarely get answers to questions in a blog post): Other than to be able to say, yes we publish those minutes, does anyone even care? Will anyone read them with any regularity? Ive personally never looked at the Rally minutes, so I’m thinking its not going to be that valuable.. I agree that in general transparency is a good thing but, to a point like this I wonder if anyone out there cares.
We will meet bi-weekly for the next 6 or so weeks but from that point on we usually meet weekly, and often a few times a week when crunch time hits. As you can imagine, that creates a huge amount of minutes. I hope that we dont wind up burying good information people might want to see simply because we meet so often.
Help wanted Needed!!
This year my portfolio within the PASS board is “Summit program and speaker management” Ive been involved with this portfolio for at least the last 4 years. This year, I’m going to be transitioning into yet a different roll within the committee. Ill still be heavily involved but, I’m turning the majority of the day to day decision making over to Lori Edwards (Blog|Twitter) She was hugely involved last year, and I have no doubt she will work her magic again this year!
Program Committee Changes
This year, there are going to be some changes to the processes in the program committee, Ill detail some of those in a later set of blog posts. For now, Ive decided to split up the groups of volunteers in the program committee to hopefully enable some of the future process changes.
For this year we’re going to need help in many areas
Abstract Review Teams (led by Lori Edwards)
Speaker Review Team (led by Tim Ford)
- This group will review speakers independently of their abstracts
Speaker Enhancement team (Wes Brown & Grant Fritchey)
- This will probably stay a small group and work on updating sample abstracts, selection info, generating info for new speakers etc.
PPT/Abstract Editing review/approval (Led by Tim Martin)
- This group will be working on sessions after they are accepted (lots of new ideas here)
Special Projects (Led by AJ Mendo & Lance Harra)
- This group will be working on finishing the Speaker Evaluation tool, coordinating changes to the Summit online tool as well as a few other projects that are envisioned.
Its been said that what we do in the Program committee is on the bleeding edge of what PASS does in organizing groups of volunteers at the national level. That is to say, we need lots of help but, sometimes things dont always work out quite how we (I) had expected. I say this only to set expectations that its not always a smooth ride but, rarely is it not interesting.
We developed an online survey to help us capture all of the relevant info about everyone who wants to volunteer. Don’t worry, its not a job app and it shouldn’t be resume quality, we’re primarily looking for general information
Please consider this a personal invitation from me to join us in making the content at the PASS Summit 2011 the best ever!