SQLPam's Blog

May 2, 2012

Speakers with too many choices

Filed under: Community,SQL Saturday — sqlpam @ 11:39 am

I just got thru reading Eddie Wuerch’s ( B | T ) blog on Cross-Submitting to SQL Saturday Events. I consider myself both a seasoned organizer and speaker when it comes to SQL Saturdays. I do understand both sides of the event very well – which is why I am thrilled every time I am selected to speak. There are choices the organizer has to make and some of them are very difficult.

When selecting sessions, I usually go for a 2 step process. The first step is to narrow down the speakers. This has only been truly painful one year where I had 55 speakers submit and only 42 slots. Sending out the “sorry you were not selected but may be an alternate” emails really hurt. Once I select the speakers, I send an email that they have been selected. If they only submitted one session they know what they are speaking on immediately – otherwise there is a delay. I ask them to commit at this point and only assume the commitment after I receive the response. I had one exception to that – but that won’t be applied next year. In my mind, until there is a 2 way commitment – there is no contract. These speakers are doing this out of the kindness of their hearts at their expense. If I do not get a commitment – they do not go on the schedule and someone else may be added or another speaker gets multiple sessions.

I now know who my speakers are going to be and can organize them into a schedule. My speakers also know – so they can get travel scheduled early enough (hopefully) to get a break on the cost of travel. They may not know what they are speaking on yet – but they know they need to arrange to be here. I now have a little breathing space with the schedule.

This is where the time consuming piece is for me. It is a good thing to have choices but sometimes the number of choices can be overwhelming. As part of the “You have been selected” email, I ask my speakers if they have time constraints on when during the day they can speak. I have a number that need to either leave early in the day or will arrive late in the morning. They are paying for their travel – so whatever it takes works for me. I found this avoids a lot of last minute changes to schedules. I also have a little time to get the local group involved in making some of the choices.

Once the final decisions are made the speaker gets a notification of the session selected. If they need to cancel – I hope and pray they cancel before everything goes to printing. I usually at this point just ask someone already on the schedule to add a session – I usually don’t get complaints about that. Cancelling the day of the event is where I get frustrated. There are legitimate reasons – death in the family, car accident, or travel delays are several that have actually happened. I have had no shows with no notification or inadequate notification – these are issues that place the speaker on a special list for future events. This is not to say they never have a chance at any of my future events – just that a backup will be in place ahead of time if they are selected.

So for me – if a speaker lets me know early in the process – it is not an issue. It would be nice to know which speakers are cross-submitting so that I can be prepared for a back out. But having them back out before the final session selection does not hurt my feelings or my pride. This is about community. If they are backing out of my event for another SQL Saturday – the community is still winning. As long as I know before the schedule is printed – it is no skin off my nose.

Having so many SQL Saturdays that this is becoming an issue for some is not a bad thing. Sometimes it feels like we just need more Saturdays in the year.




  1. Interesting take from someone who actually is an organizer – good stuff!

    Comment by Andy Galbraith (@DBA_ANDY) — May 3, 2012 @ 10:53 am | Reply

  2. Sounds like you really bend over to accomodate speakers and make things work. I haven’t had too much of an issue with this, but I usually contact organizers. For me, it’s hard to move my schedule, so if I plan on attending an event, I want to get some type of confirmation early. Otherwise I have to submit to another event. If I free up time, I want to know I’m going.

    Comment by way0utwest — May 3, 2012 @ 2:33 pm | Reply

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