A user group is a good place to start

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
— Lao Tzu

Earlier this week, a friend at my CrossFit gym (and who has become more interested SQL Saturday and my SQL user group) asked me if I thought a talk about Excel would make a good topic for SQL Saturday.  I said, why not?  If it’s a talk that data professionals would find interesting, then it would make for a good talk.  I encouraged him to attend our next user group meeting and talk to our group chair about scheduling a presentation.

I’ve written before about how local user groups are a wonderful thing.  It is a great place to network and socialize.  It is a free educational source.  And if you’re looking to get started in a public speaking forum, your local user group is a great place to start.

I attended my first SQL Saturday in 2010, and I knew from the very start that I wanted to be involved in it.  Our local SQL user group was borne from that trip (Dan Bowlin — one of our co-founders — and I met on the train going to that event).  I came up with a presentation idea that I developed and “tried out” at a user group meeting.  I submitted that presentation to a few SQL Saturdays.

That user group presentation was in 2015.  I’ve been speaking at SQL Saturdays ever since then.

If you’re interested in getting into speaking, if you want to meet new people who share your interests, or even if you just want to learn something new, go find a local user group that matches your interests and check it out.  You’ll find it to be a great place to kickstart your endeavors, and it could lead to bigger things.

Speaking near Beantown

sqlsaturday-logo

I got an email last night announcing that SQL Saturday #813 Boston — BI Edition has been scheduled for March 30, 2019.  I went ahead and submitted my presentations.

Because the Boston Microsoft office (despite the name, it’s actually in Burlington, MA, about twelve miles northwest of Boston) is a smaller facility, events such as SQL Saturday tend to be smaller; it’s more difficult to be accepted as a speaker, and a wait list for attendees is not uncommon.  Nevertheless, if I am accepted to speak at SQL Saturday #813 (far from a sure thing), that is potentially three trips I’ll make to Burlington within a span of seven months.  I am already scheduled to speak at SQL Saturday #797 on September 22 (a week from this Saturday as I write this) and at a New England SQL User Group meeting on February 13.  SQL Saturday #813 would make it trip #3.

Despite the fact that the Boston area tends to be hostile territory for a Yankee fan like me, I look forward to my upcoming trips.  I’m hoping to make it three trips in seven months.

Hope to see you there!

SQL Saturday #741, Albany, NY, July 28 — the schedule is out

The schedule for SQL Saturday #741 in Albany is out!  (My presentation is scheduled for the first session of the morning.  Ugh!)

I will be doing a brand-new presentation (so new, in fact, that as of this article, my presentation slides are not yet finished!).

My new presentation is titled: “Networking: it isn’t just for breakfast anymore.”  It is based on my ‘blog article of the same name.  We will discuss networking, what it is, and why it’s important.  We’ll discuss where and how to network, and ways you can break the ice.  We’ll even have an opportunity to network within the confines of our room.  (I suppose an alternate presentation title could be, “Networking for beginners.”)

If you’re looking for networking opportunities or looking for ways to improve upon your networking skills, come check out my session!  Click this link to register for SQL Saturday #741, and join us in Albany, NY on Saturday, July 28!

See you there!

Humble beginnings

Once again, the Facebook “On This Day” memory feature shows it can be a curious thing.  And again, this is one I wanted to share.

The picture you see above showed up on my Facebook memories feed this morning.  Three years ago today, I gave a presentation at my local SQL Server user group meeting.  I had come up with a presentation idea that I thought would be of interest to my user group, as well as other technical professionals.  I jotted down some notes, put it into a presentation, and presented it at my local user group.

About a month later, I gave this very same presentation at our local SQL Saturday.  It was my first SQL Saturday presentation!

I was curious as to how other events would take to my presentation.  Later that year, I submitted it to, and was accepted at, another SQL Saturday.  It was my second time speaking at SQL Saturday, my first time speaking at an event in “foreign territory,” and my first SQL Saturday — speaking or attending — outside of New York State.

Since that humble beginning, I’ve spoken at 13 (soon to be 14) SQL Saturdays at seven different cities around the northeastern United States.  Thanks to this endeavor, I’ve traveled around the region, met a lot of great people, expanded my professional profile, started a ‘blog (that you’re reading right now!), enhanced my career, gained more confidence, improved my presentation skills, and become a better person.  This all came about because of these conferences and from this simple start three years ago.

I hope I’ll be doing many more!  Happy three year anniversary to me!

My hometown SQL Saturday: I’m speaking, July 28

I just got the official word that I will be speaking at my hometown SQL Saturday.

As of right now, I don’t know which presentation(s) I’m doing; I only know that I am speaking!

Come join us at UAlbany on July 28!  Go the link above to register, and mark your calendars!

On deck: SQL Saturday #716, NYC

Reminder: I am speaking at SQL Saturday #716, New York City this coming Saturday, May 19!  The conference will be at the Microsoft Technology Center, directly across 8th Avenue from the Port Authority Bus Terminal.  This is a secure location, so you must register using the link above if you want to attend!

I will be giving the following two presentations:

  • I lost my job!  Now what?!?  This is my career/job hunt presentation, and it’s becoming one of my best-sellers.  In this talk, I provide tips and advice for surviving a jobless situation.  Anyone who is looking for new employment is encouraged to attend!
  • So you want to be a SQL Saturday speaker?  This is a brand-new presentation that is making its debut at NYC SQL Saturday!  Want to be a speaker at SQL Saturday?  Here’s how I did it — and you can, too!

Hope to see you there!

Upcoming speaking engagements

Here are my most recent speaking engagement calendar updates, as of today!

Confirmed

I am confirmed to be speaking at the following.

Submitted, but not confirmed

I’ve submitted presentations to these events, but I don’t yet know whether or not I’m speaking.

  • Saturday, July 28: SQL Saturday #741, Albany, NY — my hometown SQL Saturday!  I won’t know until June whether or not I’m picked to speak, but I will be there, regardless of whether I’m presenting or not!
  • Saturday, September 29: SQL Saturday #770, Pittsburgh, PA — I should find out sometime around August as to whether or not I’m presenting.

Save the date

These events are not yet official.  Once they are, I hope to submit to them.

  • Saturday, September 22: SQL Saturday, Boston, MA
  • Saturday, December 15: SQL Saturday, Washington, DC

Questionable administrative decisions (I’m looking at you, PASS)

It’s not often that I will call out by name a specific organization for what I deem to be questionable decision-making.  But today, I am making an exception.

Recently, the Professional Association of SQL Server (PASS — the organization that administers SQL Saturday) made a very questionable administrative decision.  In order to submit presentations to SQL Saturday events, all submitters must first register for the event.  Previously, if a speaker’s presentation is accepted for a conference, he or she was automatically registered for the event.

This decision has resulted in an outcry from people affiliated with PASS and SQL Saturday.

I’ll start with an open letter written by my friend, Steve Jones.  (Steve, by the way, is one of the people who first organized SQL Saturday several years ago.)

Tamera Clark, who administers the SQL Saturday Facebook group, also posted the following.

If you haven’t seen the “news” Pass made a huge change to the SQLSaturday sites that impacts both organizers and speakers. There has been no general announcement only to “current” event organizers.

If an event is open and their schedule is not published yet and you have submitted, speakers must REGISTER FOR THE EVENT as an attendee. Organizers can’t approve sessions until you are registered as an attendee.

As a speaker in order to submit to an event, you must register first and are prompted to do so.

*Yes this means organizers will need to contact speakers to get them to register.

*Yes this means you must register for an event and if you are considerate go back and unregister if you don’t get selected or can no longer attend.

*I’ve been told this does not register you 2x for the event.

Things I don’t know:

*What happens to the lunch status if a speaker is selected. Does it update to “compt by event”?

*As a speaker if I change my mind before the event(prior to the schedule being made) and just cancel my registration what happens?

*As a speaker if I change my mind during the process of a schedule being made (ie. session approved but not on schedule) and I cancel my registration what happens?

*As a speaker if I change my mind and the schedule is published what happens when I cancel my registration.

For organizers it looks like we might have gone back in time, now you don’t know if speakers are still attending when not selected. Inflating numbers and causing wait list issues for some.

Finally, I wrote an email to PASS, and I wanted to share it here.

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to strongly object to and to voice my extreme displeasure at PASS’s new policy about requiring speakers to register to an event in order to submit presentations.

This is an extra step that is wholly unnecessary, inconvenient, and detrimental.  All SQL Saturday speakers are volunteers.  The process for allowing speakers to submit should be made easier, not harder.  I have written ‘blog articles, and I have a SQL Saturday presentation, that encourages potential speakers to volunteer to this otherwise-noble event.  Requiring speakers to first register complicates the submission process, and may actually DISCOURAGE, not encourage, new speakers to sign up.

Additionally, if I register, and I am not selected to speak at an event, I will need to take the extra step of canceling my registration.  Number one, that adds to the inconvenience and complication.  Number two, if I should not remember to cancel (as is human nature), that is one more spot that I am denying a potential attendee who is on the waiting list.

I heard that this new policy is to enforce the terms and agreements for SQL Saturday.  This is not an acceptable solution.  If this is about terms and agreements, a more sensible solution would be to include the text along with the speaker’s registration — something along the lines of “if you are accepted to speak, understand that you accept the terms and conditions…” etc.

I strongly urge you to reconsider this policy.  Any policy that makes things difficult is more likely to discourage, not encourage, further participation.

Regards,
Raymond J. Kim
PASS Member
SQL Saturday presenter

I’ve written articles encouraging people to become speakers, as well as put together a presentation that encourages people to present.  In one fell swoop, PASS is threatening to throw that away.

If you are involved with SQL Saturday, and you are as outraged about this policy change as I (and many others) are, I encourage you to contact PASS to voice your displeasure.  By applying pressure to the organization, perhaps they will reverse course.

SQL Saturday #716, NYC Schedule

The schedule for SQL Saturday #716 is out, and it turns out that I’m on it not once, but twice!

I will be doing the following two presentations:

Hope to see you in the Big Apple on May 19!

Suppose you gave a presentation, and nobody came?

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
— unknown

“S**t happens.”
— unknown (or Forrest Gump — take your pick)

An article by my friend, Greg Moore, reminded me of a SQL Saturday presentation that I was supposed to do in Philadelphia last year.  It was one of the first sessions that afternoon, right after the lunch break.

My total attendance for my presentation: zero.

I don’t remember how long I waited for people — anyone, really — to show up; it might have been about ten or fifteen minutes before I packed up my laptop and left the room.  I was disappointed and even a little hurt.  How is it that I drive four hours to give a presentation, and nobody shows up?  At the same time, I also tried not to take it personally.  I posted my experience to my Facebook page to get it out of my system, I pretty much said “stuff happens,” and I shrugged it off.

I found out later that a large number of attendees — I don’t know how many, but I’ll guess about half — left the conference right after lunch.

(For what it’s worth, I actually gave two presentations that day.  My morning presentation was well-attended, and went very well.)

I also did a presentation at my hometown SQL Saturday last year.  Unlike Philadelphia, people did show up — there were five people, not including myself, in the room.  But for all intents and purposes, the room might as well have been empty.

Those of you who know me or who’ve seen my presentations know that I do my best to get my audience engaged.  I’ll ask questions, I’ll ask for volunteers, and I’ll ask for feedback.  I don’t like to lecture — that is, talk at an audience.  My preferred modus operandi for teaching is to have a discussion where I act as a facilitator.  I want to make sure that I’m making my audience’s time worthwhile.

However, this was problematic at this particular presentation.  These people were the five most introverted people I’ve ever had for an audience.  They barely responded at all.  During my presentation, the only acknowledgement I saw were a few barely discernible nods.  I had to force someone to volunteer for my demo (and she did not even come to the front of the room).  Trying to get these people to respond in any way, shape, or form was like pulling teeth.  Despite asking if anyone had questions, the only questions I got was from the event photographer — who was a friend of mine — going from room to room taking pictures.  (He saw my dilemma and decided to speak up.  After my presentation, I flagged him down and said to him, where the hell were you earlier?!?)

I won’t lie.  I was very disappointed with my audience in that presentation.  There might have been five people in the audience, but for what it’s worth, I might as well have been talking to an empty room.

Greg cites an article by Catherine Wilhelmsen where she talks about a similar experience.  (Her article is a great read; go check it out!)  As it’s often been said, s**t happens.  Failures happen.  Sometimes, all you can do is take your lumps, shake it off, and move on.

(Speaking of which, check out my previous article where I talk about screwing up not necessarily being a bad thing.)

I used to teach part-time at a local business school (roughly at the community college level).  Every now and then, my students would show up late.  (That’s where I learned that the ten minute rule applied to teachers, too.)  More often than not, however, my students did eventually show up.

I often joke that if I hold a class, a presentation, or a lecture where nobody shows up, I’ll start talking to the empty room — and see if anyone notices.  Some people have told me in reply that it’s an opportunity to practice your presentation.

Sometimes, things happen that are beyond your control.  Often, your first instinct is to be disappointed and take it personally (at least I know mine is).  Whenever such an event occurs, ask yourself if you could’ve done anything differently to avert the situation.  If the answer is yes, then learn from it and remember it for the next time.  But if the answer is no, then there’s nothing you can really do.  In either case, just shrug it off, move on, and try again next time.