A conversation came up today on Twitter regarding speaker evaluations and if they should simply be handed over to the speakers or analyzed by the organizers of the event. I was one of the motivators for SQL Saturday in Madison to hand them over to the speakers. I’ll get that right out there. Now, is there a better way? Probably! In fact, I was reading (while driving, so I had little interaction) some tweets by Kendal Van Dyke (B | T). He said something about a process that the organizers or PASS can assist with electronically or such. That would be great! Although, that takes additional resources, and a lot of SQL Saturdays are stretched as it is for volunteers and resources to get something like that done the day of. Entering evaluations into an online form would be interesting, but not everyone that attends has the resources at that time either.
I have some thoughts here and I’m going to do some hashing on it as well as get back to Karla and possibly pull in other Regional Mentors to assist.
Another tweet came in about monitoring the quality of the sessions; this is why the organizers should get the evaluations. Basically, stating they will not invite the speakers back if they had a bad day or presentation. That rubbed me a bit the wrong way for a few reasons.
The biggest reason it bothered me is because SQL Saturday is not the PASS Summit or SQL Rally. It is SQL Saturday! The creators of SQL Saturday had an extremely well formed concept of what this event was supposed to do for this community. One of the highest points in that concept was to provide new and inexperienced speakers a venue to become better and get them in the front of the room.
Some speakers have high quality right out of the gates, while some take 2, 3, or 10 speaking engagements before they become a seasoned speaker with finely tuned presentations that stand up to a PASS Summit or SQL Rally schedule. Remember, SQL Saturday is free. That is a big part of it, even if you think it doesn’t make a difference to the speakers you schedule. The Summit, you pay to go and you expect high quality and proven presentations and speakers (even if past Summits haven’t even met that). As an organizer and an attendee, you should be more lenient when reviewing a SQL Saturday schedule.
Evaluations are important to the organizers, but I feel they are more important to the speakers right then and there, given the concept and traditions of providing a place for speakers to get started. I have seen more new speakers at SQL Saturdays see their evaluations and immediately take the feedback to heart and fix the areas. I’ve even seen some go right back to the speaker room and change presentations while the feedback is fresh. That is getting better and successfully mentoring new speakers in the community – a core concept of SQL Saturday events.
Scheduling is a hard task for a SQL Saturday. Maybe some simply do the “eenie meenie miney mo” process but when I create a schedule I try my best to meet the following guidelines:
- Providing the opportunity for new speakers
- Providing the event with a good number of seasoned speakers
- Ability to create career related tracks – BI, DBA etc…
- Ability for attendees to manage those tracks and migrate to rooms easily
- Venue setup and layout for where you place those speakers and topics
- Overall, make the speakers feel they are wanted because, THEY ARE! No matter who they are, no matter how many times they have spoken.
There are a few other things but those are the major factors that I feel should be met in a solid “SQL Saturday” schedule. I truly feel #1 is absolutely critical so we always give this, our community, a chance to mentor, create, and bring up new, highly talented speakers.