2015 Program Committee

speakerachievementLast year, I was very much honored to be selected to deliver a pre-con with my friend brother Chris Shaw (B|T).   I was both excited and nervous at the same time. Regrettably, there were some rough moments in the days that followed the selection announcements, when people found out that their abstract wasn’t selected.   Comments were said, tweets were tweeted and blog posts were written.   Regardless of the kerfuffle that was on the blogsphere,  the experience was amazing and I’m glad that I had the opportunity.

Be Part of The Process

This year I volunteered to be on the Program Committee for the 2015 PASS Summit.  I thought that being a part of the process would help give me better insight on how things really work.  It also gives me a chance to give my feedback and help to improve the process.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, therefore, I told the committee to put me wherever they thought best.   There are a number of options for the committee members to volunteer for, such as review abstracts, speakers, slide decks, or volunteer for the event itself. It really didn’t matter to me which I was on, as long as I was able to help.

They ended up placing me onto an abstract review committee where I have been tasked, along with several others, to review 200+ abstracts for the BI Platform: Architecture, Development & Administration track.  They gave us a deadline of getting all of these reviewed by the end of April.   I like that fact that given that we have multiple people on the team, each abstract is reviewed by several people which allows for a fair and decent review process.

As the review process was spinning up, there was a lot of shifting of people in and out of review teams.  For fairness, if you submitted an abstract for the Summit and are on the Program Committee, you are not allowed to be on the review team for the track you submitted for.  So many members, like me, were moved around.  The Program Committee is very keen on keeping the process as clean as possible.  To me, I think that there is some room for improvement on how these shifts are communicated.  Since I got involved to help better the process, I sent feedback up to the appropriate people.

Remember, We Are family

Last year, like in years past, I saw a number of comments made in various media outlets about who was or wasn’t selected to speak.  Surprisingly, in reading these comments, I noticed that they came off as potentially very hurtful and damaging to those that were selected.   Given that we tout proudly of our SQL Family, I was taken aback.  This year, I ask that our family please take a moment to think about how your message might be conveyed before communicating it.

It has become very clear to me thru this Program Committee process that  just because you are a MVP, MCM, MD, DDS, MSCE, MCSA, MCP, XYZ or your name is “John Doe” it does not guarantee a slot to speak.  The PASS Summit is a community event and as such all community speakers should be treated identical.

This process also ensures that no one can “own” a particular subject.  If someone else wishes to do a session on “ABC” and you are known as the subject matter expert on “ABC”, tough.  Someone else other than you can present on the same topic and/or concepts.  I fully agree that while they can speak on the same subject this does not give them the right to plagiarize content from you or from anybody else.

The Program Committee is striving very hard to make the process as fair and balanced as possible.

You Didn’t Make the Cut

If you submitted for the 2015 PASS Summit and your abstract(s) were not accepted, here’s how I would handle this:

  1. Congratulate those that did make it.  They worked hard on their abstracts and it showed.  Take the higher road.
  2. Thank the Program Committee, the review teams and PASS for doing the best that they could.  In my opinion, in regards of abstract reviews, the process is pretty fair and equitable.
  3. Ask for the comments from your abstracts.  Last year, the Program Committee would send you the comments from the abstract review process.  I am hoping that they will be doing this again for 2015.
  4. If you have feedback, offer it in a constructive manner to the Program Committee.  The Program Committee cannot fix things if they don’t know about it.  I would suggest doing this privately at first and then publicly if you think that it’s warranted.  Starting a flaming war on a blog post or Twitter is NOT the way to handle it.
  5. GunnyHighwayAs Gunny Highway says, “You improvise. You adapt. You overcome”.   Re-work your abstracts, get another set of eyes on it, and submit it again for 2016.  If it’s a session that you’ve never presented before, get it out to your local user group or a SQL Saturday.  Those are great avenues to test the waters for a new presentation. If you want someone to review it, feel free to email it to me at john at jmorehouse dot com.  I’d be more than happy to review it.
  6. Let it go.  Life is way too short to dwell on this.   There will be other days and other conferences.  Keep at it.

Summary

I, myself, submitted three abstracts. I am going into to this knowing I may or may not get selected. If it turns out that I am, it will be grand and I’ll do my best for the community.  I know there are some really fantastic speakers out there that also submitted and it will not be the end of the world if I am not chosen.  Tomorrow will come and the sun will rise.

If and when a rejection does come to PASS (pun intended), I’ll publicly offer up the comments from the review committee on my blog.  Then I will work on improving because whether or not I’m selected does NOT change my passion for teaching and giving back.

I, like you, trust the process to be fair and honest.  I put my faith into the reviewers to do the best that they can.

You should do the same.

© 2015, John Morehouse. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to 2015 Program Committee

  1. Great post, John. You did a good job in explaining the process. One of the goals of the process is bringing in speakers who are experienced, but haven’t spoken at the Summit previously. While they might not be THE subject matter expert, they will possibly bring in a new outlook. That was the main reason behind splitting out speakers and abstracts. We wanted to avoid speakers who were presenting the same session year after year, but made it in because of their identity.

    The Program Committee itself and especially the abstract review committees require a huge amount of work and I know that the people who volunteer definitely go above and beyond. I hope this has been a good experience for you. When you come to the Summit this year, take a moment and appreciate the work that you put in to make this happen 🙂

  2. Amy Lewis says:

    Thanks for the blog post, John! Great feedback and input. And thank you for all the work you are doing on the Program Committee: Abstract Review Team!

    Yes, we are planning to give feedback again this year. The Program Managers and Abstract Review Team leads are working very heard to ensure that there is feedback on each and every abstract.

    As Lori mentions above, we work each year to make the process fair for all submitting. The Program Managers, myself, and team leads meet and review the feedback that comes into us.

    As always, we are looking for ways to improve the process and continue to make Summit a “must attend” conference! Recommend folks to contact either myself, one of the program managers, or any of the Program Committee members with feedback. Best place to submit is also via program@sqlpass.org http://www.sqlpass.org/Community/SpeakerResource.aspx

    -Amy

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