The PASS Summit is the biggest SQL Server community event, and a lot of us speakers have “present at PASS” on their bucket list.
Getting in is legendarily difficult because competition is fierce. Many sessions are submitted for each one that’s accepted, and you have to work hard to stand out from the pack. This year’s Call for Speakers comes out on May 10th, and PASS has said this year will be shorter than normal – and you won’t get a second chance to get your abstract right.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the years about getting sessions accepted.
First, define their pain and your relief. Forget the title and the abstract; first, you need to figure out why people would attend your session. They’re having some kind of problem at work, and that problem is bringing them to a conference to learn how to fix it. What’s that problem, and how are you proposing relief? To learn more, read The Best Presentations are Based on Pain.
Second, define the target attendee feeling that pain. You might think that your session is for everyone, but due to its size, the Summit has a wide variety of attendees. You get everybody from non-technical managers to deeply technical app developers to DBAs who can’t touch code. Understanding exactly who you want in the seats helps you craft the abstract to appeal to them. To learn more, read Define Your Presentation’s Attendee.
Write the technical part of your abstract. Don’t use any catchy wording at all: just communicate the exact pain, relief, and attendee in as few words as possible. Get this down to as few words as you can – if a word isn’t helping, cross it out. This becomes your abstract’s skeleton.
Add your personality. Once you’ve got a small, strong skeleton, you can dress it in a variety of different outfits to bring your personality to it. You can make a car theme for it, medicine, therapy, sportsball, fashion, Survivor, whatever really speaks to you. I’ll often write 3-4 different versions of the same skeleton abstract, trying different ideas. To learn more, read ProBlogger’s 52 Types of Blog Posts.
Finally, send it to other presenters for review. If you have a social network of people who’ve been accepted to Summit before, send it to them – not just one or two folks, but several different people who have different points of view on what makes a successful submission.
If not, submit it to GroupBy.org, where presenters (including me!) and attendees will post comments and questions. They’ll help you see things in a new way, and who knows? Maybe you’ll get accepted! Starting this year, you have to have 3 speaking engagements under your belt to speak at Summit, and GroupBy is a great way to get the experience you need without traveling.