How to Become a SQL Speaker

This post is for all you would-be speakers out there who are either too afraid or who don’t know where to start.  Over the course of the next 700 words or so, I am going to give you a high level map of how to move from not speaking to speaking in the SQL Community.  Be warned:  if you follow through with this, you will be much loved by the SQL family.

Commit to Speaking by a Particular Date

First, we need to set a deadline for when to speak for the first time.  By committing to a particular deadline you create a sense of urgency that will help you overcome procrastination.  Be specific!  Someday never comes, but a set date will always arrive.

Choose a Topic

The key here is to pick a topic you are familiar with, and ideally, something you actually do on a day to day basis.  For example, if you test backups every day, then that would be a great topic.  On the other hand, if you tune queries once a quarter, then that is probably not the best place to start.  Don’t go for a topic just because you think it will be popular or you think it’s sexy.  Choose the topic because you are comfortable and confident with it.

Write an Abstract

The abstract is how you set audience expectations.  It communicates the title, the intended audience level, any prerequisite knowledge, and what the talk will be about.  Try to write this with your perfect audience member in mind, and include the information that audience member will need to decide to come to your talk.  There is a lot more advice that can be given here, but it is outside the scope of this post.  If you are really wanting to read more on this, visit this blog post here.

Outline Your Presentation

Create an outline of your presentation.  Think about the narrative or story behind your presentation.  It’s hard for the average person to consume dry technical information without having something to relate to.  A story gives them something to relate to.

Build Your Slide Deck/Demos

Using your outline, create your slide deck.  Try to keep the number of ideas on each slide limited to three.  Dedicate a slide to the introduction that tells your audience what your are going to tell them, then tell them, then dedicate a conclusion slide that tells them what you just told them.  If you have a demo, be sure to include blank slides to prompt you to switch to your demo.  Once you have your slide deck done, you should have a clear indication of what demos you will want to include to support the main ideas in your presentation.

Practice! Practice!  Practice!

This is key.  You want your presentation to flow naturally, but you also want to make sure you cover all the information.  Practice is the only way to do this.  Practice in a mirror.  Practice in a video camera.  Practice to your dog, your spouse, or your friends.  My rule of thumb is 10 hours of practice for every hour of material, but you might need more or less practice.  After each practice session, note what you like and don’t like, then tweak your presentation or demos.

Find a Gig

Once you have an abstract and a presentation ready to go, find a gig.  My recommendation is to ask on Twitter for any local groups in your area that need a speaker.  Hint:  Local groups are always looking for speakers!  Most local groups meet monthly, so that is 12 speakers a year they need to find.  I am certain if you post on twitter and use the hashtag #sqlfamily, you will find a gig in 15 minutes or your pizza is free.

Stand and Deliver

This is perhaps the easiest step in the process.  Deliver the presentation.  If you have been following my advice, you would have practiced the material and the demos so many times that it is mainly muscle memory at this point.

Review Feedback and Repeat

You’ve delivered your presentation!  In the coming days, be sure to carve out time and review any feedback you received.  Also search on Twitter for any mentions of your Twitter handle or the local group name to see what people are saying about your presentation.  You can’t please everyone, so don’t feel bad if you receive negative comments.  Learn from them, adjust your presentation, and find a new gig.

Congratulations!  You are now a speaker!



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