Before I did a lot of speaking, I assumed there were two types of speakers.
One group just loved volunteering to help people.
The other group was a bunch of money-hungry people that wanted to talk attendees out of their wallets.
Now that I do a lot more speaking, I don’t just assume that this is true – I am convinced it’s true. For example, I accidentally sat in a vendor session at SQLSaturday Chicago, and I was flabbergasted by the blatant advertising – frankly, hucksterism – coming from the podium. The abstract sweet talked attendees in with the promise of explaining a new SQL Server feature, but the speaker spent most of the allotted time talking about how a completely different feature was faster using their hardware.
You would think that with me being a consultant, I’d be one of the ones talking you out of your money. To some extent, that’s kinda true, too – after all, I make a living selling training and consulting services. But to me – at least, reading my own decks – it feels like I’m doing the exact opposite. I’m up on the podium explaining how you can usually get away with basic best practices and free scripts. I link to our free blog posts and webcasts.
But no, I’m in the volunteer group.
I’m just addicted to the thrill of seeing people get it.
Seriously, there’s nothing better than the thrill of crafting an abstract that gets the right person into the session by telling them what they don’t know yet, then explaining it to them in an elegantly clear way, and seeing them walk out the door energized to go fix a problem back at the office.
Sure, I can get some of that thrill at paid conferences, but I can’t just show up once a year and lay down a killer session. I have to keep introducing new material, honing it, figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I’ve blogged about why national conferences should require local feedback for all speakers, and I’m still a huge believer in that. If you’re not proving your material locally, you shouldn’t be giving it nationally.
My time spent attending sessions at SQLSaturday Lisbon, Madison, and Chicago this past month reinforced my belief. There’s so many really passionate speakers trying hard to make a difference, practicing their skills at the local level, building up a good presentation that would impress national audiences.
And I’m driven – more than I can even explain – to keep driving away the crappy vendor sessions by bringing the best free training I possibly can to free events like SQLSaturday. I know there’s a huge population of folks out there who can’t afford to go to big national conferences or training classes yet, and I’m not there to sell them paid training. I know I can’t get blood from that turnip. I’m just there to have a really good time by seeing people get it.
And I hope you will too. Become a presenter, change your life.
I know I’m not alone when I say I can’t thank you and those like you who have that attitude. I only wish I could attend one of your week long sessions, even though I know my brain would explode by Wednesday.
Oops, meant can’t thank you enough.
Hahaha, you’re welcome sir!
It’s not often a image caption makes me laugh out loud 🙂
Oh well, back to fixing this query…
Greg – I almost linked the MUSHROOM MUSHROOM part to the video, but then I figured that’d be too obvious, heh.
I think the consultants know the more you give away for free the more people want to buy. Some vendors such as Red Gate realize the same, and the closest thing to advertising is showing off who you have working for you.
The help you have provided to this community is priceless. Weekly blog posts, weekly company free videos, and the work you have done to help others start to present and blog haven’t gone unnoticed. I know I have personally benefitted from all of these, and I doubt I would have presented to the Pittsburgh SQL Server User Group today without people such as you helping and encouraging.
Steve – thanks, glad you like our work!
Agreed! That being said, how the heck did you get feedback?! Mine are usually the bunch of circles, but no words, and hence little use for improvement.
Mbourgon – I usually finish up by telling the audience, “Please fill out the feedback forms and let the organizers know how bad I sucked so they’ll stop asking me back.” That seems to help.
Nice post Brent and I agree on the two groups you describe. The funny thing is I want to hear from the vendors about what they do, how their product will help me, and I’m not sure many of them do that well. I don’t want a sales pitch, I would like to see how it works and some context for when/how/blah.
I think most of them are just trying to figure it out, to do something, because they know attending (and the money it costs to send them) is worthwhile, but they have to convince someone it is and that’s far from easy. I’ve long believed it should be first and most about brand building. Anything deeper can happen from that, either in the hallway or at the sponsor table or maybe in an email afterward.
We as a community haven’t done a lot to educate them on what works. Should we have to? Maybe. As organizers we want their money and as long as they stay on the side of good – if barely – then we take the money.
Still, I love the ones that do it just because. I know what they spend in time and money to do it, and I know that they are slowly changing our profession by doing so.
Andy – totally agreed, there’s vendor pitches I actually look forward to sitting in. It’s the easiest way to get demos of new products too.
Amen, my friend.
Nice post and very true.
One thing that could soft a little bit the vendor pitches would be to put a technical guy demonstrate the product, not a commercial guy who just want to sell.
I’m in the volunteer group too, and I’m starting the presentations path giving some sessions on the local users group and being inspired and motivated by all the community.
Thanks for all your work and time you give to the community.
Thanks guys! It’s so much fun doing this stuff.