Note: These are my opinions and don’t reflect the official views of PASS, just my thoughts!
I’ve been to every PASS Summit since 2000, and we’ve only had a few great keynotes. Many that were ok, a few that were horrible, and only a few – such as the one by Dr. Dewitt in 2009 – really make the attendees cheer. Why is that?
It’s almost never because of bad presentation skills, most are reasonably well done. Even the presentation decks are usually well put together, often very polished even. Instead, I think it most often stems from marketing teams behind the presenter who just fail to understand the audience. It’s probably presumptuous to try to speak for all the attendees, but yet, you’re my people, so I’m going to go for it anyway!
Some things I would tell every keynote presenter:
- Take it for granted that we’re wildly enthusiastic about SQL Server – we don’t need to be convinced that it’s a good product
- We’re exceptional learners, go faster. It’s unlikely you can tell us something faster than we can understand it, and if somehow you manage to do so, it will just impress us!
- Don’t try to sell us your product. Show how it will solve some really challenging problem and we’ll get the value, but we all have a built in filter that activates as soon as we detect you’re selling us instead of showing us – and then you’re done
- Bring some street cred. Know a lot about our world, or know a lot about yours, but either way we’re wanting to hear from someone that can walk the walk
- Go big and demo live. If it fails, we know how it is, but if it doesn’t you score with us
- Talk about things within our sphere of interest and influence – we might use SharePoint, but we’re not at the PASS Summit to hear about it – we want to hear about anything that ships in the SQL Server box
But now to the big question, who (or what topic) would make for a great keynote? Here I wish I had more ideas, but I’ll start and hope that someone will have an aha moment that will start us all chasing the next great keynoter:
- Someone that uses SQL Server on a really large scale. Show us the architecture, the challenges, the good stuff.
- Bill Gates – nuff said
- Someone that built an interesting database, maybe Pandora or the Human Genome project, no matter what DBMS hosts it
But I don’t think it has to be just technical stuff, because we’re deeper than that. How about a really good comic, or a motivational speaker (I’d like to see Colin Powell, but pick your own)? Or one of the Mythbusters? Or if I could have my pick, Jeremy and The Stig from Top Gear!
So…throw out some ideas, never know!