Deciding On a Presentation Topic for 2015

I’m spending some time this week and the next few weeks thinking about what I want to talk about next year. 2014 was about learning plans and I will continue using that presentation in 2015, but my focus this year is to pick a topic that will work well for chapters/user groups. That really speaks to the challenge that chapter leaders have – they want speakers/content, but they also want to fill the room. No, attendance isn’t everything and chapters should address different skill levels and different segments throughout the year (as they can, based on what they can get), but attendance does matter. Without good attendance the leader tends to feel they aren’t succeeding or serving the group well. Without good attendance it’s harder to get and keep sponsors. Without good attendance networking at the meeting is less interesting, or perhaps not interesting at all. So even if I pick a niche topic (as I have at times in the past), I want to think about offering a title, abstract, and delivery that is as inclusive as possible.

Here’s what I have so far for goals:

  • Has to be a topic I know or want to know
  • Has to be a topic I will  be excited about delivering
  • The title should be clear and clean, no cuteness
  • It should be approachable to a level 100 user
  • It should contain content that will reinforce/expand the knowledge of a level 200/300 user
  • Must contain demos
  • Must contain practical use cases
  • Framed in a way that I can write a 90 minute presentation, but trim to 50-60 minutes if needed (I think longer/deeper content is a better draw)
  • Write it a way that plays to my strength/style – a teacher, not entertainer, practical/forward looking
  • Write a Summit quality abstract and “what will you learn” bullets
  • Supplement it with a learning plan for someone who wants to go from concept to execution
  • Get critical reviews of the title/abstract before proceeding
  • Think and rethink about what I can do to help the group leader market it effectively (which may include some ‘requests’ about how that marketing is done)
  • Drive 20% over the average attendance for that group

I’m thinking about going a step further into ‘own the space’ territory. Put up a blog that matches the topic, feature the presentation, and supplement it with every resource I can find on the topic, maintaining it for at least the year.

I’m not suggesting that every presentation needs to go through all this, or focus as much on attendance. Chapters are the place where we experiment. New content, new ideas, new jokes, new styles. Chapters need a mix and I think should measure performance based on training hours delivered (THD). If the goal is 15 THD per month and you hit a home run in January and hit 30, that means later in the year a topic can be selected that only nets 5-10 THD. At least that’s how I think about it!

You might notice that the only thing I mentioned here about the PASS Summit has to do with the quality of the abstract.:

  • I will submit it. It will be tested and practiced and evaluated
  • There’s no reason to do less
  • It’s practice, I will probably submit another topic or two and writing good abstracts isn’t easy

I’m not picking a topic that I think is my best shot at landing one of those sought after spots on the 2015 Summit schedule. If I really want to get on the schedule I’d look at the 2014 schedule, find a niche that is untapped or under served, or one where I think I can “out do” whoever did it last year. Market analysis. Instead, I’m picking a topic that will serve the people I’m going to see in Florida next year as I try to to visit (physically or virtually) every Florida chapter and every Florida SQLSaturday. A different market. So while I wouldn’t endeavor to get a DBCC presentation selected for Summit, it might make sense in Florida. I might not do XML because Kendal Van Dyke already does and lives/presents in Florida (and who likes XML anyway?).

Lots of layers to that aren’t there?

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