Speaker Issues: The Quandry of Double Submitting

This is in response to yesterday’s Twitter conversation, and subsequent blog by Eddie Wuerch, about submitting to more than one SQL event on the same date.

Doubling down? It’s just not my bag, baby…

I guess it never occurred to me that this would be such a problem: submitting to two SQL Saturdays at the same time.  I suppose I believe that, generally speaking, it’s a bad idea to submit for an event that you’re only iffy on actually attending. I made sure I had work clearance to go to London before I submitted for SQL Bits, so I’m preaching what I practice (if you can call this preaching).

This sorta rarely comes up as an issue because:

 (1) I’m reasonably choosy about where I’ll speak – not because I dislike some cities/orgs, but because I only get 1-2 out of town SQL Saturday weekends, and I like to leverage those. For example, I like speaking in Atlanta, because that gives me a chance to visit a close friend out there. (Hi Christine!) 

 (2) The events that I would pick rarely overlap. Last year I had to choose between submitting to a SQL Saturday in Colorado, or one in Kansas City (not the same, but adjacent weekends). I have good reasons to go with either, but I picked Colorado because that was the weekend my daughter could go with me.

Solution 1: Pick Another Weekend

Is it too simplistic at this point to say that double submitting shouldn’t be that big an issue for others, either?  I mean, Eddie gave the example of four SQL Saturdays on one weekend.  Couldn’t you submit to the most likely of those, and if it falls through, submit to another later in the year? 

Solution 2: Get Input

Better yet, is there anything wrong with getting a feel for the likelyhood of your being accepted?  Meaning: Just ask.  We talk to SQL Saturday coordinators all the time. Those conversations can go a little like this:

Hey, I’m Jen McCown. I’m looking at submitting to SQLSat YourCity. How are you guys looking for speakers so far?  SQLSat TheirCity is the same weekend, and I certainly wouldn’t want to submit to both, in case I’m suddenly in high demand :).  I understand of course that you can’t promise me a spot, I’m just feeling the waters.

And while Eddie brings up a good point – Sean and I are, in fact, in a favored position because we’re experienced speakers, and MVPs to boot (and slightly famous) – I don’t think that we’re in any better position when it comes to asking than anyone else. (Just make it clear that you don’t expect a guarantee, and that you want to submit ONLY to the SQLSaturday where you’d do the most good.)

Solution 2a: Get More Input

What’s more, once a SQLSat’s call for speakers has gone on a little while, ask the organizers what kinds of session submissions they’re lacking. If you have more than one kind of session, you can be a real lifesaver to a planning committee that’s overrun with sessions of type A, and scraping the barrel for type B.

Hi again, it’s me, Jen McCown.  The speaker call for SQLSat YourCity closes next week, and I’ve been looking over the submissions list. It looks like you’re short on BI session abstracts, so I’m thinking of submitting a couple of my SSRS talks.  Would that be helpful? Are you running short in any other areas?  Again, I understand that you can’t guarantee me a spot.


Allowing or Disallowing Double Submissions

Finally, I don’t agree with the community proposal that the PASS board should programatically disallow conflicting submissions; it would certainly be useful to organizers if they received a notification, and then they can decide how they want to handle it. (I think that’s where the Twitter conversation ended up, anyway. Hooray for solidarity!)

Happy days,
Jen McCown

20 thoughts on “Speaker Issues: The Quandry of Double Submitting”

  1. The PASS board shouldn’t do *anything* or be involved in any way. If PASS is set up such that every decision needs to go through its tiny board, then the organization will never get anywhere. This is a simple technical issue that needs a simple technical solution.

    1. Weren’t you the guy yesterday saying that PASS should disallow submissions to SQL Saturdays on the same date?

      Anyway, I agree with the Adam of Today. It’s their software tho, so the “dual submission” notification would have to go through some sort of PASS…..thingy….

  2. I don’t think I ever double submitted, but I’m not against the practice. I think as long as you bow out early (ideally day of acceptance so your sub doesn’t feel like she or she is second tier), its completely OK.

    I have two ideas to use technology to improve this. This first is to make double submissions visible to the organizers so they can have as many alts as necessary in case every double submissions bowed out. The second is to allow speakers to submit the order of conferences they would attend in order.

    While we are on technology choices, I’d like to be able to conditionally register for a conference if and only if I get picked. Since many speakers get reimbursement for speaking, I can’t be the only one.

    1. You mentioned reimbursement, so I figure you must be thinking more of the big conferences. I think there’s a difference between SQL Saturday submissions (the scope of this discussion), and regular conference submissions. I’d be only slightly more comfortable cross-submitting to two simultaneous big conferences; less chance of being picked, bigger pool of applicants if you have to bow out. But for SQL Saturdays, there’s a much smaller pool, and you can really put an event in a bind.

      Having said all of that, I don’t consider it a mortal sin (though it should stay rare), and event planners should handle it as they see fit.

      1. In my case, I get reimbursed for some SQLSaturday expenses (I would if I submitted to a larger talk too).

        I guess in the case of SQLSaturdays it could become a big issue because there is a potential for a group of people to make a habit of multiple submissions. Certainly if I was as famous as you in the sqlverse, I’d take that into account before submitting multiple times. I think you idea of asking the organizers is a good one. If I ever feel the need to double submit I will do that first.

  3. Excellent points, especially Solution 2a. Finding out what’s needed or wanted is the best way to go towards getting to speak at a SQL Saturday. Just because you know everything there is to know about using saved transactions doesn’t mean that anyone else is remotely interested in the topic.

  4. Not that everyone doesn’t love to Import Speakers For Fun and Profit, and it’s fun to be able to see great speakers for free, but isn’t SQLSaturday supposed to be about growing local speaker talent? If the organizers are choosing between someone from across the nation versus a speaker who has never presented but wants to learn, I would hope they would choose the latter, and only use the big guns to fill in the gaps? SQLRally/Summit should pick up the big names.

    But perhaps the ideal does not meet reality in this case.

    1. This is where Sean and I tend to disagree with everyone else in the world. Webinars and user groups should be for growing local talent; SQL Saturdays too, but to a lesser degree. For example, I really don’t like it when new speakers are GUARANTEED a spot at a SQL Saturday. I think you have to work your way up a little bit, and not debut in a room in front of 30+ people.

      What’s more, delivering quality content HAS to be a part of the charter of these events. They’re SQL Saturdays, not Learn To Be A Speaker Saturdays.

      However, these are locally organized events, and I fully support each group’s right to handle they sh*t the way they want. And there must be a balance struck between new and experienced speakers…I wouldn’t want to go to a SQLSat that was even 95% one way or the other.

  5. Definitely the intention is to groom the locals, have them speak at user groups first, in practice for that next step, a SQLSaturday. When we say grow the local speaker pool, we don’t mean start them right out the gate at a SQLSaturday…geez, they’ll likely never speak again! Certainly don’t want that reverse effect happening, and I’m sure we’ve all heard some of those stories.

    On the point about PASS putting something into place….there are many things on the wishlist for the SQLSaturday site that would benefit more for everyone overall. Moving those things down the list in order to put this check in place, something that will only benefit in a few situtations, I don’t see as beneficial for the majority overall.

    1. Karla,

      I appreciate the issue of getting the time and talent to implement the features people want on the website. However, have you ever considered just open sourcing the website on codeplex and letting anyone use it, fork it, and submit a feature?

      Its not a magic bullet, and it would take time to review patches you received for new features. However, it lowers the barrier for entry for potential volunteers.

      I know it might be a bit of a culture shock in the SQL server world. However, I think it could work.

  6. Oh, one exception I’m making in Pensacola for “first timers” speaking at a SQLSaturday…I am opening up the Lightning Talk to anyone brand spankin’ new at presenting. I think a 5 minute session for someone is a great way for them to test the water to see if they want to start presenting more.

  7. Jen,

    Will you marry me?
    I am joking I am happily married, but I do love the post. I am a CL and SQL Saturday organizer that was ranting to Karla about the very topic just last week. She sent me the link to your blog post and here was my response below. Also, I will mention, I am a finance/math guy, not an English major so while I read over this several times there is no guarantee that it isn’t riddled with grammatical errors. Enjoy.

    First of all I will say that email has some borderline unprofessional comments in it, but the intention is to add a little humor as well as prove a point.

    I guess if I were to boil it down here is the thing. PASS = PROFESSIONAL Association for SQL Server. And before you call me a hypocrite I will be the first to admit that I probably do a handful of random unprofessional sh!t on a daily basis, but I try not to do so under the blanket of a professional association. And as far as I can remember I have never dropped an F-bomb on the Chapter Leaders email list.

    So let me ask you this. Would it be professional of me to schedule an interview with you for a specific date and time only to NOT show up because I have another job interview for a job I want more than yours that is at the same date and time at a different place? And furthermore, not even bother to contact you and tell you that I am not going to make it because I have a scheduling conflict.

    Let’s use a better example, let’s say I am a SQL Saturday organizer (imagine that) and you submitted a session, which I accepted. Everybody is happy right? But on the day of the event you show up all dressed and ready to go only for me to tell you: “Hey, sorry your session got bumped. We needed to make room for some SQL Awesomesauce.” The bottom line is you probably wouldn’t be happy with me and you might want to contact PASS and have them shut me and my little SQL Saturday down. And you would probably be right to do so.

    I think the point that Jen is trying to make is that one we need to communicate and I would add to that we need to be professional. The fact of the matter is that circumstances are going to change and that isn’t a big deal. However, the onus should be on you (being the person with the changing circumstances) when your circumstances do change to notify those that are effected by that change. Let’s illustrate this, shall we?

    We are organizing a SQL Saturday and we had a speaker we will call Frank Gritchey. Frank submitted to our event and we would love to have Frank. However, the company that pays Frank’s bills says they would really like Frank to be somewhere else that weekend. Frank realizes the potential for being double booked and sends he an email with his regrets to the organizer nearly three months prior to the event. As the organizer, I hate to loose Frank, but I understand Frank’s kids gotta eat. Plus no big deal, our call for speakers is still open for another month or so and we have plenty of time to add new speakers.

    However, the frustration comes in as an organizer when your call for speakers closes and you find that as you are contacting your speakers they are cancelling on you because they found a prettier date to the prom. That is was put organizer in a bind. Now it is great that there are speakers out there like Jen who are more selective in who they choose as there SQL Saturday mate or even Frank who get around but makes no secret of if you letting you know what you are in for up front. But sadly there some speaker wh0res out there looking to put another notch in their SQL Saturday bedpost with their own interests in mind that don’t really care if your particular event is a success or failure.

    And don’t get me wrong it shouldn’t be all on the speakers. I will be the first to admit that I need to do a better job of communicating. As an organizer I have a rule on speaker submission. I take every speaker that submits, but not every session, which only makes sense right? If you submit 12 sessions and I only have 6 different time slots something has to give. Is this on my for speaker page? No. Should it be? Yes. Why isn’t it? Because it has never been an issue before. Will it be next time? YES!

    But the bottom line is the same rules should apply to me. If I have 30 different time slots and 35 different speakers someone is going to get left out of the dance. And it is my responsibility to let those sad souls know that all of there hopes and dream will be crushed because the will not be allowed to present at the most kicka$$ SQL Saturday on the planet (except maybe as an alternate) as soon as possible. That way they are not wasting the time and money on planning a trip and booking travel on something that isn’t going to happen.

    Bottom line. Communication Resolves Conflict. And as professionals we should ALL do a better job.

    1. Errata

      Please excuse the excess use of the phrase “the bottom line” in paragraphs five, ten and eleven. Replace with “the point is” in paragraph five and “In conclusion if it pleases Your Honor” in paragragh eleven.

      Paragraph seven Sentence four should read “Frank realizes the potential for being double booked and he sends an email with his regrets to the organizer nearly three months prior to the event.”

      Paragraph eight Sentence two should read “That is what puts the organizer in a bind.”

      Paragraph eight Sentence three should read “Now it is great that there are speakers out there like Jen who are more selective in who they choose as their SQL Saturday mate or even Frank, who gets around, but makes no secret of it by letting you know you didn’t make the rotation this time well in advance.”

      Paragraph nine Sentence six should read “Is this on my speaker page?”

      Paragraph ten Sentence two should read “And it is my responsibility to let those sad souls know that all of there hopes and dreams will be crushed because they will not be allowed to present at the most kicka$$ SQL Saturday on the planet (except maybe as an alternate) as soon as possible followed by immediately closing my call for speakers.”

    2. “First of all I will say that email has some borderline unprofessional comments in it…”

      Assuming you mean my sample emails: I don’t see anything remotely unprofessional in them. I’m in opposition to the idea that “professional” means “utterly without humor or casual language”.

      You asked about double booking interviews. Clearly that’s a bad idea – unprofessional, even – but I don’t consider it the same thing at all, because no one (not even “famous” MVPs like us 😉 SCHEDULES their appearance at a SQL Saturday before the acceptance email comes in. What we’re talking about here is far closer to emailing two prospective companies with a couple of proposed times, and having them both pick the same time.

      CLEARLY failing to cancel one appointment or the other is deeply unprofessional, but that wasn’t a part of the original discussion. (I’m starting to think you’re referring to a very specific incident, the details to which I am not privy).

      Same point with your SQL Saturday example. Of course it’s unprofessional to jack with someone like that, but we weren’t talking abotu that.

      The original question was simply whether it’s okay to submit to multiple events on the same date. The people who say that it IS okay also say you should notify the “losing” event ASAP, and not to leave them hanging in the wind.

      Bottom line: We’re actually in agreement, at least mostly.

      1. The borderline unprofessional I was referring to was about my comments in the long-winded diatribe that followed. The “email” I was referring to was an email that I sent that I actually ended up just pasting into the comments of your blog. After all referring to someone a “speaker wh0re” is something we could probably all agree on as not very professional, but it sounded funny to me at the time and I did it anyway.
        That being said let me next make a couple of apologies and clarifications. By no means did I intend to call you or your blog or sample emails(?) or anything of the such unprofessional as that would be insulting to you and just an all around uncool thing to do. Furthermore, if it came across that way because of my poor wording then I am truly sorry. Secondly, I am sorry that I high-jacked your blog with my ridiculously long comment, but I did so because I thoroughly enjoy the post and felt I had something to add. That being said as I am not as sorry as I should be as I am continuing to add to the post just like someone who says, “I hate to bother you but….(I’m going to anyway because I want something)”.
        So the point I was trying to make was exactly as you stated it is fine to double down so long as you let the loser know as soon as possible. But, sadly not everyone practices what you preach. I was not referring to any specific situation or speaker, because I am certainly not trying to call anyone out, but I will give a few statistics about our event that let me to my position.
        Only 39.68% sessions submitted were scheduled and we took every one we could
        31.81% speakers cancelled
        42.86% of cancelled speakers actively notified of cancellation. Yeah! Again, hate to lose, but at least I know.
        57.14% of cancelled speakers reactively notified of cancellation after that were told they had been chosen to speak. I just got stood up.

        So what that tells me is almost one third the speakers that submitted backed out, which in and of itself is not a big deal. But, the fact that over a half and in fact almost two thirds of the cancellations failed to do what you are advocating by notifying the “losing” event ASAP, is what is causing the raw spot on my rear end. To me that number is too high, but that is also why I loved your post because you are bringing it to light.

        In closing I will say my lineup is filled, I am pleased with the speakers I have, I am not mad at any of the ones that cancelled and life will go on. That said, I would have just gotten a few better night’s sleep had I know earlier, but that is water under the bridge now. Besides, what is organizing a SQL Saturday without a few (or four months worth ) of sleepless nights anyway, right?

        1. Dude, you’re totally fine, and I’m not offended. I’m less confused now, though.

          Nearly 1/3 of the accepted speakers cancelled!?? That’s insane! And of those, less than half let you know? Am I reading that right? What a bunch of assholes, seriously. There’s a certain amount of that we expect when organizing an event, and I suppose we have to expect the number to be rather high (as a lot of the submitters are inexperienced)…but on the other hand, common freaking courtesy should prevail!

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