In case you weren't aware of it, I absolutely love the SQL Server community. The people I've gotten to know have amazing knowledge, and they love sharing that knowledge with anyone who wants to learn. How can you not love that? It's inspiring and humbling all at the same time.
There are a number of venues where the SQL Server community comes together. I'm including Twitter, the PASS Summit, the various SQL Saturday events, SQLBits, Tech Ed, and the local user groups.
Each of us takes part in these community events for our own reasons. Most people want to learn from the experts, the best of the best. That's wonderful, and that's what makes the events so great. You get to learn things that make you more productive, more efficient, and ultimately more valuable to your employer or your clients. It's a win. Many attend because we've gotten to know others in the community, and we get to spend valuable time with the people we've come to know as friends, people who have a shared passion for this technology that has come to define us. Many come because they have something they have to share, some special knowledge that they've come to value, and want to share that with others, to help them become better in their careers.
These events have a tough job. They have to evaluate what sessions have the greatest value to the people who attend the events. This is a really hard thing to do, to decide what their attendees are likely to get the most out of, to ensure that they have a successful event, one that they'll tell their boss, their coworkers, their clients that THIS event is the one to attend, THIS event will help you be more successful. Many of these events are going to a public vote to determine what sessions are most interesting to their attendees.
The problem (and you knew there had to be a problem, right? What good story has no conflict? I mean, really?) is that ultimately decisions have to be made, based on the event organizer's best judgement, what will most meet the needs of their attendees, their customers, if you will.
As someone who has presented at most of the events I noted above, I put myself on the line every time I submit sessions to an event. I do this because I love sharing what I've learned with people, and I've gotten enough feedback from people who've attended my sessions to know that I provide value in my sessions. (Yes, I sometimes have off days, we all do, but for the most part my sessions have been well received.) Putting my sessions out there puts me in a position to be rejected, and when that happens it hurts. I can't help it, I'm an emotional person, and rejection is painful, no matter how impartial the process is. I WANT to present at the event, and they've decided they don't need my content. Ouch.
The important thing is that, from the perspective of the event, it's NOT personal. Our community is incredible, and we have so many fantastic speakers who consistently want to contribute, that there are a tremendous number of sessions for any event to select from. There's sometimes just too much good stuff to pick from. It's a GREAT problem to have, but it's still a problem, because someone's feelings are going to be hurt.
I've recently been on both sides of this problem, as someone who submits sessions to PASS, SQL Saturday and SQLBits, and having had sessions "rejected" by the events, and as the leader of SQL Saturday #60, coming up in Cleveland on February 5. Being on both sides of the process gives me some perspective, and allows me to understand that the decisions made are NOT personal, nor are the decisions from one event to the next connected in any way. Even the same event each year has a different group of people making the decisions, and they're trying to make the best decisions they can for that individual event.
If we as speakers didn't care so much about the events, it wouldn't affect us like it does when we're accepted or rejected for each event. But then, we probably wouldn't give our presentations with the passion we do, and our audiences wouldn't come away feeling they really learned something valuable. Or, to remove the negative from that statement, we're passionate about our topics and about helping people learn, so we passionately want our sessions to be accepted, and we're severely disappointed when they're not.
The best advice I can offer is this: to the event organizers who have to make tough decisions on the sessions you offer, I applaud your efforts and ask you to remember that EVERY person who submits has value and any help you can give them to understand why you made the decisions you did is greatly appreciated. To the presenters who submit sessions to an event, thank you, we can't learn without your commitment and passion, and please don't take it personally if your session isn't accepted. Sometimes there're just too many good sessions to choose from, but it doesn't mean that your efforts aren't appreciated.
This community surrounding SQL Server is truly amazing, and I hope it continues, because it's been a heck of a lot of fun. I appreciate every one of you and am proud to call you my friends.