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SQLShot – Growing New Speakers


I was talking at SQLSaturday #161 East Iowa with one of the newer PASS Chapter Leaders, Sheila Acker [t] of Quad Cities PASS, about ideas for growing more local speakers. I described a little program called SQLShot that we do in Orlando at the OPASS meetings. Sheila thought something similar could work for her group and that other Chapter Leaders might like to hear about it as well. Here’s what SQLShot is all about.

You know how during the networking time at user group meetings, you’ll often overhear one person sharing with another something they did at work that day that really helped their company or just made their day easier? Or maybe you hear the opposite conversations – a DBA talking about what a brute of a day they had trying to figure something out, and the other person sharing a technique or tool that might help. What these database pros probably don’t realize is that so many others in the room might also benefit from that knowledge.

This is when you, the Chapter leader, strike and ask the member if they’d consider doing a presentation on that very topic at an upcoming meeting. Of course, as most of us know, DBAs as a whole tend not to be that outgoing, and the thought of talking in front of an audience of their peers can be terrifying.

At OPASS – the Orlando user group started by Andy Warren [b|t] years ago and now led by Shawn McGehee [b|t] – we do what we call a SQLShot , a 10- to 15-minute presentation typically done by someone who has very little, if any, previous speaking experience.

Of course, you can ask during the opening announcements if anyone is interested in doing an upcoming SQLShot. But usually all you’ll hear is the crickets. That’s why it’s important to recognize opportunities like those mentioned above and reach out to specific members on topics you know they can talk about.

As your user group’s leader, you are also a mentor. Your members just need someone to encourage them, someone to eliminate the obstacles going up in their minds. Explain that a presentation on what they were just talking about could benefit others. Let them know it doesn’t have to be some super-polished PPT that they spend hours on, trying to think up (dare I say it) bullet points. Paint the picture; keep it simple. Let them know their presentation might involve just opening up SSMS, showing off the query they created, and describing what the problem was and how this code helped.

The typical rebuttal is, “That won’t even fill 10 minutes.” Tell them that’s fine. Because, just wait… once they are up there and start talking about their solution, before they know it, they’ve shared for 30 minutes. Database pros are excited about what they do, and that excitement usually starts pouring out about 2-3 minutes into the demo.

The next retort will be, “Everyone knows this already.” As we all know, even the most seasoned DBAs learn at least a thing or two in almost any session they attend. Remind your novice speaker that many of the audience members are beginners, and even if they’re not, they’re attending the meetings to learn from their peers’ experiences.

Now here’s a rebuttal I often hear from user group leaders: “I just can never get anyone local to present at our meetings.” I’m not so naïve to believe that all user group leaders are outgoing and can easily approach others and dare to “ask” someone to do something as bold as present. Times like these are YOUR chance to improve your leadership and mentoring skills.

If you’re reading this thinking “that’s me,” brace yourself. My recommendation is that YOU do the SQLShot for your next meeting! There are so many benefits to presenting the SQLShot yourself. You get to learn more about it yourself, mentor others what to do, and lead by example. Show them just how easy it is to do a brief demo. That will be all it takes to generate others to give it a shot! J

We are planning here at OPASS to order some custom SQLShot glasses and coffee mugs. Unfortunately the ones we want from 4imprint are a minimum purchase of 72 each.  If you’re a user group leader interested in doing SQLShots at your meetings, and would like to be able to provide a prize like these as well, let me know.  We’re hoping to maybe get 5 or 6 others interested to help with the costs.  Here are the two items we’re looking at purchasing:


From → PASS

  1. Hi Karla,

    Maybe you already do this, but what about ‘live tweeting’ during networking time? Anyone can step up to the microphone and take a minute to share the cool thing he or she did to fix a stubborn problem, or ask for help with an issue they’re having.

    Just a thought,

    Peter Maloof

    • We call that “open mic”, which is great for folks to brainstorm on a problem, and you can actually find a “diamond in the rough” out of those as well…meaning, someone who could potentially grow into the role of a presenter.

      User groups are the perfect breeding ground, and really an essential peice to the eco-system of growing the local speaker pool, helping to mentor those individuals to someday presenting at other nearby ugs and eventually stepping up to speaking at a SQLSaturday. Love that aspect of the user group community!

  2. javierguillen permalink

    Awesome idea Karla!

  3. SqlAsylum permalink

    We call this a SQL Byte presentation at our meetings and started doing it earlier this year when I started leading the group. It’s a great way to get speakers started and to get them over that fear of the first presentation for many of them. It’s also a great way to get more than one topic into the user group meeting. 🙂

    • Question, do you have an image or logo created for your SQL Byte? Trying to come up with something more unique than just text for the SQLShot glasses and coffee mugs, something universal though as some leaders are wanting to pitch in on these.

  4. Hi Karla,

    I have an idea for a SQLShot logo. If you’re interested, let me know how I can send it to you.

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