SQL Saturdays are Not Your Personal PBS Pledge Drive

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I’m a big fan of PBS (and NPR), I’m a member of our local station, but I am still annoyed as hell when I watch something purports itself to be a real show on PBS, and yet it is a pledge drive. I can almost always guess them to—it’s never the McNeil-Leher news hour. It’s usually a concert from some pretty solid artist who has broad appeal across the PBS viewing audience. Anyway, I’m rambling. Let’s get back to SQL Saturday—most of the speakers SQL Saturdays, Code Camps, and to an extent the PASS Summit are volunteers, we pay our own travel expenses, sometimes take time off of real jobs to be there. Sure some people work for vendors that fund their travel, and others (I fall into this category) have their own companies setup to make travel deductible, but no one is paying us to be there. I’m not complaining about that—it’s part of what makes SQL Saturday a great event. It’s an event run for the community by the community, and I hope it always stays that way.

I was at a recent SQL Saturday, where I happen to be extremely close with the organizer, and there was a speaker (from outside of the SQL community) who was making a ton of demands on the organizer. Wanted to be in a special room, wanted peak times (not for travel reasons, just for a larger audience), special equipment, etc. Listen, if there’s one person who has it much harder than the speakers, it’s the SQL Saturday organizer. You’re trying to manage 30 speakers, some of the most interesting (could you please read your GD email) questions from attendees, dealing with venue people and caterers, and you just don’t have time to deal with the needs of a single primadonna speaker. If you want a good way to never get invited to speak at that SQL Saturday again, I recommend submitting a list of the demands to the event organizer. No seriously, don’t do that, ever. If you do it in Philadelphia, one of our rooms will likely be under construction, but only during the hour you were scheduled to talk. But wait there’s more.

Figure 1 My SQL Saturday Rider

So after all of this happened before the event, I really wanted to see this session. After all, if this speaker had all of these special demands, they must be really amazing, right? The session was professional development—and while most of the advice was reasonably sound, there was a disturbing trend of the speaker answering questions with “it’s in my book” or “it’s in the DVD on my site.” My personal favorite was when someone asked for a copy of the slides (which speakers generally upload as a PDF or even PPT to the SQL Saturday website), the speaker responded “you can buy the DVD, they’re on there, they don’t pay us to come speak at these events, so I have to make some money somehow.” Yeah, buddy, we all paid to be here you jerk. There were a couple of other things that bothered me, like some mild insulting of the audience, but that’s beyond the scope of this. This felt like the informerical where they give a you a taste of a product, but if you want the real deal you have to call 1-800-SCAM-ME and give a credit card number and wait 4-6 weeks for your delivery. But wait there’s more.

So, I left a few minutes early, but it turns out the speaker was conducting cash sales of his book and DVD from the podium after his session. To the extent that it delayed the next speaker, which is always the classiest thing you can do as a speaker at a conference (it’s a good way to show people how important you are). At SQL Saturday’s we have these people that let us run the event—they are called sponsors and they don’t appreciate when someone who doesn’t pay for the right to sell stuff at the event does.

Those are the words of my friend Vicky, who works for a frequent SQL Saturday sponsor (and full disclosure, client of mine) Idera.


If you want to make sure you aren’t doing it wrong, just be sure to follow the Denny Cherry and Associate’s HR policy. Wheaton’s Law.

15 thoughts on “SQL Saturdays are Not Your Personal PBS Pledge Drive

  1. sqlsoldier

    This is why I’m no longer a member of SSWUG. I attended a “troubleshooting backup performance” webinar on their site in 2003 (the company I worked for then had gotten us a paid membership) and it turned out to be an infomercial for Quest LiteSpeed. I told our CTO not to bother renewing the membership.

  2. sqlsoldier

    I should also say that when I worked for Idera, they made it clear straight away, that they did not want me to push Idera products in my sessions. I was a technical expert, not a sales person.

  3. jdanton1

    I’ve never personally seen one of core SQL vendors (red gate, idera, SQL sentry, embarcadero, Sios) ever pull anything remotely like this. They are really excellent folks and tend to take care of the community.

  4. Allan Hirt

    I can’t nelieve that happened – pretty disgusting. Clearly that person didn’t get how the SQL Server community works. I have to protect my IP but I gladly provide my decks. I’m not giving my book for free, but my sessions are not nor will they ever be blatant infomercials for anything paid that I do. If someone buys my books or wants consulting/training and pings me post-event, I never solicited that. They do that of their own free will and maybe saw/heard something which droive them to it.

  5. brimhj

    Come to think of it, it never occurred to me that somebody would be these heinous. I mean, there are several authors that do SQLSat events. And sure, they will pimp their stuff to a degree (here’s a link to my book, check it out on your time). But cash sales of the book/dvd after the session? Yuck.

      1. brimhj

        ugh – re-reading my comment and seeing my typos and grimacing. Ugh. And, yes be a sponsor to some degree. Get a table if you want to do a full-on pimp of your stuff.

  6. DavidSDSU

    Even among sponsors, I have never seen cash exchange hands with the rare exception of late payment for lunch. Sponsors especially those that are engaged within the SQL community understand the value that session speakers bring to the table. As sponsors we often try to get the best rooms for our lunch sessions and often ask for volunteers help to make sure our session doesn’t encroach on the next speaker. In exchange for extra help or special requests, I have often offered to donate my time which numerous organizers have taken me up on. On the flip side those speakers that do have services, books or other products to offer may mention them in a use case context but never as a pitch. Those speakers that do want to discuss their services rendered to also sponsor as well. It’s sad that one newbie could have such a negative impact. I hope the organizers chatted with him afterwards about his options next time around.

    I formerly worked for SIOS Technology, coordinated about 40 SQLSat sponsorships, and stuffed my share of grab bags. Maybe newbies should be required to attend or ideally volunteer at a SQLSaturday before they take the podium… Real bummer.


    PS: I have to say I <3 and respect all my SQL homies. (Except Denny, he needs a haircut 😉 unless he's whippin' out the Traegger – then all is good in the world).

    (Typos by Android)


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