PASS Summit Virtual Speaker Idol 2020

It’s that time of year again. The PASS Summit speaker announcement was published yesterday. And that means that today is the kick-off for the PASS Summit Speaker Idol 2020 signups.

As the PASS Summit is going to be virtual this year, that means that the Speaker Idol competition for this year will also be online. This will come with its own set of logistical challenges as we’ll have people competing from different time-zones, as well as from all over the world, not to mention coordinating handoffs, Internet issues, etc. We’ll figure it all out and it’ll be just as great as it always has been.

Last year I wasn’t expecting to be at the PASS Summit and my good friend Hamish Watson was kind enough to take over the reins for the year, but I’m back (at least virtually) and I couldn’t be happier to be back.

The Format

The format for Speaker Idol this year will be very similar to all the prior years. There will be four rounds, one on Wednesday, one on Thursday, and two on Friday (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). The first three rounds will be the preliminary rounds, each with four contestants. The finals will be Friday Afternoon and will include the winners from each of the preliminary rounds as well as one wild card presenter who will be selected from the runners up from the three preliminary rounds.

Two people recording a pod cast.

Each contestant will give a 5-minute presentation on anything, preferably something technical. After the contestant gives their presentation, the judges will give the contestant their critiques and feedback. At the end of the panel, the judges will select a winner and runner up for that session. The winner will then go on to the finals, and runner up may be called to present again on Friday. Friday morning after the morning session, the judges will decide who the runner up will be, and they’ll either announce it at the Friday morning session, or they will meet after the session and select the runner up. I’ll then email the runner up and let them know that the judges want to see them present again.

The judges’ ruling is final, and the judges must select only one winner (this was a question that came up in the first year, and we only have one speaking slot in the PASS Summit 2021).

Am I Eligible for Speaker Idol?

The eligibility for the PASS Summit Speaker Idol is pretty straightforward.

  1. Are you going to be attending the PASS Virtual Summit 2020 (even if you haven’t registered for the PASS Summit yet)?
  2. Have you not yet been a speaker in a regular session or pre-con at PASS Summit or PASS BA Conference?
  3. Have you presented before at something else (SQL Saturday, User Group Meeting, Microsoft Ignite, SQL Bits, SQL Rally, etc.)?
  4. Can you attend whatever Speaker Idol session you are assigned to? (Due to Timezones when we assign speakers to sessions I’ll work with the speakers to make session assignments as best we can be based on your local time zone, but I can’t make any guarantees. But I will do my best.)

If your answers to these questions are Yes, then you are ready to be a contestant at Speaker Idol.

Members of the PASS Board, the PASS Executive Committee, employees of PASS, C&C, or sponsors of Speaker Idol are not eligible.

Computer Hardware

In order to present your session, as we are remote this year, you’ll need to provide a computer to present from; an internet connection that will support screen sharing, audio, and video (if you choose to use a camera); a microphone (if using a laptop the built on microphone should to be good enough); and a video camera is you want to share video. There’s is no requirement that you use video.

If you want to purchase a better microphone and/or camera (and I’m not suggesting that you do, we’ll happily work with what you have) I blogged about the setup that I have (it’s in section 3), which I’m very happy with.

The Prize

As the winner of the PASS Virtual Summit 2020, you’ll be the first known presenter at the PASS Summit 2021. Travel to the PASS Summit 2021 conference is not included.

Peter Kral wins the PASS Summit Speaker Idol 2016 competition
Picture “borrowed” from Jamie Wick’s website, with Jamie’s permission.

You’ll also have the bragging rights to say that you one what is probably the hardest speaking competition in IT.


If someone drops out of the competition before the PASS Virtual Summit starts, then a new contestant will be selected from the list of people that have entered. If someone drops out of the competition after the PASS Virtual Summit starts, then their position won’t be filled.

If the winner of one of the preliminary rounds can’t compete in the finals, then the runner up from that round will be moved to the finals and the judges will have the option of selecting either of the remaining contestants of that round for the wild card spot.

If a Speaker Idol judge isn’t able to attend one of the rounds their position will not be filled in.

How to Enter

Entry for the PASS Summit Speaker Idol competition is done by simply filling out this online form. It’ll take you a few minutes at most to fill out. That’s it, just fill out the form before August 31, 2020 September 7th, 2020 Stember 30th, 2020, at 11:59:59pm Pacific Time. That’s it, you’re registered.

So go and get registered as I’d love to see lots of new people entering this year, as travel isn’t a concern this year.

On September 1st, 2020 September 8th, 2020 October 1st, 2020 I’ll email the people who are selected for the contest. As soon as I have 12 people to our contestants for this year I’ll notify the people that weren’t selected for 2020.


P.S. Sorry that PASS Summit registration is required this year. It’s a requirement of the solution that is being used to host the PASS Summit, not a requirement from myself or from PASS. A ticket for the PASS Summit is not included with entry into the competition.

P.P.S. The registration deadline has been pushed back to September 7th, 2020 as noted above.


One Response

  1. Super bummer that Summit registration is required to speak at Speaker Idol. In the past, I don’t think the “no registration required” restriction was ever used (the “be in Seattle” requirement meant few likely contestants would be there & not already attending Summit), but Virtual Summit would mean the “no registration required” rule would be more likely to be used.

    I’m really disappointed that PASS isn’t willing to allow comped registrations or otherwise work around the technical requirements to allow for a truly open/free opportunity for disadvantaged / underrepresented speakers to have this opportunity.

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