I’m Speaking at Virtual PASS Summit 2020

PASS Summit has gone virtual this year, but that isn’t keeping PASS from delivering a good lineup of speakers and activities. I’m excited to be presenting a pre-con and two regular sessions this year. I know virtual delivery changes the interaction between audience and speaker, and I’m going to do everything I can to make my sessions more than just standard lecture and demo to keep things interesting.

Building Power BI Reports that Communicate Insights and Engage People (Pre-Con)

If you are into Power BI or data visualization, check out my pre-con session. It’s called Building Power BI Reports that Communicate Insights and Engage People. Unless we’ve had data visualization training, the way we learn to make reports is by copying reports that others have made. But that assumes other people were designing intentionally for human consumption. Another issue is that we often mimic example reports from tool vendors. That can be very helpful with the technical aspects of getting content on the page, but we often overlook the design aspects of reports that can make or break their usability and effectiveness in communicating information. My pre-con will begin with discussion on how humans interpret data visualizations and how you can use that to your advantage to make better, more consumable visualizations. We’ll take those lessons and apply them specifically to Power BI and then add on some tips and tricks. Throughout the day, there will be hands-on exercises and opportunities for group conversation. And you’ll receive some resources to take with you to help you continue to improve your report designs.

Agenda slide from my pre-con session: 1) Defining Success, 2) Message & Story, 3) Designing a Visual, 4) Refine Your Report 5) Applied Power BI 6) Power BI Tricks 7) Wrap-Up
Agenda for my PASS Summit pre-con titled Building Power BI Reports that Communicate Insights and Engage People

This session is geared toward people that have at least basic familiarity with Power BI Desktop (if you can populate a bar chart on a report page, that’s good enough). If you have never opened Power BI Desktop, we might move a little fast, but you are welcome to join us and give it a try. If you are pretty good with Power BI Desktop, but you want to improve your data visualization skills, this session could also be a good fit for you. I hope you’ll register and join my pre-con.

Implementing Data-Driven Storytelling Techniques in Power BI

Data storytelling is a popular concept, but the techniques to implement storytelling in Power BI can be a bit elusive, especially when you have data values that change as the data is refreshed. In this session, we’ll talk about what is meant by story. Then I’ll introduce you to tool-agnostic techniques for data storytelling and show you how you can use them in Power BI. We’ll also discuss the visual hierarchy within a page and how that affects your story. You can view my session description here.

Inclusive Presentation Design

I’m also delivering a professional development session for those of us that give presentations. Most speakers have good intentions and are excited to share their knowledge and perspective, but we often exclude audience members with our presentation design. Join me in this session to discuss how to design your presentation materials with appropriate content formatted to maximize learning for your whole audience. You’ll gain a better understanding of how to enhance your delivery to make an impact on those with varying abilities to see, hear, and understand your presentation. You can view my presentation description here.

Other Pre-Cons from My Brilliant Co-Workers

If you aren’t into report design, my DCAC coworkers are delivering pre-cons that may interest you.

Denny Cherry is doing a pre-con session on Microsoft Azure Platform Infrastructure.

John Morehouse is talking about Avoiding the Storms When Migrating to Azure.

I hope you’ll join one of us for a pre-con as well as our regular sessions. With PASS Summit being virtual, the lower price and removal of travel requirements may make this conference more accessible to some who haven’t been able to attend in past years. Be sure to get yourself registered and spread the word to colleagues.

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Tips For Presenting Remotely

Presenting a conference session to a large number of IT professions is probably one of the most nerve-wracking things that an IT professional can do. Generally speaking, we aren’t trained in public speaking, and a lot of the time we are introverts.

Giving the current Covid-19 pandemic that’s affecting the entire world, all the conferences that haven’t been canceled have gone to a virtual model where the conference is being held online. This introduces some additional challenges to the presenters as suddenly you are presenting to your computer screen for anywhere from 5-10 minutes for a lightning talk (or Speaker Idol session) to 6 hours (or more) for a pre-con.

As we prepare for the PASS Virtual Summit that’s coming up in a couple of short months, Joey (b|t) and I wanted to take a little time to talk through what the presenters who are presenting remotely are going to have, what they are going to want near them, and what they can expect when giving a remote presentation.

We obviously aren’t clairvoyant, but between the two of us we do have hundreds if not thousands of hours of remote presenting experience. So we’ve seen the good and the bad. And we’ve experienced tons of problems as well as successes that we want to share in our upcoming webcast. The webcast is September 17, 2020 at 11am Pacific / 2pm Eastern / 6pm UTC and we hope to see you there.


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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.

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My Thoughts on PASS Virtual Summit – An Editorial

On June 3rd PASS announced their annual Summit for Data Professional was moved to a virtual format. This is not surprising to those of us in the SQL Server community. Many events are moving to a virtual platform as well as being able to offer at no costs all attendees. PASS though, is a different kind of “company” for lack of a better word. We are a community of people that built this “company” from the ground up.

Due to normal day to day commitments, like jobs, most of us do not have time to run the day to day operations of the “company” and we rely on Christensen and Company (C&C), to help with those activities. It is their hard work that we PAY for that allows PASS and our community to continue to grow. The individuals at C&C do not work for free so naturally it takes funding to enable that.

Summit is our largest event each year. It brings in most of the “company’s” revenue through sponsorships and registration fees. This revenue is what allows for the next year’s community programs such as SQL Saturdays, Local Groups and free training to exist. These programs are what comprises the foundation the PASS SQL Server community thrives on and grows from. It is these events that bring us as a family together throughout the year and let us look forward to the big “family reunion” we call Summit each year. It is without saying, Summit can’t be FREE.

In the past week, I have read and heard many comments regarding the pricing and complaining that events like this should be free or that speakers should be compensated. It simply cannot be. PASS has worked hard over the last few weeks with help of many of us in the community through surveys,  focus groups, and  passionate discussions to devise the best possible offering that gives value not only to the community but allows the “company” to continue its existence. The pricing has been scrutinized, redone and then redone again to make it the best possible options for all of us. Trust that the amounts being charged are the lowest possible and are meant to keep the “company” afloat, not to turn a profit.

Yes, it is very easy to argue that without venue costs, lodging, food, etc the cost of summit for PASS is minimal, but that simply is not true. There is a lot more to it. A technical platform must be purchased or rented, C&C employees must be paid, promotions must be done, and countless other line items that need to be paid for. There are deposits and costs that have already been paid in preparation for the onsite Summit that may or may not be paid back to PASS. As someone who has had to cancel a SQL Saturday this year after already outlaying nonrefundable expenditures prior to the cancellations, I can sympathize. In my case, if one more sponsor requested a refund, at this point I would have had to give it from my own pocket. Imagine that on the scale of Summit.

For PASS to survive Summit cannot be free. There are costs and we should not expect compensation as speakers just because there is perceived lower costs of holding a virtual event. There is always more to it. I would encourage everyone to consider attending Summit if possible.  Attendees are what will help to ensure PASS stays afloat and our community can continue to exist and thrive for the coming year. We relay on PASS for so many things, for some of us it has made our careers, it is time for us to step up and support the organization in this unprecedented time.

You can register to this year’s PASS Virtual Summit here.

This event, like onsite, will be uniquely PASS. It will be immersive and promises many networking opportunities. This will not be your typical GO TO WEBINAR. Trust me when I say, everyone is working hard so ensure the #SQLFamily will not be let down. I hope to virtually see you there.

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