Posted in SQL Server

My First SQL Presentation

I’d like to blame Andy Yun’s (b|tT-SQL Tuesday topic. His challenge was a call for growing new speakers in the community. I can’t blame him though because I chose to participate in that challenge, knowing that I was essentially commit myself to doing this. (It’s just how I work.) And for that, I have to thank Andy for choosing this as his topic.

And now for the story of my first SQL Presentation, in two parts.

I started working on one of the topics I mentioned in my post. While it was still in the works, I approached Robert Padilla (t), one of the New England SQL Server User Group (NESQL) (meetup|t)group organizers. As I tried to explain to him my idea, I realized how half-baked it was – definitely not ready for prime time. Despite that, he introduced me to Sara Levy, who organizes the meetup (meetup|t), which holds tech classes for women by women. Most of the general tech meetups I see focus on programming languages such as CSS, HTML, Javascript, etc. I rarely see a database related topic so I offered to do an Intro to SQL session.

If you read my T-SQL Tuesday entry, you’ll see this is the first topic I mention.

Intro to SQL

I spent the next two months working on the presentation. I owe a huge Thank You to Robert, who gave me feedback and invited me to a speaker prep meeting along with Sunil Kadimdiwan (t) so I could have a practice run through.

The day of the meetup there were 75 people who RSVP’d yes. Being a meetup, only 35-40 people showed up – which is still a great showing! What this said to me is that it is definitely a topic of interest.

The meetup was fantastic. Amazon offices in Cambridge (MA) hosted us and had a beautiful spread of Mediterranean inspired food. (Look ma – no pizza!) The women (and at least one man) who came were a very receptive audience. Many weren’t working with databases yet and others had a variety of experience with a variety of RDBMSs. I saw a lot of head nods as I checked to see that I hadn’t lost anyone with my explanations. There were some great questions. Someone even noticed a spot where I wasn’t consistent with how I wrote a query in my demo, which led to a great conversation point.

All in all, it was a good evening and I got some encouraging feedback. (Better understanding of JOINs, good job explaining complex topic.) A couple of women even asked me about how to continue down the database career paths. I hope I gave them good advice.

As I was putting this together, Robert and Sunil mentioned I should consider submitting this for a SQL Saturday. I was seeing conversations on Twitter at the same time about a need for the community to address the basics and not just more advanced topics. They mentioned that SQL Saturday Albany was coming up. It’s about a 3 hour drive away – according to Google Maps anyway – and it was the closest one that was coming up so feeling bold, I submitted the topic just before the deadline.

Then a couple of days later, I get the email that it was accepted!!!

Back to the Basics – T-SQL 101

The next challenge was modifying Intro to SQL into a T-SQL 101 for the new audience. I swapped out a slide or two, updated content, threw in a couple more pictures to try and make it look more interesting, and made sure the PASS SQL Saturday logo was added. Thanks to Paresh Motiwala (t) for a quick review to make sure things looked good.

I took off from work on Friday and drove out to Albany. That night, I attended my first speaker dinner. I met the organizer of SQL Saturday Albany, Ed Pollack (t), along with the other speakers. It was full of good food and good conversation – I talked to one person about music, found someone from my alma mater, etc. We got our bags with our passes and our official SQL Saturday Albany shirts, along with some other goodies. I also got some great last minute advice from people who had spoken there before.

My session was right after lunch. I was a little nervous because there weren’t a lot of people were there exactly on time. But I gave it a couple more minutes and then I had about 10-15 people in the room as I got started – probably closer to 10 than 15. But I was just happy that people came. And it really was a good group that attended.

I made it through with only a few bobbles here and there. But I got some great questions. I wasn’t rushed and didn’t run over the 75 minutes I had. I also got some really encouraging feedback – both from the eval forms and in person. Some of my favorite were (some being slightly paraphrased because I’m horrible at hearing something once and repeating it verbatim):

  • More nerdy references 🙂
  • I really like that particular image and link you included.
  • I like the way that you approached this topic.
  • What other presentations do you have?

I feel encouraged by all of this to keep going and submit this to future SQL Saturdays. There will be some tweaks based on additional feedback but it will only make things better.


I have to say that the encouragement that I got from the community in general was pretty cool. Not only does everyone want new voices in the community, everyone wants you to succeed. No one wants you to get up there and make a fool of yourself. And if you ask, people are willing to help.

And to pay it forward – for those considering going down the road with the process, I will help you in any way I can.

To those I name-dropped as part of this story, let me say it again: Thank You! To those who were as excited as I was when I was selected for SQL Saturday Albany and incredibly supportive throughout the process (and continue to be), let me say Thank You as well. (I’d name you all but this post is already way too long.) All of this makes me truly feel like a part of the #sqlfamily you see about on Twitter.

I’ve seen a lot of conversations pop up about getting new speakers, especially more female speakers. I think the hardest step for this process is coming up with content. For a potential new speaker, I felt (and still do feel) there are so many great topics already out there that you have to be extra creative and show how much of an expert you are. But when I talked to people and said that I’m presenting a T-SQL 101 session, the first response was how these are the topics we need more of. I think sometimes we forget that the skills we take for granted now are brand new to others and they’re important to present to the next group of data professionals.

For the record, I haven’t completely abandoned the other topic I initially started working on. I’ve shown the draft and mentioned the idea to a couple of people and they think it has some promise so I hope to have enough nerve to submit it to an event at some point. But now that I’ve done a T-SQL 101, maybe there could be a T-SQL 201 down the road? I’m pondering what that would look like now… Hmm …


Photographic evidence that my story is true



2 thoughts on “My First SQL Presentation

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