Organised speaking – prioritising events to speak at

As part of my ongoing series about presenting at community events and conferences, I wanted to cover the my personal thought process when it comes to prioritising what events I’d like to speak at for my goal Throw 1, Speak 1.

There are a massive amount of awesome SQL Server and other technology events happening out there. I even throw a SQL Server lunchtime session once a week for the user group! Then of course there’s all those conferences in the UK and abroad that are worth attending. So how do I event start picking out where I’d like to talk, and how do I go about getting selected for them?

User groups

I love our UK user groups!

I’ve worked and hung out with the various organisers for the past three/ four years at SQL events and they’re fantastic people, so visiting the UGs is a great way to ensure I get out and about and socialise.

As well as the organisers, I love meeting the people who attend the user groups – people with passion and dedication for their jobs and an appetite to learn and grow are the people I want to associate with.

So user groups, inside or outside of the #SQLFamily, are my highest priority.

Getting selected

I’ve been seeking out user groups looking for speakers by:

  • keeping an eye on twitter as most UGs these days use twitter to doing a call for speakers
  • UK SQL Server UG leader emails – we keep in touch so I know when folks are looking
  • volunteering myself via meetup conversations to local groups

Because of the quantity of user groups out there and the amount events they put on over a year, it can be pretty easy to get a slot at an event, and the UG leaders love getting new people in to speak.


I have a limited amount of cash and holiday days I can book off so I can’t attend too many conferences, especially if they cost money to attend as well as to travel to and stay at. So I’ve prioritised five that I know I definitely want to attend:

When combined with attending at least two SQLRelay events, that’s a fair bit of conference attending and associated travel costs. Speaking at these events though are great way to help amortise some of the cost:

  • where it’s a conference that costs to attend, speakers and volunteers typically get their admission costs waived
  • if you’re a speaker at such an event you sometimes get some money towards your hotel bill

All in all, speaking (and to a lesser extent volunteering) are great ways to have fun and have more money to spend at the bar!

Getting selected

Conferences often have a speaker submission process where you will be required to put in candidate sessions. There’s often many more speakers (let alone sessions) than there are spaces so competition can be fierce. Even the best speakers won’t necessarily get picked so it’s important to factor in uncertainty into your plans.

I’ve done a reasonable number of sessions now so I’m relatively known, but to reduce uncertainty if you’re a new speaker, get to your user groups and deliver some sessions!

In terms of my goal – Throw 1, Speak 1 – any conference I apply to will count towards my speaker slots. Excess delays in hearing about selected sessions means less time to prepare if selected and less time to find an alternative event to speak at if not selected. Part of my selection process for conferences was to take into account the organisation level of the organisers too!


So I’ve got five identified conferences that will most likely constitute my conference attendance for the year and I can submit to more if I don’t get selected for some. Additionally, I’m booking UG events around the country to speak at throughout the year.

The user groups love helping out new speakers and I really can’t understate the benefits to your knowledge, confidence, and social life that giving speaking a go can have, so if you’re a new speaker get in touch with me or another leader!

If you’re an old hat at speaking, how do you plan for events to speak at?