I guess it could be easy to become complacent about being selected to speak at conferences and you could certainly argue that I have been tremendously lucky with the selection process since I first broke into the speaking circuit in 2010. In 2011 I delivered my first lightning talk at the Summit and this was already off the back of me being the only European speaker (AFAIK) at SQLRally Orlando. Every year since then I have been fortunate enough to be selected to deliver one (or more) full session abstracts at the Summit and when combined with a nice collection of speaking gigs at SQLSaturdays, 24HOP and other events you could be forgiven for thinking that I must have the “magic touch”.
Except I haven’t.
There is no silver bullet to getting your abstracts selected, no single ingredient needed and a large dose of good luck required in order to get your sessions past the winning post. The point is that for every success there is usually a failure (I have failed frequently and often), but to win it -you have to be in it!
Was I successful in 2015 or did I fail? Well I can tell you that this year I not only had 3 general sessions rejected but also had a further 2 pre-conference sessions hurled back my way. The only consolation was that with the rejections came 1 general session acceptance along with 1 lightning talk – but surely failure is the only way to describe such a small number of sessions accepted from such a large number of submissions?
Except it isn’t. Our successes are what truly define us and as the entrepreneur Malcolm Forbes once said “Failure is success if we learn from it”. This is summed up better by Thomas Edison who also said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. I will review those sessions that did not get selected and the reasons why, but I will not dwell on those failures any more than is necessary. I will learn from them, I will adapt and I will try again.
If you failed to get selected this year, my commiserations, but please keep on trying. You may be asking the question “why do the same people always appear to get selected every year when I am not?”. This is probably best explained by the simple fact that it is not that they are not succeeding more than you are, rather that they are failing more than you are (so that they may also succeed more). So avoid putting all your eggs in one basket, submit multiple sessions to many events and learn what works and what doesn’t -oh AND expect failure often, pray for good luck and enjoy those fleeting moments of success when they come! There isn’t a secret sauce for selection but there is a smörgåsbord of ingredients you can use to improve your chances of doing so. Find out what works best for you and eventually lady luck may shine your way.