Summit agenda process

There’s been a lot of discussion on the Summit Slack channel around people proposing sessions for the 2018 Summit. I thought an explanation of how we put the agenda together would be useful for anyone thinking about submitting sessions.

First off though – if you’re thinking about submitting a session for the 2018 Summit then JUST DO IT! We are reserving a number of sessions for new speakers, as we always do. One of our goals for the Summit is to nurture the next generation of speakers. What better way to learn to speak about PowerShell than in front of the world’s greatest PowerShell audience. There is a balancing act between nurturing new speakers and having “big name” established speakers that we know will help draw an audience to the Summit.

The call for topics - https://powershell.org/2017/08/01/76318/ - explains what we’re looking for and the mechanics of submitting a session. This year it’s easier than ever and the site we are using facilitates two-way communication with the potential speaker so that we can help them fine tune their proposal.

Once you’ve submitted the proposal we get an email containing the title and the text. Within a few days (at most) you’ll start to get feedback even if it’s just a thank you for submitting if there’s nothing we think should be changed. We may start an extended dialog depending on the submission and what we actually need.

Well before we open the call for topics we’ll have decided the structure of the Summit – the 2018 structure was done immediately after the 2017 Summit! I’m not giving full details at this stage but we’ll have a mixture of standard 45-minute sessions and double length sessions. The exact mix will depend on the sessions that are submitted. That structure tells me how many sessions I need. From that number, I’ll subtract those that the PowerShell team will use and the time we need for the Community Lightning Demos (yes, they are returning in 2018) and any other activities. That gives me the number of sessions I need.

 A second consideration is budget. We’d love to have each session done by a separate speaker but that costs the Summit in terms of free admission, food etc. So, we have a budget which constrains the number of speakers we can sensibly accommodate without making the Summit too expensive for attendees. Again, this is a balancing act between diversity of speakers and the cost to attendees.

Having determined the number of speakers and the number of sessions required I’ll start thinking about which topics will be of most interest in April 2018. We set the agenda in October 2017 so we’re guessing to a certain degree.  We look for sessions that meet one or more of these criteria:

·         A currently hot topic

·         A new feature in PowerShell that attendees may not have had the time to investigate

·         A topic that is causing a lot of questions on the forums

·         A topic that we’ve not seen before

·         A new module – as long as the code is explained -  that solves a problem or makes life easier

·         A deep dive into an aspect of the PowerShell language or engine

·         New techniques for using PowerShell

·         Best practices

·         DevOps – usually practical based “how I did X”

·         What I learned doing “Y” and how that helps you

·         How the session fits with other sessions we’re thinking of using

·         It’s a positive session. Session proposals that dwell on, and just enumerate, the shot-comings of a particular aspect of PowerShell are extremely unlike to be accepted. If you turn that round and show how to overcome those issues – that’s a positive session.

·         Do we think the speaker understands the topic well enough to present an authorative session? This is often base on the abstract of the proposal which is why we say it’s got to get our attention.

·         Is it a session that can be presented as the same time as the PowerShell team or other “big name” is speaking so we can balance attendees across the rooms.

Other criteria may apply depending on circumstances.

Once, we’ve got a number of sessions available we’ll start to circulate the details amongst the people helping put the agenda together asking for feedback on the session proposals. In some cases, this will become feedback to the proposer and we’ll work with the potential speaker to refine the proposal. This process has started.

When the call for topics has closed I’ll go through the proposed sessions and create a first pass of the agenda. This first pass is circulated to a small number of people who can comment, suggest alternative sessions, move sessions around and generally rework the agenda as required. When we’re happy we’ll notify the speakers and publish the agenda. If your sessions weren’t accepted we'll let you know.

Then we keep our fingers crossed that we’ve got it right and people will want to attend the Summit based on the agenda.

2018 will be our biggest Summit ever so we need more speakers. The information in this – especially the criteria used when thinking about sessions – should help you put together a proposal that will catch our eye.

If you’re in the slightest doubt about whether to submit sessions – JUST DO IT. If you want to discuss ideas then leave a comment, email me or join the Summit Slack channel #speaking-ideas where you can get feedback from people in a similar situation.

You are the future of Summit and we need you to submit those proposals.

Hope to see you (speaking) at the 2018 Summit.

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