#SQLPASS Abstract Review – My Perspective

I have been fortunate enough to participate as a team lead for the past two years on the abstract review committee for PASS Summit and I wanted to take a moment to provide some feedback based on my own personal experiences. First, this year was by far the toughest. The quality of abstracts was phenomenal which made the job of abstract review and session selection very tough (this is good thing btw). Much of this is not new. I am hoping that it will help you make more sense of the abstract review process and give you some tips to improve the chances of your abstract being selected for future Summits.

  1. 2013 is the first year that abstracts were reviewed anonymously or speaker blind. What this means is that abstracts were reviewed without knowing who the speaker would be. Speakers were rated separately and the scores for the abstract and speakers were brought together for a final score. This raises the emphasis on the quality of the abstract while still taking into account speaker skill/experience.
  2. Each track for Summit has a team of volunteers that review submitted abstracts. Abstracts are reviewed and scored by multiple review team members and the average score is taken as the abstract score. After the abstract and speaker reviews are completed. Sessions are selected based on scores, space and topic.
  3. Spelling, grammar, wordiness and all the other things that make an abstract hard to read are killers. Have a friend, coworker, spouse or anyone review your abstract to identify these issues. My personal favorite is to have my girlfriend who is completely non-technical read my abstracts. If she can’t follow them and tell me what she would expect to learn, I know I missed the mark.
  4. Typically, each track receives a hundred (or more) submissions. If you are submitting a session on something new (and popular) you need to make your session stand-out. For example, this year if you are submitting a session on Data Explorer keep in mind that there may be 30-40 other sessions submitted on the same topic. Even if your abstract is “flawless”, you have to find a way to make your abstract standout above the other “flawless” abstracts.
  5. Pick an appealing topic. Obscure niche topics that have limited appeal no matter how cool they are will most likely be passed over in favor of those with a broader appeal.
  6. Be clear with who your audience is and what the audience/attendees will learn. I recommend that you start with objectives or goals of the session and then write an abstract. Make sure that topic level is appropriate and that it matches what you are proposing (i.e. Don’t propose and Advanced Session with Introductory Concepts or an Introductory Session with Advanced Concepts).
  7. Keep in mind that PASS selects technology professionals that are experts or at least intimately familiar with each track’s topics/technologies to review sessions.

I hope my experience helps you understand how the abstract review process works and will help you put together even better abstracts in the future. If you would like more tips on writing killer abstracts I recommend checking out Brent Ozar’s post HERE.

Till next time!



6 thoughts on “#SQLPASS Abstract Review – My Perspective

  1. Pingback: I'm presenting at the PASS Summit! | James Serra's Blog

  2. I had considered a post like this, but was kind of afraid of violating my NDA… Since I have seen yours (and a link to your blog on the PASS website,) I suppose I should do this as well. I don’t disagree with anything you have said, but I did have some feelings after reviewing as many abstracts we did for the DBA track.

    • I considered the same which is what prevented me from doing so previously. I tried to stay high level and certainly did not want to disclose any committee business to avoid conflict with the NDA. Who knows I may have shot myself in the foot but I considered it important and believe that as a community organization transparency is key particularly in situations such as this. Thanks for the comment!

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