June 24, 2014  Congratulations to all the community speakers selected for PASS Summit 2014, and thanks to everyone who submitted abstracts in a record-breaking year! We had the most Summit submissions ever, with 943 abstracts submitted for the 144 community session slots in this year's program.

On behalf of the Program Team, I want to share how much we appreciate the SQL Server community’s ever-growing support in helping build the biggest and best educational program for SQL Server and BI professionals.

Thank You, Program Committee Volunteers
I would like to thank all of this year’s 88 Summit Program Committee volunteers for their dedication and hard work in the session review, scoring, rating, and selection process. The team reviewed all the 943 abstracts submitted by 335 speakers from around the world.

I also want to give a special thank you to this year's Program Managers, Lance Harra and Melissa Coates, who led the Program Committee through all phases of the selection process and spent countless hours analyzing and constructing a well-balanced conference program. Finally, a huge thanks to Marcella McKeown and Emilija Dufresne at PASS HQ – invaluable members of the Program Team who support and help coordinate and execute all program-related functions.

Behind the Scenes: How Are Sessions Selected?
The program-selection process is constantly being fine-tuned and improved based on lessons learned and feedback from each event. We welcome and encourage feedback and look forward to continuing to enhance our processes for a fair and objective approach that ensures a well-balanced program. Here’s a high-level overview of how Summit sessions are selected:

    • Reviewing Abstracts, Speakers, PPTs: Program Committee volunteers are assigned to one of three teams:
      • Abstract Review – Abstract Review volunteers work in sub-teams that match the program’s educational tracks, with each team reviewing and ranking abstracts in its track. The abstract review teams do not know which speakers submitted which abstracts; this "blind rating" is done to remove any favoritism in the scoring process, creating an even playing field for both new and seasoned speakers.
      • Speaker Review – This team separately reviews speaker credentials, experience, and past attendee feedback to help select a slate of quality presenters.
      • PowerPoint Review – After sessions are selected for Summit, the PowerPoint Review teams take over, reviewing speakers’ presentations, including verifying completeness, ensuring that required slides are included, and doing final spelling/grammar checks.
    • Building the Program: When the Abstract and Speaker Review teams are finished, the program managers collect all the scores and ratings and analyze the top sessions from each track to fill the community session slots. Key factors in this analysis phase include:
      • Topic Balance – The goals are to ensure that sessions within each track are inclusive and representative of the track’s key topics and to avoid duplication.
      • Level Balance – We want to ensure a good mix of skill levels for beginners through experts.
      • Speaker Balance – We strive for a lineup that includes both established expert speakers and rising stars. To offer a good variety of speakers, we limit the number of general sessions to two per presenter.
    • Partnering with Microsoft: With the community sessions selected, our next step now is to open the Microsoft call for speakers, collaborating with Microsoft to make sure selected submissions complement the community sessions and create a cohesive overall Summit program. Watch for Microsoft sessions and the complete session schedule in early September.


New: Improved Filtering and Learning Paths

As part of our commitment to execute a robust and diverse educational program for Summit 2014, we are providing better attendee guidance through role- and skill-based learning tracks. This year, we are introducing Learning Paths, which are being rolled out as part of an improved session filtering and search feature.

Filter options include Track, Speaker, Level, Session Type, and the new Learning Paths, which let attendees further refine their search by leveraging nine cross-track topics:

    • Beginner
    • Big Data
    • Cloud
    • Hardware/Virtualization
    • High Availability/ Disaster Recover
    • Performance
    • Power BI
    • Security
    • SQL Server 2014

If an attendee is interested in sessions related to SQL Server running in a virtualized environment, for example, he/she can select the Hardware/Virtualization Learning Path. Additional Learning Path filters can be applied for an even more refined search.

Recognizing that Cloud/Azure-related topics cross various tracks and interests, this year we have incorporated Cloud sessions into the appropriate remaining tracks and have created new filtering and search options on the PASS Summit 2014 Sessions page. We hope the new filtering and search options will make it easier for all Summit attendees to locate sessions that are best suited to their interests and needs.

We have a phenomenal program this year, planned and presented by the SQL Server Community for the SQL Server Community. Help us spread the word, and don’t forget to register by June 27 to save $300 on your registration. See you in Seattle!
– Amy Lewis
PASS Director of Programs