May 15 2010

We Want You to Speak at Our Fall Conference

Categories: 2010 SBOUC, Conferences, General Dave Rathbun @ 8:15 pm

I know, I know… everybody is getting ready to fly out to Annual Conference / SAPPHIRE which starts tomorrow. But don’t forget that the call for papers for the fall Business Objects conference is open through the end of this month (May). What I would really like is to get my hands on XI 4.0 before submitting my abstracts this year. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is going to happen before the call for papers closes (on May 30th). SAP folks are going to have most of the fun this year since they’ll be able to present new stuff. :)

The tracks this year include:

  • Business Intelligence Strategy
  • BusinessObjects Data Management
  • Crystal Reports
  • Dashboarding
  • Enterprise Performance Management
  • Explorer
  • Governance, Risk & Compliance
  • Infrastructure
  • Universe
  • Xcelsius
  • WebI/DeskI

There are fewer tracks this year; last year there were two Xcelsius tracks which resulted in a lot of Xcelsius content. I think some folks thought there was too much, as it was not really possible to see everything. Hopefully this year will be more focused.

I have had the opportunity (and good fortune) to present at quite a few conferences over the years. It’s a little known fact that my very first presentation back in the 90’s was an unmitigated disaster. :lol: Despite that terrible beginning I have been allowed to inflict my horrible sense of humor and hopefully some bits of knowledge on conference attendees for over a decade. Because of the recent successes (certainly not for my first effort) I am often asked a couple of questions.

How do I get selected?
What if I don’t have anything to say, why should I consider presenting?
Any tips for a successful presentation?

In this post I would like to share a couple of tips for getting your abstract selected without resorting to slipping a $20 bill to everyone on the selection committee. ;)

Give The Selection Committee Some Options

The first and best suggestion that I can make is to submit more than one abstract. There is an old saying that goes something like this:

Don’t keep all of your eggs in one basket

In this context it means don’t pin all of your hopes on getting selected on a single abstract. I’ve listed the tracks for the conference this year above… which ones do you think will be “hot” this year? Those that are will be the ones that are the most likely to be over-submitted. The selection committee will have a hard time getting down to the required number of selections (and alternates). If you don’t make the cut with your one abstract, you’re out of the process.

Suppose you really want to deliver a topic on Xcelsius. Last year we had two tracks dedicated to this product and this year there is only one. I believe that means this year the Xcelsius track has the best chance of being over-submitted. What do you do? Twist things around a bit. How about submitting a topic titled “Universe Design Best Practices for Xcelsius Consumption” or “Using Xcelsius Components in Crystal Reports”? Either of those could be submitted to a different track and therefore may be much more likely to get accepted.

Update Something From Last Year

This is a technique we used with great success when I was a consultant for Integra Solutions. My best example of this technique from my own personal experience: my series of “Variables” presentations. My first presentation (named “Variables and More Variables”) got things started in 1997. It was designed to provide tips and techniques to help folks make the transition from version 3.1 (not XI 3.1, just plain 3.1) to 4.0. When the time came to submit abstracts for the following year I submitted “Variables and More Variables… the Sequel” as an option. I was laughing as I did it, thinking that if this worked I knew what I would be submitting for the year after as well. :lol: It did get accepted. And the year after that I submitted (and delivered) “Variables and More, Third Edition” to an appreciative audience. In my opinion the best part of this story came years later when I did not submit a variables talk. I actually got a call from the selection committee asking why I had not submitted the next chapter in that series.

Remember… Not Everyone Is An Expert

Your idea for an abstract does not have to be super-advanced to get selected. Some folks may be attending the conference for the very first time. They may have only installed the product a few months prior to attending. They’re not ready for the deep-dive super-advanced topics; they just want to gain some understanding on how things work. We used this concept at Integra as well when we started our “Essentials” series of topics. These were designed to cover the (as the name would suggest) essential basics of a product so that folks can become productive faster by knowing where to concentrate their efforts. Over the years we delivered the essentials of Web Intelligence, Universe Designer, Xcelsius, and some other tools that escape me at the moment. Since I have already dusted off one old saying, how about another:

In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king

You don’t have to know everything to have something to share. You just have to know a little bit more than someone else. I rarely will tag my presentation topics as “Advanced”; I will instead create beginner or intermediate topics because I think a broader audience will benefit. The advanced stuff comes when people come up after the talk to ask questions. :)

Keep It Focused But Not Too Specific

This is my last tip for this post, and it may be a bit controversial. I suggest that you don’t get too specific in your abstract. If you do, you may end up painting yourself into a corner. (That’s the last saying for this post, promise.) Let me once again fall back on my “Variables” talk as an example. In my abstract I didn’t detail each and every technique that I was going to cover. In fact I had about a dozen different ideas down on paper before I submitted the abstract. Here is rough draft of the abstract submission for one of these presentations.

Unleashing the full power of the BusinessObjects reporting tool involves an understanding of what can be done with your data once you have access to it. The Slice and Dice panel can be used for basic analysis, but barely scratches the surface of what can be done for processing data. This presentation will provide solutions that can be put to immediate use, and includes topics like complex report variables, new ideas for functions, and some simple solutions to complex problems. Samples of each technique will be provided.

This abstract promises to deliver “simple solutions to complex problems” but doesn’t get specific about what those problems are. It mentions “complex report variables” but doesn’t give examples, at least not in the abstract. The goal is to write an abstract that promises to deliver without getting too specific about what, exactly, will be delivered. Make sense? :)

To be honest, there are plenty of folks that don’t like this strategy. They would rather provide technical and very specific details in their abstract. They believe that helps their abstract stand out during the selection process since the committee knows exactly what they are getting. I can see the value in that. My counterpoint would be that there is a six month gap between the abstract submission process and the actual conference. A lot can happen in six months. I would rather leave things more open in case I learned an especially cool new trick before the conference. For that reason, especially with the variables papers, I tried to keep things generic.

Good Luck, Now Let’s See Those Abstracts

These tips are based on my own experiences as a speaker. Because Business Objects (the company) ran the selection process for so many years I was never part of the actual selection process. Now that ASUG (a user-driven organization) is running the conference we all have the opportunity to volunteer and help out with making our fall event the best it can be.

Just don’t think you can volunteer to be on the selection committee just to make sure your own abstract gets selected. It doesn’t work that way. :P

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