Writing Great Abstracts

The next PASS Conference is in Seattle in November 2006. The Call for Speakers for this conference closes on April 28th, 2006. If you have any interest in speaking you'll need to submit an abstract. As the Program Director for the conference this year I'd like to pass on some of my thoughts on what makes a great abstract. Our Program Committee is going to review close to 300 abstracts this year. Take some time and make yours stand out.

  • Pick a topic you're passionate about. It will show in your abstract and your presentation. Pick something you work with every day and will still be working with in November. Real-world experience really shows through.
  • Pick something you know very, very well. There will be some extremely smart people attending your presentation. In my first PASS presentation I covered Profiler and trace. Right before I walked on stage the Microsoft Program Manager for Profiler and trace introduced herself to me.
  • No, I don't have any topic suggestions for you. I struggle with that too.
  • Choose a descriptive title. On our pocket schedules the attendees will only see your title, level and name. They should be able to decide if your presentation is right for them just by reading the title. Words like "introduction", "deep dive" or "overview" can tell attendees more about the level. Be careful with "cute" titles. Something like "Overcoming the Fear of Commitment" might be funny if you know the topic is transactions but if attendees only see the title they might not figure that out. When in doubt choose something simple, direct and descriptive.
  • Write a complete description. I've seen the paragraph describing the session be as simple as "This session will cover everything about backup." The person who wrote that didn't invest much time writing it. Will they invest much time creating a good presentation? You want to describe your session as completely as possible. What topics will you cover? What will the attendees learn?
  • Write well. Annoying little grammar errors really stand out when you review lots of abstracts. If someone couldn't take the time to proofread their own abstract will they deliver a good session? I'd especially encourage you to have someone else review your abstract. Find an English major and have them look for grammar errors. Stop by marketing and ask them to "punch up" the language for you (but not too much).
  • Invest time. We can usually tell who threw something together at the last minute or in a very short amount of time. Ask yourself what you know that you wish everyone else knew. Ask yourself what unique or interesting things you've done that you'd like to share.<.br>

Speaking at PASS is a great experience. The first step is submitting a great abstract. By my count you have ten days get your abstract in. Remember, the call for speakers closes on April 28th, 2006.

Show Comments