Speaking at a dbt meetup? Here’s all the details you’ll need to know. If you’re speaking at another event, check out our additional tips at the end of the article.
dbt meetups are an opportunity for the dbt community to learn from each other. We’re typically on the lookout for talks that last for ~15 minutes, and we reserve an additional 5-10 minutes for Q&A after your talk.
We’re not just looking for talks that feature dbt — if your topic feels relevant to analytics engineers, we’d love to chat.
In general, you can assume that around three quarters of the audience are dbt users. When shaping your talk, consider whether there’s something in there that might be new to an experienced dbt user, and, on the other end of the scale, something that feels relevant to a data practitioner that isn’t yet a dbt user.
If you feel that your talk idea requires in-depth knowledge of dbt, consider speaking on Office Hours instead. Similarly, if you’re interested in giving a more introductory talk about dbt, consider reaching out to a local data meetup to see if it’s the right fit.
For topic inspiration, you can find videos of past dbt meetup presentations here.
If you want to present at a dbt meetup, let us know here. If we haven’t met you before, we might book-in a call to say hi and help shape your topic! We’ll also book a meeting before the event for a dry-run of the presentation to give any additional feedback.
Below, we’ve listed four signs that you’re ready to give a talk (originally based on this article from our Head of Marketing, Janessa — read that too!). We’ve also included examples for each category — where possible these are dbt meetup talks, but some of them are also links to blog posts from members in our community.
These are a great option for first-time speakers as they mix together both big-picture thinking and tactics. For example:
Have you recently changed something about your career that you think others can learn from? Started a new job, grown in your role? These topics might not mention dbt at all, but will be relevant to many people in the audience. For example:
If you’ve spent many hours going deep on a topic, it could be a good idea to share what you’ve learned. For example:
Is there a “best practice” that you think is outdated? Want to convince others to see your point of view? In the data-space, we’ve seen this in topics like:
group by 1” — Claire Carroll (blog post)
Once you have a topic idea, stop for a moment and consider whether someone else on your team might also be a great fit for delivering this talk. Individuals from underrepresented groups are far less likely to self-nominate to give a talk — sometimes a shoulder tap is the nudge that’s needed.
Now, it’s time to write! Rather than starting with a slide deck, open up a blank document (or use our template), and start writing some notes. This helps you clarify your thinking, and is a great way to get feedback early, rather than investing the time into creating slides that might later be reworked.
Don’t get too hung up on a title at this stage — we’re happy to work with you on that later in the process.
Below, we’ve outlined a common structure used for meetup talks — if this is your first talk, this is a great way to get started (in fact, even experienced speakers often use a structure like this). Use this as a starting point, rather than an exact formula!
Relating to a business problem helps audience members understand why you undertook a project. For example:
Include evidence that this is a genuine problem — this helps create buy-in from the audience. Slack screenshots, quotes, charts, etc. are all good here!
Three feels like a good number here. Make sure to emphasize people and process solutions as well as technology solutions.
Since you set out a problem to be solved, it’s worth revisiting it. It’s okay if you found that your project didn’t go as planned — there’s a valuable lesson in there. Again, including evidence of improvement feels valuable.
Summarize high level lessons that others can take-away, and potentially talk about what you’d do differently, or what you plan on doing next.
The above structure might seem formulaic, but we’ve seen it work a number of times. In our opinion, this structure works because:
Here’s a few of our favorite talks mapped to the structure — trust us, it works!
Envoy’s financial data appeared inconsistent.
Respondents to the team’s data survey said they no longer trusted the data.
In their next data survey, satisfaction rating increased, and no mention of financial data accuracy.
Lesson: Send out a data survey to your company to inform your roadmap.
No one knew why conversion rates for better.com customers would improve or worsen, making it difficult to know the value of different parts of the business.
Different parts of the business took responsibility when it improved, no one took responsibility when it worsened.
In the end — not as valuable as originally hoped (and that’s ok!). Editor note: this article was a great follow up on the initial project.
A new Bowery Farming site had increased the amount of data the team were dealing with, which put a strain on their data stack.
Charts show increased dbt run times, and increased Redshift costs.
Yet to be determined (at the time, they had just finished the project). But the team showed evidence that the project has been successfully completed!
Other things learned:
Now, it’s time to take your idea and turn it into a presentation.
As well as the slides that directly support your content, consider including:
If available, use your corporate-branded slide deck. We also have dbt-branded slides if you want to use those.
When turning your story into a presentation, also consider doing the following:
When presenting (especially virtually), it’s hard to hold everyone’s focus. That’s ok! By including full sentences as your heading, people can “hook” back into the presentation. For example, rather than having a slide on “Slide headings”, use a title like “Use full sentences in your slide headings” (woah — meta!)
This is a great guide on making your slides accessible — read it!
Evidence is a key part of getting buy-in that the story you’re telling is valuable. Consider including:
For virtual events: is there a poll you can launch, or a question you can throw out to the chat? This can help create a sense of community at the event.
The hardest part of nailing a great talk is the content, so if you’ve made it this far, you’ve already done most of the work. Turning your content into a blog post is a great way to solidify your thinking, and get some extra exposure. If you’d like to be features on the dbt Blog, reach out to us (@Claire and @Janessa) on Slack.
We’ll also be adding more resources on how to write about your work soon!
Above, we’ve given specific advice for speaking at a dbt meetup. If you’re a dbt community member who wants to speak at a non-dbt meetup or conference, there’s a few extra ways you can adjust your process.
Do they know about dbt? If not, are they familiar with SQL? You’ll likely have a range of people in the audience so there won’t be one exact answer, but gathering information about the median knowledge is useful. As a guideline, aim to teach something new to at least half of the audience.
Is the event oriented around technical talks or strategic talks? Is there an expectation of demo-ing code? Do they have past examples of talks that were well-received, or any tips?
How long is your talk supposed to go for? Is there an opportunity to do Q&A?
If the event is virtual, what is the software setup like? How will questions be moderated?
If the event is in-person, will you be able to use your own computer, or will you use someone else’s? What sort of screen is there? How do you connect to it? And do you have the right dongle for your MacBook Pro?
Is the organizer interested in working with you to make your topic great? If not, can they point you to someone in their community who might be interested in helping out?
Do any audience members use a communication device? Can you share your slides ahead of time to make them easier for audience members to access? Will the event be recorded for those who can’t attend in person?
If you’re submitting a response for a Call for Speakers, and talking about dbt, we’re happy to work with you on this. Reach out to us (@Claire and @Janessa) in Slack to let us know!