So you want to present at a SQL Server Event

So you’re thinking about stepping up to speak at a SQL Server (or any other technical event), or are having your arm gently twisted by an organiser to do so. How bad is it going to be?

tl;dr version:
– Just do it, it’s easy, and it’s great!

Long Version:
Not very. Let’s break down the most comment arguments:

1) – I’m not using the later version
Doesn’t matter. Most people out there won’t be. As of writing this, there are very few people running SQL Server 2016, but there are a lot of people still on SQL Server 2012 (and older!). So don’t think you have to be talking about the latest greatest feature

2) – I’m not using the coolest technology
Yes, each SQL Server release has a must-use technology which people preach about. But that’s not always what people want to hear about. Replication is as old as dust, but it’s still something people want to learn about or know how to fix, a good replication talk aways gets listeners. I talk a lot about backups, and not the new features either, and those talks go down well. What about indexing and performance, well those are perennial favourites, and everyone does them differently so maybe you’ve got something to add there

3) – I’m not doing anything exciting
Neither are most people out there! The lie in the marketing papers is that everyone should be doing a billion transactions a second and have a multi terabyte Web Scale database!
Truth is, 90% of your audience aren’t doing that either. Most of us have the same issues, too many databases and not enough time to look after them all. Those are topics that will grab people

4) – I’m not going in depth enough.
I admit it, I love a good Bob Ward (w|t) or Bradley Balls (w|t) 500 level session on deep SQL Server internals, but then that’s me!
For most people a good level 200 session on a topic is a great introduction to that topic, pushing into 300 for someone who wants to move on to the next level. So don’t worry if you’re not breaking out the debugger or tracing into dll calls

4) – I’m not an MVP or other high end consultancy title
Neither are most of us doing the speaking. Don’t let that hold you back. You think they got those titles before they started speaking? It’s putting yourself out there that get’s you noticed.

5) – I don’t have enough content
You’ll be surprised how easy it is to fill up 50 minutes with content. And that’s without questions, once they come into the picture you’ll find yourself accelerating to get everything in. Demos always take longer than you plan as well, seriously, never underestimate how long demo can take in front of an audience!

6) – I’ve not done it before
We all start somewhere (Birmingham SQL User group for me many years ago), local user groups are good as you’ll have friendly faces around. If you want to dip a toe in the water then keep an eye out for events offering a shorter quicker intro, for example lightning talks of 10-12 minutes for you to have a go with, or there’s webinars, so you can present from the security of home.

7) – Don’t be afraid of questions, or you answers (An addition suggested by Rob Sewell (w|t))
Yes, people will ask questions. But don’t be scared of them. I’ve yet to see someone throw in a question explicitly to be nasty to a presenter. Most of the questions will be because someone’s not quite followed what you’re saying so repeat yourself and see how that goes. If you get a question you really can’t answer, you can’t answer in a reasonable amount of time, or is going to lose the rest of your audience you can always arrange to take it afterwards or give them your contact details and discuss it offline.

So there’s nothing insurmountable there. All group leaders and organisers want to see new speakers, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. We’ll happily let you know of any topic requests we’ve had from our members, or give you feedback on your topic. They’re also happy to go through your presentation with you before the big day to make sure it’s going.

Post up below if there’s anything else you’re worrying about. And if there isn’t, go and start writing that presentation

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