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If you’re holding a special event, such as a SQL Saturday or a user group, one of the challenges is to get speakers for the event. Now, the best speakers come from the community – people who use the product day-in, day-out. They have a wealth of expertise, and many of them are really great presenters.
But from time to time you might want to get a Microsoft person to speak at your group or event. Microsoft is a big company, and you can get everything from Marketing (yes, there’s a place for that) to deep technical topics in that skillset. But how can your group get Microsoft to speak for you?
It might be easier than you think.
Microsoft has three or four main areas that you might be able to pull from, starting with the folks that are closest to you: Sales.
Don’t make that face, there is sales and then there is sales. Within the sales team are four kinds of folks – your account manager, who owns the relationship between Microsoft and your company, the Sales professional, who owns the revenue and licensing for your account, the Account Technology Specialist (ATS) who knows about multiple Microsoft products, and the Technology Specialist (TSP or TS) that has a deep knowledge in a single technology, like SQL Server. These last two folks are the people who could deliver technical talks, especially around the newest products. And many of them are willing to do it. They are tied to a geographical area, so if your group has people in it that work at a company that is headquartered in that geography, the TSP and ATS might be willing to come out and chat with your group. And you might even want a Salesperson to come. Ever have a licensing briefing? Ever have questions? Ask them!
How to find them: Call your local Microsoft Office (the building, not the software). Find yours here: http://www.microsoft.com/worldwide/
The product group. If you live in the Redmond area, you should be coming to the PASS chapter monthly user group meetings here. It’s held at the Microsoft campus, it’s free, and it has a Microsoft product group member speaking just about every month. When I ran a user group for five years, it was impossible for me to get this kind of attention from the product group. It’s amazing.
Wait – you don’t live next to Microsoft? Not to worry. If you have a projector and a good set of speakers, the product teams can set up a LiveMeeting and present. I’ve done this several times myself.
How to find them: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. Lurk on forums and see what the signature blocks say. Let’s see….oh, how about blogs like this one. You can find lots of blogs from Microsoft folks here: http://www.microsoft.com/sqlserver/2008/en/us/community.aspx
There are other groups at Microsoft that are willing to speak, and all you have to do is ask around. From “evangelists” to marketing, from training to even the documentation group, folks are out there that have really deep knowledge in just about every area of the product.
How to find them: TechEd, PASS and other conventions. Give them your card, get their e-mail addresses.
Here’s something to keep in mind: Microsoft works us pretty hard. In fact, sleep is really a luxury most of us aren’t granted; I think you get to do that when you’re a president or something. Maybe. So the folks you contact will be busy – really busy – just like you. I have traveled out of my district to present from time to time, but I have to take vacation time to do it, and Microsoft doesn’t pay my flight, hotel, food, anything like that. Any time we give you is “out of our own pocket”, so travel and late nights should be taken into account. So don’t abuse them, don’t always expect the invitation to be accepted. Most of us don’t get paid by Microsoft to do the extra presentations any more than you do, so keep that in mind and be polite and understanding. But do ask – most of us are really enthusiastic about this technology, and we love to help others learn, and to learn from the folks we meet.