Brian Moran from NovaSQL sent me an e-mail asking if I could publish a call for speakers. I think this is a great idea, but I'll generalize it a little. You should go and speak to your local user group. Not the other guy reading this post, but you.

How can I be so sure? After all, I barely know you.

Here are some of the reasons you should go and do a presentation to a local user group:

  1. It's fun. You will have a good time.
  2. You will learn something. I don't know what you'll learn. But I know you'll learn something.
  3. It makes you a better communicator. Every time you do something, you get better at it. (I hope that's true. If exercising continues to be as unpleasant as it was today, my new year's resolution will be hard to keep).
  4. You'll meet some cool people.
  5. It's something you can brag about for years to come.
  6. There's really nothing good on TV that night.
  7. FREE PIZZA!

But you say, you don't have anything to talk about.

If you work with technology, you solve problems all day. How do you get spam about your offshore lemming fetish web site to as many mailboxes as possible? How do you secure your trade secret gumbo recipe extranet? How do you connect that dingo to a web service? Take any problem you've solved in the last month. Talk about the problem. Talk about how you solved it. Talk about what's good about the solution. (It works even when a seagull has been sucked into the engine.) Talk about what's bad about the solution. (It only runs on machine with at least 15 TB of RAM.) Ask the rest of the user group if they've solved similar problems, and what worked for them.

But you say, all you do is create problems, you have never actually solved one.

In that case, steal a solution. Most of Microsoft's products come with a folder called "Sample Code," or something like it. Pick a sample. Compile it. Run it. Watch it create world peace. (The solution to world peace is on MSDN, and if they ever fix that **?!* search engine, we'll be able to find it.) Understand the code. Show the code. Talk about the code for a while. Run it under the debugger and watch it execute. If it's not a long enough presentation, add another sample and repeat as necessary.

But you say, you're not a public speaker.

What the heck does that mean? Assuming that you can actually speak to one person, speaking to 20 is just the same only a little louder. User groups are the world's most forgiving places for learning to speak. They know how much you're getting paid (see reason seven above), and they have a lot of patience. As long as they see some code and at least one demo doesn't crash, they are happy. If they see two demos that don't crash, they're ecstatic. Just be sure to do at least one demo, as no one wants to see 100% PowerPoint.

But you say, others know more about technology than you do.

Yes, they do. It doesn't matter. In any room full of technologists, every person in there knows at least one fact about technology that you don't know. That's true even for rock stars like Don Box and Scott Guthrie. I'll bet YOU know at least one obscure and useless fact about technology that Don Box doesn't. Does that mean he doesn't have anything to say? Of course not. Put yourself in the audience's shoes. They don't care whether you know more about technology, in general, than they do. They only care whether you know more about the particular thing you're talking about than they do. Unless they've seen the exact same thing you're talking about, you are the expert. If there's someone who has seen the exact thing you're talking about, ask their opinion. Audiences love getting two opinions for the price of one. And people who know the technology love getting a chance to show off.

When I was consulting, we used to say that it doesn't matter if you're reading the manual at the same time as the client, as long as you can stay at least two pages ahead.

But you say, what about difficult questions? You might not know the answer.

A valid answer to any possible question is "I don't know."

A more complete answer to any question is "I don't know, and if all you're paying me for this presentation is a slice of pizza without even pepperoni, you should be glad that I'm here at all."

If you want to be especially helpful to your questioner, you can use "I don't know, and that question is a waste of my time, but if anyone else here knows the answer, feel free to mention it now."

But you say, I don't know my local user group leaders.

They are easy to find. Go to INETA and look for a local .NET user group. Go to PASS and look for a local SQL Server user group. E-mail your local developer community champion. If you live in the US, feel free to e-mail me and I wil introduce you to your local community developer evangelist, who probably knows all the local user group leaders. If you live in MD, DC, VA, or WV, e-mail me, and I will hook you up. Just show up to any user group, and at the end of the meeting, introduce yourself to the person running the meeting and ask if they are looking for speakers. The answer is always yes, because every user group on the planet is looking for speakers.

Just go do it. You'll be glad you did.