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Community Speakers/Leaders - Where's the ROI?

I participated in a lunch meeting recently with a number of people from MS that work on their community efforts, and I thought one of their questions was interesting, if obvious; what do you get out of participating in the community as a speaker or group leader?

I think it falls into three buckets:

  • Indirect marketing, true for consultants and trainers
  • Giving back/mentoring
  • Recognition of skills earned

For me the first two apply. I do a one minute bio that includes what I do for a living and that's the extent of the sales pitch. Over time I hope to earn karma that comes back in the form of students in class. Just as important for me is that I enjoy helping those new to the profession grow, mainly because I see how much faster I could have grown if more help had been available/offered.

Nothing wrong the the last one, everyone reaches the point where they want validation - to prove to themselves, or their boss, that they are somebody. MS has accentuated this one - successfully I think - by making many of the community leaders MVP's. So part of this loops back to indirect marketing, hoping that listing speaker/community leader/MVP will lead to increased business (and I'm sure it does to some degree). The only downside to this one is that some point I think you should move past validation and move into the zone that only time/experience can bring - nothing left to prove.

I'm reasonably stubbon about my approach; I do the things I enjoy/want to do without worrying about the ROI. Not everyone can afford to do that, or would want to adopt such a karmic approach, but it suits me and seems to have worked so far.


I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.


Posted by bkelley on 17 June 2008

For me it's #2. None of us got to where we are by ourselves. We had help along the way. It's true that the more help we have, the more we are capable of growing.

Every time I do a presentation or host a user group meeting I meet new folks who hopefully I've helped in some way or who I can help in the future. My hope is also that in meeting those folks I've established contacts with folks that may be able to help me in the future.

You come to realize that so many people are working on so many different things that when that question you don't know comes your way, perhaps a discussion with one of them will stick with you and you remember that Natali or John or Bill works with this sort of thing all the time. A quick phone call or email later and you've got the information you need to tackle the problem properly.

That's one of the greatest values in contributing to the community. When you do, the community will be there to help you when you need it.

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