This blog post is part of T-SQL Tuesday, a monthly SQL blog party with a rotating host and common topic. This month marks #41, hosted by Bob Pusateri (@SQLBob), and the theme is how I came to love presenting.
Presenting Changed My Life
My story starts in early 2006; I had moved to Orlando to work for a small E-commerce company as a Sr. Production DBA, but I was the DBA's equivalent of the ghost who codes. While I had a nice resume there really wasn't much associated with my name and SQL server that I could show off to people. When I had a problem I searched for the answer on Google. I didn't follow anyone's blog or know any of the big names in the SQL Server world. I had no idea was PASS was all about or that the concept of a user group even existed. As I write this I laugh because I'm reminded that I even searched for logins to SQLServerCentral on BugMeNot because I wanted to remain anonymous.
A coworker of mine at the time told me that a friend of his was looking for people to present to a local group of database people. It sounded like an interesting way to meet other people around town who worked with SQL Server so I accepted and agreed to talk about the new XML features in SQL 2005. A month later I made the one hour trek across town to present to 15 people and as much as I'd like to remember that it was an overwhelming success it was anything but. I rambled. I had 3 slides and spent the rest of the time showing code in SSMS. I went at least 20 minutes over time. I know I lost a few people along the way and probably gave a few wrong answers to questions. By all accounts it was a terrible presentation.
But I survived.
The next day I received an email from the user group leader - one Andy Warren (@sqlandy) - with constructive suggestions on how to improve and an invitation to give the presentation again at this newfangled concept he called SQLSaturday. I accepted, took the suggestions to heart, and felt like a million bucks after I gave a much improved presentation to a full room at SQLSaturday #1. It was a great feeling, so I did it again...and again...and started to find new things to present about. I began attending OPASS and reading blogs (and started this blog, too). I kept at it, and in 2009 I was selected to present a session at the PASS Summit, an honor I had every year until 2012 when I attended the Summit in a different capacity - as a PASS Board member and Director of the SQLSaturday portfolio.
It's been quite a journey, to say the least! Along the way I've learned a metric ton (that's the technical term) about SQL Server and I've met incredible people, many of whom I have become good friends with. What a difference between the 2006 me and who I've become now - in large part because of presenting.
You Never Know Who You Will Influence
It wasn't obvious to me at first but I've come to the realize that one of the most rewarding things about presenting is that you have the opportunity to open doors for people, if ever so slightly. I doubt Kevin Kline had any idea who I was when I sat in a session he gave in Tampa many years ago, or who that guy named Jonathan Kehayias (@SQLPoolBoy) a few seats over from me was. I certainly had no idea who Jonathan was when I gave my XML presentation at SQLSaturday, and it's fun to think now that I was the one who first introduced him to XML-DML in SQL Server.
My point is that you never know if the next great blogger, user group leader, or eventual PASS President is someone you encouraged to give their presentation or someone who attended your session and walked away motivated to do more because of it. It doesn't matter if you're just getting started or you're a veteran speaker - by presenting you're helping yourself and others at the same time. I'll call that a win any day!
If you've ever considered giving a presentation but something's holding you back, consider this a challenge to get over it and submit. There are plenty of PASS chapters who will be happy to put you on their schedule and there's no shortage of SQLSaturdays these days either. Both are great places to start and there are plenty of people in the SQL community who can help you prepare in advance.
I promise, it won't be too painful - but be careful, because you might just walk away wanting to do it again!