Have you ever presented a session at a technology conference? I bit my nails for months before the first large conference I spoke at several years ago. Although fear of the unknown twisted my stomach in knots as I prepared my presentation, after the fact, I was glad I took the challenge.

Speaking at technical conferences offers an IT professional many opportunities. Whether you hang your hat in the consulting world or at a "real job," the occasional technology presentation gives your resume and career a boost. You get to share your knowledge and experience with peers and give back to the industry. And there's nothing like the fear of having to admit in front of a crowd that you "don’t know the answer" to drive you to learn a topic inside and out. So why don't more people participate as conference speakers?

Fear is the first thing holding most people back. Speaking in front of a large audience can be daunting your first time out. Fortunately, you can test the waters by speaking at local user groups or the Microsoft district offices’ quarterly technical workshops. Giving a 30-minute presentation at your local user group provides an excellent trial run and helps you prepare for that 90-minute talk at a national conference. Starting down this path is easy; 99 percent of SQL Server user groups around the world will jump for joy when you say, "I've got a great idea for a cool presentation. Can I speak to your group?"

Second, I suspect many of you think you're simply not knowledgeable or experienced enough to be a conference speaker. I'll let you in on a dirty little secret that SQL Server "experts" like me try to hide. Many speakers and writers aren't any smarter or more experienced than you are. All it takes is a good idea, the willingness to learn the material, and time to prepare the presentation. If you've worked in the SQL Server arena for a while, you probably have a great presentation—about your favorite technology, about a little-known technique, about how your company solved a pesky IT problem—just waiting to get out.

You can almost always find an active call for conference presentations. You can currently submit abstracts at http://www.sqlpass.org/events/call.cfm for the upcoming PASS 2000 North America conference (for more information, see the Announcement "Showcase Your SQL Server Experiences at PASS 2000 North America," below). SQL Connections also has an open call for presentations at http://www.sqlconnections.com (or email sqlinfo@SQLconnections.com). And you can find out about SQL2TheMax speaking opportunities by contacting the conference organizers at conferences@fawcette.com. I hope to see you speaking at a SQL Server user group or conference soon!