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Stumped about what to write about?  Not sure what to talk about to your local user group?

I bet you’re focusing on the presentations you would ATTEND, instead of the presentations you would GIVE.

When I start to think about presentations and blogs, I tend to think about things that I would personally find interesting.  For example, I’d love to listen to Grant Fritchey talk about how execution plans work, or read a blog entry by Itzik Ben-Gan about how to solve a challenge with T-SQL.  The problem is that I’m massively underqualified to write anything like that myself.  That’s precisely why I find those things interesting – because I’d learn things in a presentation like that.

As a presenter, your job isn’t to learn things.

Your job is to pass on things you’ve already learned.

Right now, someone is sitting in front of a computer somewhere trying to do the exact same thing you just pulled off.  Whether it’s setting up your first backup scripts, figuring out how to debug a stored procedure, or installing a SQL Server cluster, someone else is stumped by the same things that stumped you.  Looking back now, you might feel ashamed that you got stopped at a couple of steps, or that you had to look for help, but you’re not alone.  This stuff isn’t easy, and other people will get stopped at the same places you got stopped.

Think back about things you did in the last month or two – things that might have taken you a while at first, but that now feel second nature to you.  Make a list of what you learned along the way.  If you had to consult several different materials to finish the job or to get a complete picture of the problem, that’s an opportunity: build a single checklist or howto that tells someone everything they need to know.

This approach led to two of my most popular blog articles – my SQL Server Setup Checklist, and my SQL Server Perfmon tutorial.  I’ve done both of these tasks so many times that I can almost do ‘em with my eyes closed, but that doesn’t mean no one else will find them interesting.  I constantly get emails and thank-yous from DBAs who used these to get a big head start on their day-to-day duties.  The same approach will work for you, too: just think about what you’re already doing routinely, and write/present about it.

Reminder: PASS Call to Speakers closes soon!

If you’re not sure about whether or not to submit a session, go do it.  Other people are itching to learn the things you’ve learned the hard way.  In today’s tough economy, it’s easier to convince your boss to send you to PASS if your admission fees are already covered – so why not try to get in for free?

Log in (and create an account if necessary) and then check out the list of submitted abstracts.  If someone else isn’t covering a topic that’s near and dear to your heart, give it a shot!

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  1. Thanks, Brent! You’ve inspired me… I’m going to go submit my abstract now. :)

  2. Another great article Brent. Incidentally, I found you through the Perfmon article.

  3. Pingback: Inside the Microsoft Certified Master Program | Brent Ozar - Too Much Information

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