So many big names in the SQL Server community got started speaking for local user groups, SQL Saturdays, and the like, and many of them continue doing so. It's a fantastic opportunity to learn and spend time with deeply knowledgeable people, pretty much all of whom are also super-nice!
It's also a great opportunity to get to know the sponsors. Odds are you'll have the opportunity to talk directly with knowledgeable folks from storage vendors, tool vendors, recruiters, and more.
One of the other best things about SQL Saturday is that there's an open call for speakers for each event, and many of them work hard to include new speakers and local folks. If you want to share your knowledge in a larger venue, it's a great opportunity to get started. I've submitted a session myself this year. You don't even have to stick to your local area. While you're on your own for your expenses, it can be extremely rewarding to travel, meet new people, and get yourself out there in front of a larger audience.
If you live along the Front Range in Colorado (or anywhere in CO, really), northern New Mexico, etc., I hope you'll consider attending SQL Saturday #700 in Colorado Springs on 24 March.
There are also ample volunteer opportunities. It can take a surprising amount of work to make the events run smoothly, and there's always something the organizers can use help with. Even though I'm no longer helping to plan and run the event, I've still ticked the volunteer opt-in on the registration form.
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