I’ve been running FoxPASS in Appleton, WI for 8 months. In that time, we’ve had excellent presentations from great speakers, the word has spread to many people, and there’s a lot of buzz in the community.

One of my goals with the chapter is to try out new, exciting ideas. One of my favorite community projects is to grow the pool of speakers. I thought, “How can I combine these two?” I decided to try an Open Mic night – anyone could sign up to talk about any SQL-related topic for 5-10 minutes. I encouraged our members to talk about anything they enjoyed, their favorite tool or T-SQL command, or a real-life scenario they learned from.

I didn’t know how well this would go over. Getting up in front of a room full of people and presenting – especially on a technical topic – can be terrifying, and I didn’t know if people would be up for it. I was delighted when five people signed up!

The FoxPASS crew showing off their Red Gate swag

Last night we kicked off the meeting with a demo from our great sponsor, Red Gate. Then we heard from our members!

Josh gave us an overview of Microsoft Data Quality Services. I didn't know there was an Excel plug-in, so I learned something new there!

Ken talked about error handling in PowerShell. I love PowerShell. I want more presentations on SQL and PowerShell.

Adam and Jeremy talked about how they handled a very large database (over 5 TB today) with partitioning and storage. This real-world example was top-notch.

Jeff gave us a demo of SQL Prompt, which was great. Every time he mentioned a feature, I nodded and thought, "Yep, that's my favorite feature." Then I realized, they can't all be my favorite. But they are.

As a user group leader, this was one of the best things I’ve done yet. It was inspiring to hear from members of the community that hadn’t spoken before. It was fun to hear about multiple topics in one night, too.

I would encourage every user group to try this. Give your users three to four months’ notice. Mention it repeatedly. Send emails asking for volunteers. Let everyone know that any topic is fair game – administration, development, BI, professional development. Let them know it’s a low pressure environment. You can decide if there will be feedback given – or not.

It’s a great way to grow our pool of speakers – and what user group doesn’t want that? It’s also a great way to grow the people – public speaking skills are so important! I’ll be making this an annual FoxPASS event, and I can’t wait for next year’s!