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Resolve To Talk To Your Group!

So I’ve been doing the whole reflecting on the last year and goal setting and planning for the next year thing.

As part of the process I look at the schedules for the various groups that I am a part of and those that I run. In particular I want to talk about the Columbia Area Linux Users Group(CALUG) and Open Source Maryland group (OSMD) that I help to run.

One of the things that I do in both groups is to line up speakers each month. This is generally done by emailing various people that I am aware of in the area that I imagine would be interested in giving talks to the groups. Also I read my email or talk to a person when someone approaches me and says ‘I want to talk about [TOPIC] for the group sometime’.

OSMD is a group that came out of of the Ubuntu Maryland team. The group is geared towards the end users of Free and Open Source software. Our typical meeting topics cover an application or a concept around FOSS. While many of our members use Ubuntu Linux and our presentations are given on a Linux distribution(even when the application being discussed is multiplatform), we welcome interest and demos of FOSS on all platforms including Windows, Mac, and Linux.

The CALUG group is a more technically oriented group with a focus on the Linux kernel and applications that run on the various distributions. There is also a strong interest in IT security as a whole. While the choices of FOSS tools are preferred as a whole by the group, presentations are not limited to FOSS products.

What I would like you to do is resolve to give a talk to your local User Group. I can talk from experience here from various points of view.

As the speaker organizer for two groups, I can say I am looking for presenters of two different types. One type of presenter I want is  someone who is known in the field of interest for the topic being discussed. This has a dual benefit for our group in that we get a noted speaker and we bring in new people to the meetings for that topic from the speakers followers. For instance in early 2011 I thought a talk on Ham Radio for Linux would be of interest to the CALUG group. So I looked around and found that David A. Lane (KG4GIY) was relatively local to our group. I dropped him an email requesting him to give us a talk and I received a prompt response that he was willing and able to do so! I scheduled him in and my April meeting was covered. We had several new people attend who discovered us via his announcements of the talk.

Another type of presenter I am looking for are the amateurs that come to me. These are the people who have knowledge they want to share. They are the ones who want to start on the lecture circuit but need some groups to put on their list of experiences. My group gets the benefit of a talk on an interesting topic and the speaker gets the experience talking to a group. We all win!

The last (but by no means least) type of speaker I like to get are from our own groups. These are the attendees who have knowledge on a topic that will be of interest to the group and wants to share the knowledge. Being a member of the group its nice to discover what what your peers know and what knowledge they can add to your own. Topics for the talks can be based on what you know or a gateway to discussion on something that you would like to learn more about. Present on something that you are learning about and want to implement, but need more info that the group can provide to fill in the blanks of what you’re missing.

From the perspective of a person thinking about giving a talk to the group, remember that if you’ve never given a talk to a public group or are nervous about it, your local user group is a great way to break the ice. The groups are friendly and easy going. No one jumps up and points a finger to laugh at you for trying when you’re a new or nervous speaker. The group helps you along and gives advice for the next time you talk if you want that type of feedback. We’re not your co-workers or boss so we can’t make a note of it in that way. (And these groups are good practice if you have to present at work)  I’ve compared giving a talk at a LUG to speakers who talk at their Toastmasters group, but without the evaluation at the end (unless you want one).

Now, go find your local user group and offer to give a talk, the group will enjoy learning what you have to share and the coordinator will appreciate not having to find a topic for that month!