The Minnesota Ruby users group has been a giant influence on my career. I have never spoken at the group. I rarely speak up during Q&A. Funny thing is that hardly matters when it comes to meeting people, being recognized as a serious programmer, and building the connections that make a career.
I did not actually talk to anyone at the first few meetings I attended in 2007. Well, the organizer stopped by to say hello to the new face. That’s it. It turns out being there is well over half the battle.
Being there makes your face recognizable. Being there means eventually you will talk to someone. Being there means you will recognize other new faces and become the person who first welcomed them to the group. Being there shows other frequent attendees that you are serious about programming.
Presenting is a valuable exercise. I definitely encourage you to seek out that opportunity. The starting point is just being there – making it a habit. You will meet people that expand your mind on various topics you thought you knew before. You might meet someone you will work with in the future, whether on a side project or a paying gig.
Have local langauge/software development events? Attend. Please attend. It is an outstanding way to keep your career fields fertile.