Several times this week I've been asked about how to become an MVP. A few people have posted on this, but here's my take. 

I think basically what it comes down to is that if you aspire to become something you're not already, you usually need to make changes in your life. Sometimes significant changes. But it's quite easy to prioritize the wrong thing by accident. Becoming an MVP doesn't mean compulsively answering every question on the SQL Server forums, or blogging huge amounts of stuff that others have already covered – but it doesn mean you have to get out there and interact with the community – it's all about the community. Here's what I recommend:

  • Starting answering forum questions, but make *really* sure the answer is correct. Make sure you help out on the MSDN forums too, as these are one of the first places the MVP team looks, and aim to become a moderator if you can. This can really become an obsession – you have to ensure you're adding value rather than just answering for the sake of getting your score/reputation/ranking higher.
  • Start a blog with regular interesting and informative posts about SQL Server (or whatever you're trying to become an MVP in). But again, don't be obsessive. It's easy to fall into the trap of posting stuff to try to get more people to read or become higher up a list. Check out this blog post I wrote: Are we too obsessed with rankings? And try to make your blog interesting with some entertaining stuff thrown in, for example Just how long should you make character fields? What's the longest word?
  • Get on Twitter and join in the community. Get on Facebook or LinkedIn – somewhere that people can see something behind the professional persona. IMHO community isn't just about always providing answers – it's about knowing some of the people there too. Another blog post with more info: How Twitter and social networking changed my life…
  • Start presenting. In the beginning this always sucks – it's hard to present when you've never done it before and most people find it terrifying. However, I'd say it's the #1 way to get involved in the community and get noticed. Don't aim for major conferences right away – it won't happen. Start with local user groups, SQL Saturdays, maybe do a podcast. In February I made my traditional Valentine's Day blog post to Kimberly a long description of how to speak in public, as a tribute to her helping me – see Public Speaking: A Primer.
  • Find a mentor who's already an MVP to help you out. This is pretty crucial – you need someone who will tell you if you need to change the way you're doing something, maybe obsessing, maybe goals are a little off. I had Kimberly as my mentor, and she didn't hold back on the advice and constructive criticism.
  • Be nice. No-one likes a smart-ass know-it-all who puts people down. This is a balancing act – don't be too humble either.
  • Make friends with other MVPs. It's a community, right? Get out there and talk to them.

Lastly, take a step back and consider why you aspire to become an MVP. Do you just want the badge so you can show off? Is it something you want to tick off a list of achievements? Do you want to increase your professional standing? Do you think it will make you more attractive as an employee or consultant? Do you want to become a leader in the community?

Not all of these are valid reasons IMHO – I'll let you think which are and which aren't.

PS Great point from @sqlagentman – an MVP isn't something you're awarded, it's something you're formally recognized as already being.