Yesterday was my second double header this week at the Ottawa Microsoft Office. The first was a lunch time presentation on Visual Studio and then an evening meeting of the SharePoint user group. The second was the launch of Windows Server and an evening meeting of the Ottawa Windows Server User group.
So why do I go to these events? My IT experiences go back to the mainframe days, but I am always interested in how things have improved. In the old days, you had to arrange for sole use of the mainframe at 3am on a Sunday morning after the IBM techs had their session doing hardware repairs. If things went well, then your changes would be migrated to the production environment, but usually they did not. So you drove in to the site and waited around to get the go ahead and watch the window of oppurtunity to do your testing erode. It took time to bring the machine down, swap drives and bring it back up. This had to be repeated when the system was turned back to production. That could eat up 90mins to 2hrs and you still had not done any testing. Now, you can get an alert on your Windows Phone, type in some PowerShell commands and get things done without getting out of bed. There is no longer a reliance on getting access to specific hardware, we have virtual machines and you can have as many as you want. So I go to these events to learn.
I also go these events to help out. These events are given by people who are passionate about presenting, but they have limited resources. They rely on the local user groups to provide an audience and support. So the local user groups rely on their members to register AND show up. The viability of a user group is dependant on the quality of the presenters they can draw and a reasonable audience to make the presenters want to come. Ottawa does not have the large population that Toronto or Montreal has, so they have to try harder to get the word out to promote the events. There also needs to be a higher percentage of registrants showing up. Knowing how many will actually attend is critical when it comes to deciding if food is to be provided.
I prefer to be a participant rather than an observer. I could sit back and just listen, but these events take effort to run. So how can you help? As I mentioned, showing up and giving the presenters some positive reinforcement is a start.
Being a presenter is a highly visible way to help the local user group. All the great presenters had to start somewhere and that usually was at a local user group. So you are not a polished speaker? Try and arrange to have your local user group hold a night on presentations. These are short presentations that are positively critiqued by your peers. Most of the audience would be in the same boat or are more experienced presenters who are there to help you succeed.
So you are bit shy about standing up in front of an audience, there are many other ways to help out and gain some confidence. Setting up the event and cleaning up afterwards are two tasks that are always needed. In the Microsoft Office in Ottawa, the washrooms are outside a locked area, so someone is needed to open the door when people return. It does not sound like a glamourous job, but it does lead to one of the key reasons for showing up at a user group meeting. It is an opportunity to interact with your peers. These events attract people with similar interests. This literally would be a door opener to new contacts.
So, why bother? I have learned a lot, made a lot of new friends and I just enjoy helping out.
I am no GENIUS, I am an MVP!
John Marshall… Visio MVP Visio.MVPs.org