TechEd BOAF session report: User Groups... What For?

Posted by MBrant on June 12 2008, 9:12 PM. Posted in TechEd 2008.

“User Groups... What For?” moderated by Bob Coppedge, user group guru.This was a so called “Birds of a feather” session. Basically it’s more of a little talk group/mini-forum to discuss the topic at hand. The moderate, in this case Bob, will kick off the session, talk a bit on the main topic and kick off the main conversation.This session was about user groups, what they are, why they exist, if they are dying etc. As you may understand reporting on this session isn’t easy as there are no powerpoints and everyone talks really rapid. I will recap some basic conclusions.The purpose of user groups is mostly to help and support each other, exchange experience on topics and network. They were founded decades ago when people didn’t have stuff like IM, groupchat online or online forums. People had no other choice but to meet up online.When the internet kicked off in the 90s, user groups starting to die. More and more failed and just went online. Most user groups that see today are “mixed” as they use both online and offline meeting to exchange. The future of user groups is still unsure.The session also talked on how companies help user groups. Don’t go up to companies and ask for free stuff but you have to emphasize how the meetings of the group will help the sponsor grow and earn publicity. Bob also talked about how certain companies, including Microsoft, provide free services to registered user groups.  The bottom line is that if you start one, be sure to have enough free time as it will eat nearly every last minute of your free time. If you are a president of a user group, or becoming one, be sure to have a support staff behind you. This way you can offload work which you are unable or unwilling to handle. Furthermore don’t stay president for longer than 3 to 5 years time or you’ll be stuck with it for the rest of your life. (Well or something that seems like a lifetime.