Here is where the two paths meet.
As mentioned in the site description slug (under my picture to the right), in my guidance post, and in my Manifesto (of sorts) (and probably about a dozen other places on this blog), I am both a SharePoint administrator and a board member of a nonprofit that helps people become re-employed after losing their job. Some of my posts on this blog are about SharePoint, and some are about career management.
As part of my role in giving career management advice, I strongly encourage people to be involved with professional organizations, or to start one if there isn’t one in their area. As a SharePoint professional, I am a member of two area SharePoint user groups (one in Austin and one in San Antonio), as well as an attendee (and onetime board member) of other local technology organizations. I’ve helped organize events, I’ve given presentations, and just plain volunteered to help set up, clean up, or do whatever was needed. I also help other local organizations by promoting their meetings and events, even organizations whose technology focus is outside the range of my field. I’ve seen a number of ways that organizations meet the needs of the members of their communities.
What I’d like to do is get your input about what the organizations that you are involved in or know of do to support their professional communities (regardless of whether that community is technical or not). How is the group organized, what kinds of activities does it engage in, and what have you found to be the most effective of its activities?
While the primary reason I want to have this discussion is to learn how to make the groups I am involved in better able to serve the communities I’m involved in, I also would like this discussion to benefit you and the groups you are involved in as well.
Here are a broad outline of the types of (in-person) activities I have seen:
- Group organizer(s) determine the topic(s), find a presenter, sets everything up, the members show up at the appointed time, eat some food and listen to the presentation and then go home. This happens once a month.
- Unconference style – the members show up with their ideas ready to present, the members vote on which topic(s) they would like to hear, and the selected topic(s) are presented.
- Meetup – networking and conversation, over food and/or drinks
- Multi track – the monthly meeting has two (or more) different presentations, but you have to pick one
- Multi subject – the meeting has two (or more) presentations done serially
- Multi-meeting – the group has more than one meeting a month, (perhaps in different parts of town to accommodate members who live and work far from one of the meeting spaces), with different topics at each meeting
- One main meeting and one or more SIGs (special interest groups) that delve more deeply into a specific facet of the profession or technology
- Workshops – an all-day (or half-day) event that delves deeply into a subject, perhaps with hands-on activities.
- Stump the panel – I’ve seen this done as a warm-up to a monthly meeting, where attendees bring up their sticky problems and the group leaders attempt to provided an answer or solution to the problem. I’ve also seen this done as a stand-alone activity, where at least one thought-leader in the group (and perhaps others who wish to provide advice) are available to the rest of the membership on a drop-in basis one or two nights a month to try to resolve their most insolvable problems.
- Follow-up – After a presentation in the ain meeting, a second meeting is held in which the membership discusses what was said in the main presentation.
- * Saturday – SharePoint does this, SQL does this, ProductCamp and TweetCamp do this (unconference-style); it is a free, all-day event with multiple tracks and multiple sessions, where presenters, often leaders in the field, show up to give presentations.
- Vendor of the month – like the first on the list, but with vendors talking about their specific product or service.
If you have seen anything different, I’d love to hear about it. If one or more of these have been done particularly effectively in your community, I’d love for you to tell me about it. Help me to know what I don’t know. And if any of the ideas above strike your interest, let’s talk about that too!
Please comment below!
Jim Adcock is Vice President of Launch Pad Job Club, an organization in Austin, Texas, whose mission is help people who have lost their jobs to get the skills they need to land their next job, and to help them cope with the interim between jobs. Check out other career-related entries.