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Users Group Participation

I have been pondering over my local PASS chapter and participation.  And more specifically about why I should participate, and to what level should I participate.

Is attendance enough, or should participation include something more?  What are some of the pros and cons of participating in the User Group?

One of the first obvious reasons to participate is purely from the social aspect.  By participating at the base level of bump-on-a-log attendance, one opens doors to new acquaintances.  Sitting in the meeting, saying nothing, and not meeting anybody doesn’t quite qualify for networking – but at least the door is open to making new acquaintances.  Once comfortable with the settings, go ahead and get out of your shell and proceed to the meet-n-greet level of attendance.  Introduce yourself, strike up a conversation and you are now well on your way to networking.

Now with some of the basics down for the social aspect of participating in User Group meetings, we have a framework for networking – which goes beyond social aspects and introduces us to potential professional aspects.  By networking, you can keep social circles close, and expand your social circles.  These circles can lead you or somebody you know to a new employer or career.

Now that we have crossed boundaries somewhat with personal and professional, let’s backtrack to the base level of attendance again.  More benefits of attending at the base level, which also apply to the other levels, include free swag, education, and a forum for questions or concerns to be voiced.  No matter the reason for attendance these benefits may still apply.

So, I attend the meetings.  I socialize when I am there.  I even participate at the level of answering and asking questions.  What else could I do?  The next step up in participation could be one of several paths, but they all come down to giving of yourself.  Some of the paths include presenting, group governance, marketing, or WebSite maintenance (and any others that may be necessary).  I personally do not have any experience apart from the presentation path at this next tier of participation.

Why should one present at a Group meeting?  When committing to give a presentation, one is committing to present something educational.  This requires preparation, testing, research and practice.  When giving a presentation, one is also learning, honing public speaking skills, and sharing of himself.  One gives up plenty of personal time to do so, but that is paying it forward.  I suggest, as a part of the presentation, that the slides and scripts be made available to the group.  By making the materials available for group consumption, the group can continue to learn and practice with the presentation.  The group can provide further feedback and thus enhance the learning opportunity for you as the presenter.  It is also worthy to note the gratitude that will be offered by completing the presentation.

One last consideration for group participation is to self-evaluate and determine what you expect to gain from participation.  Everything noted thus far tie to a common point of interest for me.  Networking, presenting, volunteering and just socializing can all be related to building a brand for one’s self.  The little that one gives up to participate will be returned to them at some later time.

So, what exactly is the best level of participation?  The best level of participation is doing what I can to help make the group function more smoothly.  The best level of participation is that level which suits my needs for building my own personal brand.  Your brand speaks volumes about who you are.  I do recommend though, that the service (participation) be given with an attitude of humility.  Otherwise, it may well be for naught.

In conclusion, participation in User Groups can bring some rewards (pros) with minimal cons.  By participating, one will be able to ask and answer questions, socialize, network, receive swag, make friends, find potential employment or career enhancement, and learn something.  This can be achieved at the cost (con) of a time commitment.

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