OK. Two quick points to make regarding “context”:
- The posts I’m writing about community events are my opinions. Just one opinion of many that are out there. Heck, it’s just one opinion on my team – ask Sarah or Tamara what they think. These are not “Do it this way or you’re wrong” posts. I’m attempting to give my perspective for folks to hopefully glean something useful from when considering, or running, your own events. You should also seek other opinions. 🙂
- Understand your own context… your community. When considering hosting an event, do your best to understand the context you’re working in. That context is going to include things like the communities you’re a part of, the technology you’re working with, the organizations that are a part of the area you’re in, and the organizational cultures you’re working with as well.
I’m a consultant that’s worked with consulting firms of all sizes and as an independent. Before that I worked for a large retail organization where I had my first exposure to SharePoint. I’ve been working with SharePoint, Lists, M365, Teams, the Power Platform, and a lot of the rest of the Microsoft tools since then – almost 20 yrs. I’ve been a Microsoft MVP since 2009. I’ve been speaking at and organizing user groups and community events throughout that time.
I’m not trying to toot my own horn. I merely want to establish that I’ve got some background in this stuff.
I’m in the Twin Cities – Minneapolis, St. Paul – Minnesota. Our metro area is home to a large and healthy Fortune 500 community of organizations in addition to the largest private company in the US. There’s also a significant representation of government organizations from the state, county, and city levels. All of these public, private, and governmental organizations use the Microsoft suite.
The Twin Cities is also home to a number of user-driven groups around technology. User groups, meetups, consulting company-driven groups, Microsoft-driven events, and community events like our M365TC group. Lots to choose from and enough where we’ve got a track record that attendees can count on and are comfortable attending.
Our Event – M365 Twin Cities
Our event has been an all-day Saturday event – in the style of SharePoint Saturday – now Community Days – events. We generally run two events per year – in the Spring and Fall. Part of our context in Minnesota is weather – so as mentioned in the Pick a Date post – we don’t (usually) mess with Winter scheduling or compete with Summer scheduling. Winter does still like to mess with us – even with Spring and Fall events… Our event usually draws 300-400 attendees – which is larger than most SPS-like events.
We’ve been able to keep it free to attendees so far with company sponsorships covering event costs.
You can see more details about the most recent event in our recap post.
All in all, it’s a relatively fantastic environment – and context – to run successful events in. We’ve got an eager and interested audience, a fair number of folks willing and interested in speaking, and a combination of local and national companies willing to invest in events as sponsors.
Why am I posting about community events?
- I love helping folks skill up on technologies, solutions, productivity, and more. Community events are a great (and usually free!) way for folks to learn and grow.
- I’ve been part of a group running events for many years and want to help others do the same.
- I’ve recently been named a Regional Leader for the Microsoft Global Community Initiative (MGCI) and part of our job is to help others run events and develop communities.
What does your context look like?
Your Event – Your Context
You don’t have to be a long-time participant in a technical community. In fact, we readily welcome and encourage new folks to get involved. It does, however, help if you have spent some time in the community – meeting people, discovering groups, and getting a feel for what works and what doesn’t in your area. That’s where I recommend starting.
Do you have an audience? Can you find it? Can you build it?
Is there an existing group or event you can spin off from? Maybe a slightly different topic or audience where a new event may expand or complement the existing group or event? Most recently we’ve seen Power Platform groups spinning up in areas with thriving M365 groups as one example.
Do you have folks willing to invest time and energy in running an event? Can you find them?
Do you have local companies willing to invest $ in supporting events?
Is there an event you’ve attended that you might model your event/group on? Speak with the event organizer and see if they’d be willing to answer questions, etc. to get you started.
You don’t have to start big. Find a group of peers and start a user group that meets on a monthly basis. There are lots of variations and paths to building communities, groups, and events.
Find them. Join them. Create them. Build them.
I’ve listed ours and others below. These are just a sampling.