Creating a community event.
You’ve got a team, or maybe just a few folks to get started. Now it’s time to pick a topic for your event. You can’t talk about *everything*. Well, you could, but it would be a lot harder to attract attendees, speakers, and sponsors without defining a scope.
For me, a “topic” is both a subject and audience. The combination of these will give shape to your event for attendees, expectations to folks submitting sessions, and a scope for potential sponsors that want to understand what products and services your audience will be interested in.
Picking a topic shouldn’t be too hard for your team. In many cases, it’s the unifying subject that brings you together.
- What subject matter are you passionate about? SharePoint, Dynamics365, Microsoft Teams, Power Platform, ServiceNow, Workday, or something like a specific integration between two products – niche subjects are certainly welcome if there’s an audience. etc.
- What new topics do you want to get the word out about? Cloud-based products change so fast that it’s challenging for folks to keep up. The flip side to that might be maintaining a community for legacy products that still have customers that need attention (on-premises products potentially a few versions back…)
- What specific pain point do you want to address? Is there a particular product + audience combination you want to target? For example: Law Offices using Microsoft Teams or M365
- What underserved audience needs addressing? e.g. UX best practices across the M365 platform… You don’t have to start a community or event that has events on a regular basis. Events could be as needed or develop into regularly scheduled once the community grows to sufficient size.
- Is it some or all of the above?
A topic your team is interested in should be a minimum for you and your team. The event and the effort lose some of its energy if it’s not something your team is excited about or invested in.
How broad or narrow do you want your scope to be? All of M365, or a specific product or group of products? All of the Power Platform, or just certain ones? All of Azure (ouch) or something more manageable?
Do you want to focus on one or more roles related to the topic, or open to any? We started with traditional roles like IT Pros, Devs, and Users… but roles have expanded and evolved. Each product might have its own set of roles as well. Project managers, site administrators, channel administrators, and so many more.
What’s your vision?
Topic and audience is a good place to start defining your vision for the event. Once you have those narrowed down, you can start to get into practical decisions about how the event will run, be scheduled, be hosted and paid for, etc. We’ll cover more about the vision in future posts.
Your topic and scope will also contribute to your event name. If you’ve got something in mind, great! If you don’t, you could default to using a name/brand consistent in the community like the “Community Days” brand. Just make sure it’s a brand and name that’s available for use, that you follow rules that may come with the name, etc. There’s a lot of value in using a known name in that it can come with built-in expectations for attendees, speakers, and sponsors. We can talk about the specific benefits of Community Days in another post.
Gaps and Overlaps
One other thing to keep in mind when considering your topic, is what groups, topics, and events already exist in your market? Do you want to compete with other events and groups? Do you want to offer complementary content or events? Do you want to fill a gap or offer something a little different to differentiate from existing groups? Knowing your market will help you find a place in it to be successful without negatively affecting other groups.
Our event: M365TC
It’s been quite a while since I thought about this topic from scratch.
For many of us in the Microsoft M365 and SharePoint space, we started doing events around the SharePoint product. Our event started in 2008 as a “SharePoint Camp” for IT Pros, Developers, and users. It aligned with the “SharePoint Saturday” brand shortly after and then evolved over the years as SharePoint grew with content expanding to include technologies and products that integrated with SharePoint as well. Now, in its current form we’ve switched from “SharePoint” to “M365” to accommodate how the platform has evolved and products are marketed. The roles have changed a bit as well, adding executives, managers, decision makers, citizen developers and more.
What’s your topic going to be? Reach out to other local event producers and organizers or regional leaders if you want help in figuring out your event topic!