(yah, a movie title rip off…)
Your local IT user groups… one of the few really useful free things in life. Attend, network, learn and share!
Benefits of user groups:
- Networking! Bring your business cards, questions and ideas to the meeting!
- Networking! Looking for a job? Looking for an new employee?
- Free consulting! Really! Many of the user group attendees work for consulting firms. Ask away!
- Free food! Most user groups supply pizza or sandwiches at the meeting.
- Discounts! User groups have access to book, training and other discounts. If you don't see them listed on the user group's web sites, then ask.
- Learn! Every session will present something new. New products, new ideas, new twists on old ideas or just a new way to think about or use the technology.
- Stay up to date… about bugs, fixes, tricks, events, and stuff you would have never even thought about.
- Get a raise! (Maybe… just present the next great idea at work that your stole from the user group meeting.)
- Free stuff! Most user groups get lots of books, gadgets and toys from the sponsors that they pass out at the meetings.
Reasons not to attend:
- There's something better on TV tonight, I don't have a DVR, and it will really improve my life!
- Don't like the topics. Well… recommend some new topics. We will find the speakers! (Or volunteer to speak!)
- Don't like free food, books, toys and other goodies…
- Don't need to network! I already know everything and could not be any better at my job! (Well then you should come to the meetings and share!)
- Boss won't let me go. Get a better boss! (Unless we are speaking about your better half…) Or just tell your boss that they usually charge $500 for this kind of event, but you know someone and can get the training, network and consulting for free.
What you can do…
- Attend and share! I guarantee that you know something about the technology that no one else at the meeting does.
- Volunteer. There's always something that needs to be done.
- Get your company to sponsor a meeting! It will be some of the least expensive promotion they do all year.
- Speak! We always need speakers. Not comfortable speaking? Ask about 5-15 minute lightning rounds. Little or no prep needed. Just share something cool that you have done, or something interesting you have just figured out. (Adding "speaker" to your resume is pretty cool too!)
- Promote the meetings! Coworkers, Twitter, Blogs, students… get the word out!
- Thank the sponsors! (and consider buying their products)
- Thank the volunteers! (and consider buying them a cold beverage!)
- Thank the speakers! (and consider buying their services, their books… or a cold beverage!)