CollabTalk Podcast at #MSIgnite: Community Building
In this third CollabTalk Podcast recorded earlier this month in Orlando at the Microsoft Ignite Podcast Center, I was was able to grab some time with Eric Harlan (@ericharlan), Microsoft PFE, Susan Lennon (@susanlennon), former Principal Consultant (retired) at Microsoft, and MVP Andy Huneycutt (@andyhuneycutt), a Senior IT Trainer with ASPE at Fortis College. Many of you are familiar with Eric and Susan as two of the founders of the global SharePoint Saturday organization (SPSevents.org) and huge supporters of community-driven events and user groups. Susan continues to run the site of the 1st SPS event in Virginia Beach, VA every January, Eric helped launch and run events in Virginia and Baltimore and elsewhere, and both Susan and Eric continue to provide support virtually and physically for events around the world.
Like me, Andy is an SPS organizer and user group board member, and he helps run the rebooted Charlotte, NC event happening next month (Dec 14th — with Microsoft’s Jeff Teper attending and keynoting!). My background in the SPS space is helping to launch and run SPS events in Salt Lake City (our next event is Feb 7th and 8th), Bend (Oregon), Sacramento, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, East Bay (San Ramon, CA), and Redmond (MS campus), and providing support/org committee for about a dozen other events, mostly in the Western US.
The podcast recording followed an #MSIgnite unconference session led by MVP Adam Ball (@adamcball) on the topic of community-building. That activity was broken up into different tables at which we discussed a list of topics and shared back our shared responses with the entire group. Our table included the 4 of us, as well as some Ignite attendees who were new to the community-building space. We had some great takeaways, and wanted to extend the conversation on the podcast, sharing insights for internal efforts to create a net-new user group, or seasoned community people looking for ways to increase the value provided to their communities.
My primary takeaway from this discussion: the needs of the community are constantly changing and evolving, especially for community groups built around technology. Organizers need to be flexible, to constantly listen to the needs of their constituents, and try new things, such as new content (for us, expanding beyond SharePoint), new models (lightning talks, more panels, short and long sessions, etc), and multimedia (virtual sessions, workshops, hands-on labs, etc). Oh yeah, and I share a story on the first time I met MVP Richard Harbridge (@rharbridge) which is a great example of listening to feedback (not fearing feedback) and making changes.
Great discussion, which you can listen to here: