Starting (or Revamping) Your User Group
Attendance was poor that Tuesday afternoon. Meeting amid the clatter of lunch dishes in the plant's cafeteria, half a dozen TEAMCENTER users discussed problems while trying to ignore the easy-listening music hits of the '80s that droned through an overhead speaker. Bored, three of the six decided they wouldn't attend again.
If this scenario sounds familiar, then you probably understand that there are two important steps in the birth of a user group: Create the group and make the group successful.
A valuable source available to user groups is TEAMCENTER Community, which supports user meetings by sending T-shirts and other give-aways. TEAMCENTER Community will also post your upcoming meeting announcement in their calendars.
Tips from Successful Groups
Connect Press (CP) surveyed several groups about their secrets of success. Below is a sampling of their tips.
Tips from the Group
CP: What tips would you offer a group in that fragile embryonic state?
• First would be the careful selection of a mix of dedicated people as a core. We're from diverse professional areas, but we work well together and we remain focused on a task until we complete it.
• Remaining focused would be a key. To be successful you need to set a schedule and stick to it.
• A staff will work together when they don't have to make allowances for someone's attitude or agenda. Selection of the group's staff, as well as its leader, is very important.
• And once this staff is in place, we found the next most important item was communication. Everyone has a job, and to get it done efficiently takes a huge amount of e-mail.
CP: How many hours a month are required to achieve this level of success?
• Actually more than it appears on the surface. In the months without a meeting each of us may only spend 15 to 20 hours, but in the weeks before a meeting this may increase to 40 or 50 hours a month.
• There is a lot to do. Contacting speakers, making arrangements at venues, keeping the web site current. There is always something that needs to be done. It's making sure everyone has his or her task covered that makes it all work.
CP: Can you point to one specific item to which you credit your group's success?
• The collection of surveys after a meeting has taught us a lot. We always ask users not only how they liked the event, but also what they thought we could improve upon. The most important question is what they would like us to cover at the next meeting.
• You know, this is a little thing, but I really attribute a lot of our success to this all being fun.
• A user group is enjoyable at many levels. Hosting a successful event is rewarding. Watching new users grasp a difficult concept is fulfilling. But more than that, we always try to do things that are upbeat, like holding an event in the middle of a car museum and giving away a day at a drag racing school as a door prize-maintaining a professionalism, but reserving the right to laugh at our mistakes.
CP: Since the user groups are an independent organization, can you define the relationship with TEAMCENTER?
• Making the commitment to develop the working relationship with your local PTC reps and personnel is the foundation of a group. Their insight, technical support and presentation efforts are absolutely required.
• This relationship may be slightly complicated when, for instance, the Account Executive would like to do a presentation on a new module and our user base would like a demonstration of a feature they are having problems with.
CP: Any warnings you would offer a new group?
• We have found it extremely important to be fiscally responsible and maintain accurate records. For example, pre-registrations, the list of users in attendance, even door prizes that the vendors donate.
CP: When you consider the hours spent developing a group, what is the most important return on that investment?
• A user group is a great place to put your finger on the pulse of the marketplace, and make contacts.
• The communication of new ideas.
• Professional contacts and the introduction of the company I work for.
• Networking and creating a huge collection of free T-shirts.
• Seeing people grow professionally and providing the forum to share and resolve problems.
• The introduction to effective processes that may not have been considered at my office.
TEAMCENTER Community thanks Robert Dix for his contributions to this article.
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