Kevin will be presenting at the next Group Leader and Liaison Meeting - September 5, 2013.  Read below for great guidance on running a user group!

What is your title and role within your company?

Perficient, Inc., Solutions Director - IBM Asset Management

My primary responsibilities include program development, resource management and allocation, sales enablement, and expanding the IBM/Perficient brand.

What do you find most valuable about the TUC as a Member?

Insight and Networking. 

Insight because TUC usually knows news first and quickly shares that information within the community.  Information comes so fast these days it is difficult to absorb any of it without losing some quality.  Having a single source for most news in our IBM space provides the instantaneous ability to make tactical decisions or dig deeper into something you didn't already know!

Networking because our industries, our clients, and our businesses are linked together through our user groups.  It is difficult to meet new people and learn without a vast community that speaks the same language.

What advice would you share to someone looking to join a user group?

Join!  So many times, user groups come with a negative connotation that its just another vendor party or another sales initiative by IBM.  Ok, sometimes that's true!  I have been attending MUG's for about 12 years now, both as a client and vendor, so I fully understand the perception. 

For example, I once knew a global Maximo manager for a Fortune 100 company that went to every MUG and PULSE he could.  While at the events, he would talk on his phone, talk to people in the lobbies, and generally NOT participate.  He would tell me that those events are big sales events and he never gets anything out of them...but, he went every time!  He would tell people at his company the same thing and recommended they didn't attend for that same reason.  So they didn't.  After he retired and after some encouragement, his former colleagues began to attend and PARTICIPATE.  They were shocked at the amount of information they gained and attend in droves to this day!

It's not just about you, it's about the community that can answer your questions, can ask you questions, and can share experiences.  If you have questions...ask.  If you have knowledge...tell.

What advice would you share to other leaders looking to better manage their existing group?

Stay away from self or company promotion!  Too many companies try to dominate the market by owning/swarming MUG's and trying to be everything to everyone.  As a service provider, I have to justify my time, resources, and money invested in these MUG's, just as clients have to justify the worth of attending.  If you are struggling with attendance, you need to take a hard look at your agenda and vendor presence.  Vendors generally attend for one reason, to get more business.  Clients generally attend for one reason, to learn.  If your vendors are not getting more business (or sustaining) and your clients aren't really learning anything, the MUG dies fast!  The MUG should have one intent, "to provide value...period". 

Attendance Control.  A MUG must be controlled by the leadership.  It is not a free for all.  The MUG leadership must define a right of entry for the event to avoid an imbalanced vendor/client ratio.  And yes, there can be too many IBMer's present as well.  The leadership needs to put a cap on vendor attendance.  There should be no cap on client/user attendance, hence the term "user group".  Ratio is very, very important.  A 50/50 ratio is just ok, but a 70/30 client/vendor ratio is ideal.  Some MUG's have become very good at this and require a vendor to sponsor before attending, limit attendees of sponsors, and even require a vendor client is attending the event.  Every situation is different, but without attendance controls in place, the MUG will struggle, learning will suffer, and clients will stop attending.  On a final note, just like any other control mechanism, these tools can be abused.  If your MUG has the one intention of providing value to the clients, and clients are engaged, the likelihood of abuse is next to zero...