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HomeHomeOur CommunityOur CommunityUser GroupsUser GroupsEncouraging Community Networking & Socializing at DNN Conventions, User Groups & MeetupsEncouraging Community Networking & Socializing at DNN Conventions, User Groups & Meetups
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8/4/2014 6:32 PM
 

 

Hi! I help run the Queen City DNN User Group, QCDUG which is in Charlotte, North Carolina. A group of us that participates in the QCDUG events has also attended recent events and conventions such as DNN World 2010, DNN World 2012, we helped host the Charlotte Day of DNN in 2012, put on the Southern Fried DNN in Charlotte, 2013, and have attended DNN Con in Florida in 2013.

As a group, we've been to several DNN conventions and we've seen wonderful networking, community and socializing activities occur. For me, one of the main fun activities at these conventions is the ability to connect with others that are doing the same things that we are doing as business owners and developers and the camaraderie that occurs as we share stories and learn from each other.

You can read a bit of my write up about this from a blog post just after DNN World in 2012
http://www.dnndev.com/Learn/Guide/Article/DNN-World-2012-Reflections
but the main part of it about that sense of community was here:

At the convention, it was great to meet the developers of some of our favorite and most important utility modules that, like XModPro, we use on almost every site we build in DNN. It was great to meet with companies that sent down users and DNN administrators for training. It was great to meet with other integrators like ourselves. It was great to meet with DNN corp. It was great to meet with developers making custom modules...

Maybe you see the picture at this point... The fantastic thing about being there with everyone was the community! Having allow those people together was what MADE the event so valuable. The interactions and networking with other users, admin, developers, module makers... they all came together to make the value of the event more than just the sum of the conversations.

I think that every type of person regardless of their specific role with DNN felt the energy and benefit of those community and group times where we all mingled, discussed, shared, networked, and expressed our connection in the DNN community. Community was at the heart of the messaging of the event, and the community spirit was electric at times.

The value that we received from attending and participating was well worth the trip and time invested. Already we've benefited from new connections made and a renewed sense of excitement for our part in the ecosystem of DNN.

 

It's that sense of community, social interaction, and overall benefit of these group events and meetups that I want to help encourage in all DNN User Groups and certainly in the next DNN Conventions!

In the last several events, I've benefited from those social interactions, but then too, I'm an outgoing social person...

In talking about it with other attendees, though, I can see the need to try out a different type of atmosphere to see how that works out, see what you think of the reasoning and description below...

First, some observations:

  • At some recent conventions, we've been spread out across a small campus and the session rooms and eating/vendor hall were really spread out... having the users move from space to space, there was no common hang-out area where people would congregate and socialize. 
  • At DNN World, in the large ballroom area, there was plenty of common space, but there, too, you tended to see and connect with people you already knew... 
  • and I've heard that attendees were timid to connect with DNN Corp people at times, perhaps shy or worried about interrupting if they didn't have introductions into the conversation.
  • Evening events are always great for socializing but in general the music can be too loud for people to have longer conversations (though the venues were great of course!).
  • In a few of the different conventions I've been to recently, because vendors are in one area, and people are in another, there can be very little encouragement for people to come through and spend time with the vendors except in the first morning rush, or at the expense of skipping a session. 

Now some suggestions:

  1. There should really be a planned break in the middle of the day or for 30 minutes between sessions where the attendees can spend time with the vendors to have access to them and for the vendors to have felt the worth of sponsoring and spending time with the community. I think that this should be a bumper before or after lunch/break times. By planning time for socializing you can make sure it happens instead of forcing it to happen by accident.
  2. For me, talking with everyone so you get to know people and spend time with them is the important goal and I'd like to not do that by missing a session if I can... but, what if we did plan that out as a specific session? What if we did a session that could run all day... people could pop in and out as they liked either instead of a different session or between, and the point of this room/section/session was Networking & Socializing.

    Perhaps this is called DNN Socializing 101 or DNN Community, Networking & Trivia!

    During this stretch of time, I could see a setup like the idea of a Speed Dating session where you spend 1 or 2 minutes in a speed round of introductions to everyone in the session with you and then have time for more conversation and networking as it goes on. Perhaps it's combined with some fun group items such as DNN Trivia / Jeopardy as you get to know everyone and socialize.

    If organized and planned out, when held at a convention, members of DNN Corp, DNN personalities, Sponsors/Vendors, and Module Developers would all be mixed in with the rest of the attendees so that there's a set time and structured event that encourages interaction and socializing in a fun, friendly environment.

 

These are a couple of suggestions that I've had as we've helped put on our Charlotte area DNN Conventions and have participated in other conventions and various DNN User Group meetings.

I would LOVE to see your suggestions, thoughts on this topic as it applies to community conventions, user groups and meetups at large.

(Too, I've submitted the idea to the up coming DNN Con as a session... would love to see if you're interested in going to this as a session!)

 

Thanks,
Ryan

 
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8/5/2014 10:11 AM
 
This is a super idea, Ryan.

I can imagine that the typical pre and post event gatherings could scare the heck out of some people. It's kind of like having to crash a party, and feeling like you are the only person there who doesn't know everyone else, and wondering if you really are welcome. Not true, but there are so many people and happy to see their DNN friends again.

At the first DNN world, food was served outside by the pool, so it was easy to sit down at a table, introduce yourself to others, and start a conversation. That's not been true of the late night parties, often in the dark and accompanied by loud music. Not a great inducement to conversation.

I participate as part of the organizing committee of another event that is held annually. We have several sit-down meals during the event. Our organizers have one rule at meals: try to sit at tables where you don't know anyone. I'm not sure how that could fit into the more informal DNNCon structure, but the organizers, sponsors, speakers, etc. could be encouraged to "work the room" and the rest of us should avail ourselves of the opportunity to meet and get to know the "strangers" in the crowd. Soon they won't be strangers.

Having said that, I'm really looking forward to seeing you and others in November!



Joe Craig
Patapsco Research Group, Ellicott City, MD
DotNetNuke Development and Services (http://patapscorg.com)
 
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8/5/2014 3:31 PM
 
I love this conversation since this is one of my passion points... The true power and value of any event like this is the networking that can and does happen.

Despite some of the obvious challenges that have been noted, I'd like to point out that I've built business at these same events even though the music was loud. I've also been able to set up meetings on other days/times to follow up in a more appropriate environment. The latter is my preference since we're relationship building at the event itself, not closing business. Anyhow, this is something I do. I reach out to people.

That being said, I know it's not for everyone. Having put together, mentored, and attended numerous conferences of all shapes and sizes myself, I have seen many things work and not work like you have. I've even tried some of these things at some of the events where I was an organizer or had influence over the organizers. I can tell you this... The same formula never works twice. Every event brings some new faces with it, and they all have their own ways of networking (or not).

I am an anomaly. I know this. I made a very deliberate decision at a point in my career to not be introverted any longer. It worked for me, but it's not for everyone. Not everyone is wired this way.

All of that is a long way to say this... Despite the changes we could make, it would again not suit everyone. At this point, DNN After Dark (as the primary example for us) has a certain expectation. We could change it and disappoint people, or leave it and try to make improvements to the format. I say leave it. We have WAAAAAAY too much good fun to do something different, and we have other networking opportunities at the events themselves - we just are not capitalizing on them as a community.

As another example, I was at DNN Connect. It was smaller, with less than 100 people in attendance. However, some of the best quality and most networking I've ever had was had there. This wasn't because the organizers did anything intentional (to some degree). It had the typical dinners and meals. They were great (but maybe better food and drink). It was mostly because the WiFi went out and we were literally forced to talk to each other. We all (introverts included) were talking to each other. That being said, in the US, I think taking out the WiFi is a reason for people to leave early and/or not attend the event again or tell anyone else to next year.

I think the real problem here is that we as a community and informal community leaders are not doing our jobs. We are not reaching out to the new people are getting to know them as much as we should be. We are equally guilty of sitting in our clicks like the original example (which I tried many times to prevent by the way). We as community leaders and those who are the most passionate about DNN need to reach out to these people and get to know them and what they do. Match them up with others in the community where they might be able to help each other.

This is our new job, in my mind. We need to ask people how they are doing and each of us recruit "newbies" to these events and maybe even chaperone them to the venues. This is our community and I see no other or better way to go. Just my two cents. :)

Will Strohl

Upendo Ventures Upendo Ventures
DNN experts since 2003
Official provider of the Hotcakes Commerce Cloud and SLA support
 
New Post
8/5/2014 4:31 PM
 

Good points Will!

Too, I wouldn't think of anything like this as being a substitute for DNN After Dark, that's an essential party atmosphere for the evenings of any convention!!!

More, I was thinking of the daytime, slightly structured (in one manner or another)  networking session that is the version that fits for the users where evening might not be right, and/or helps those people start conversations in the daytime that then continue in a different setting at night.

And then for another point you made about "sticking to clicks," in one conversation I had about people that attended DNN World was that the DNN Corp people that attended were gone or out during socializing times and that some people like DNN Partner/Vendor people felt they were too busy to approach.

There was a different atmosphere as far as that was concerned, I thought, at the last DNN Con where I saw several structured events (including scavenger hunts to get Joe Brinkman's business card) that were designed to help get attendees talking with different members of Corp, and that was great. I had wondered how that DNN Partner would have felt back in Florida...

So part of the conversation that I'd love to see here is about that group dynamic and ideas on how to get that interaction and conversation going at events, whether Cons or User Group sessions... I guess short of cutting the WiFi  ; )

For my part, flop or great success, I'd love to see a networking/introductions segment in Cons, whether as a session or a section of time during the day schedule

 
New Post
8/5/2014 5:15 PM
 
Ryan:

I completely agree on trying to find more ways to do this and something I failed to mention is that I already forwarded this thread of ideas to the DNNCon Palm Beach 2014 organizers.

There can be all kinds of ways to get this done, but not all of them should be done by the organizers themselves. We still need to do our part to reach out, shake hands, and embrace people into the DNN family.

Also, sometimes the issues of placement and aggregation are things we have to deal with simply due to the venue that was available to use. For example, placement of sponsors. Organizers never plan to have things inconvenient.

The reason I keep coming back to the "our part" approach is because we have a problem in the DNN community of not having enough people be embraced by like-minded community members. It's primarily for this reason that whenever there's a community-specific session or side event during the rest of the event that there are very few people that show. The few people that do are the typical leaders that we already know and love (or love to hate). :)

One of the things I've done in the recent events is hang out in common areas and literally say hi to everyone I can. Everything else is easy after that. Once we do that with enough people, the problem you speak of will more or less begin to fix itself in most scenarios. We'll finally breed more Clint's in the community (but hopefully from a higher latitude away from the equator). Ha!

Will Strohl

Upendo Ventures Upendo Ventures
DNN experts since 2003
Official provider of the Hotcakes Commerce Cloud and SLA support
 
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