No events near you? Try a virtual group — or start your own!

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in on a webinar by Matt Cushing called Networking 102: Getting Ready for a SQL Event. (It was originally named “Networking 101,” but I guess he didn’t want it to conflict with mine! 🙂 ) This is actually the same session that I attended at Washington, DC SQL Saturday, and Matt does a great job! He even acknowledged me during his presentation today — thanks for the shout-out, Matt! If you ever have a chance to attend his session at a SQL Saturday, I highly recommend it!

Matt also mentioned, at the end of his virtual presentation, that it was a different experience. I concur — when I did my own a couple of weeks ago, I had to make some adjustments. I won’t get into that now — that’s another article for another time.

Watching his online presentation — and thinking back to my own from a couple of weeks ago — reminded me about the difficulty of attending events. I always encourage people to attend events such as SQL Saturday and a local user group. However, not everyone is able to do so. Maybe there isn’t a user group or event near you, or maybe an event you want to attend conflicts with something else on your calendar. Having grown up in the rural Catskills, I can understand how difficult it can be to attend some events, and I’ve had to pass on attending several events because of schedule conflicts.

Fortunately, for people in those situations, there are options.

First, since I started writing this article about a webinar, look into joining a virtual user group. PASS has a number of virtual groups available to join. I am a member of the Professional Development Virtual Group; as someone who does professional development presentations, I look into attending online presentations by this group; I’ve even done one myself, and I hope that I’m able to do more. Other virtual groups are available; do a Google search and see what groups might interest you.

Of course, there are some disadvantages to virtual groups. Because you’re generally only interacting with the presenter, networking and face-to-face interaction is impossible, so it’s difficult to connect with other people.

If you are in an area that doesn’t have a local user group that interests you, why not start one? The Albany SQL group started out with me meeting Dan Bowlin aboard a train while heading to a SQL Saturday in 2010. Since then, our group has grown in number (I’m not sure exactly how many, but last I checked, we’ve been sending emails to around 300-something people) with meetings each month, we have members who are actively involved with PASS and SQL Saturday, and we even host our own SQL Saturday each year. If you find that people in your geographic area share a common interest, consider starting a user group.

If your involvement with user or special interest groups is limited, either by time or geography, consider either joining a virtual group or starting your own user group. Those constraints shouldn’t leave you out of the loop.

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