Scott's Weblog The weblog of an IT pro specializing in networking, virtualization, and cloud computing

Putting the User Back in VMware User Group

As most of you probably know, I visit quite a few VMUG User Conferences around the United States and around the world. I’d probably do even more if my calendar allowed, because it’s truly an honor for me to have the opportunity to help educate the VMware user community. I know I’m not alone in that regard; there are numerous VMware “rock stars” (not that I consider myself a “rock star”) out there who also work tirelessly to support the VMware community. One need not look very far to see some examples of these types of individuals: Mike Laverick, William Lam, Duncan Epping, Josh Atwell, Nick Weaver, Alan Renouf, Chris Colotti, Cody Bunch, or Cormac Hogan are all great examples. (And I’m sure there are many, many more I’ve forgotten!)

However, one thing that has consistently been a topic of discussion among those of us who frequent VMUGs has been this question: “How do we get users more engaged in VMUG?” VMUG is, after all, the VMware User Group. And while all of us are more than happy to help support VMUG (at least, I know I am), we’d also like to see more user engagement—more customers speaking about their use cases, their challenges, the things they’ve learned, and the things they want to learn. We want to see users get connected with other users, to share information and build a community-based body of knowledge. So how can we do that?

As I see it, there is a variety of reasons why users don’t volunteer to speak:

  • They might be afraid of public speaking, or aren’t sure how good they’ll be.

  • They feel like the information they could share won’t be helpful or useful to others.

  • They aren’t sure how to structure their presentation to make it informative yet engaging.

We (meaning a group of us that support a lot of these events) have tossed around a few ideas, but nothing has ever really materialized. Today I hope to change all that. Today, I’m announcing that I will personally help mentor 5 different VMware users who are willing to step up and volunteer to speak for the first time at a local VMUG meeting in the near future.

So what does this mean?

  • I will help you select a topic on which to speak (in coordination with your local VMUG leader).

  • I will provide guidance and feedback on gathering your content.

  • I will review and provide feedback and suggestions for improving your presentation.

  • If desired, I will provide tips and tricks for public speaking.

And I’m calling on others within the VMUG community who are frequent speakers to do the same. I think that Mike Laverick might have already done something like this; perhaps the others have as well. If so, that’s awesome. If not, I challenge you, as someone viewed in a technical leadership role within the VMware and VMUG communities, to use that leadership role in a way that I hope will reinvigorate and renew user involvement and participation in the VMware/VMUG community.

If you’re one of the 5 people who’s willing to take me up on this offer, the first step is contact me and your local VMUG leader and express your interest. Don’t have my e-mail address? Here’s your first challenge: it’s somewhere on this site.

If you’re already a frequent speaker at VMUGs and you, too, want to help mentor other speakers, you can either post a comment here to that effect (and provide people with a way of getting in touch with you), or—if you have your own blog—I encourage you to make the same offer via your own site. Where possible, I’ll try to update this (or you can use trackbacks) so that readers have a good idea of who out there is willing to provide assistance to help them become the next VMUG “rock star” presenter.

Good luck, and I look forward to hearing from you!

UPDATE: A few folks have noted that all the names I listed above are VMware employees, so I’ve added a couple others who are not. Don’t read too much into that; it was all VMware employees because I work at VMware, too, and they’re the ones I communicate with frequently. There are lots of passionate and dedicated VMUG supporters out there—you know who you are!

Also, be sure to check the comments; a number of folks are volunteering to also mentor new speakers.

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