Will we learn from virtual events, or will it just be forgotten?

Until recently I didn’t consider attending in-person events at all. I saw calls for speakers for live events - but I just moved on. Sound familiar? I have been avoiding the idea of in-person events altogether!

Thanks to the nudge from a few folks, I realised that now is the time to re-boot – and suddenly I realised how much I’ve missed attending this kind of in-person event. Somehow, I’d convinced myself that virtual was all we will ever need. Back in 2020, I was booked to attend Community Summit in Europe just before the world closed down, and like many of you, was left out of pocket when the event was cancelled. This naturally left a bit of a sour taste, and in-person events became tainted by the scramble that followed. Of course, I presented at the virtual UG summit, but it really didn’t feel that different from any of the other user group virtual meetings that I regularly attend. 

Was it the end?

Was this the end of the Dynamics Community UG events as we knew them? Here is a photograph from the archives - a UG meeting back in 2011 held at the Microsoft Reading UK Offices. Can you spot a very fresh-faced me? Can you spot yourself?! Anyone else you know?

 Crowd of people at 2011 CRMUG meeting - Scott is looking freshface and young!

Here is a picture of Simon Whitson with me, trying to re-create the updated UG logo!

 Scott and Simon are chest bumping to look like the Dynamics Community logo that is two arcs with a circle.

Looking back at past community summits has reminded me how important these events are to being part of the community, connecting, learning and sharing together in person - something that I now realise I had forgotten about amongst the focus on running virtual events.

⏩Fast-forward to today, and I’m so excited to be attending the Community Summit NA on October 12-15 that is being held in Houston, Texas. Having been part of community summits in Europe and helping run the UK community days for so many years, these types of events have played a huge part in my professional development.

I moved to Canada last year, and so now it’s my opportunity to attend the North American version of this yearly community event. I think it’s also time to start planning some face-to-face meetings with the Vancouver Power Apps User Group

Mileage may vary 

I realise that there are some people that are still not ready (or even able) to attend in-person meetings, and I really don’t want to offend anyone. I especially feel for those that are entering into yet another lock-down. If this is you, then please accept my sincerest apologies for even talking about in-person events. I think the success and benefits we have enjoyed from virtual events during these difficult months will mean that they will continue to be successful alongside in-person ones.

So what can we learn? 🤔

Community events should have a true sense of ‘belonging’, where we can all come together, connect, and learn from one another. We have learnt so much from these past months on how to be more inclusive and more accessible during events, I’m looking forwards to learning how to apply this experience forwards to make in-person community events even better! Here are a few topics that I’ve started to think about:

  • Medic Stations – how can we make these more approachable and less intimidating? Not everyone wants to engage in this way – how can we offer alternatives so you can get your questions answered without having to compete with others and wait in line?
  • Breakout sessions – are these as accessible as they could? Is the language always inclusive? Q&A time sometimes can be such a rush at the end, especially where there is another session starting afterwards. Is the session description an accurate description of the content so that attendees can easily identify if it’s for them or not?
  • Expo halls – these can be crazy loud, busy and sometimes intimidating. How can it be made easier to navigate the maze to find what you want? Is there a way to find a time that is quieter so that everyone can get the most out of what is on offer?
  • R & R – When we are at home, we usually can find space to relax and recharge. Conversely, in-person can be so exhausting with moving from room to room whilst our brains are being crammed full of new information, not to mention the social anxiety that you might feel. How can breaks be made to count more? Are refreshments provided to suit everyone’s needs?
  • Hybrid Sessions  - Should all sessions be streamed for those who are unable to make the physical event - or is it sufficient to have the sessions recorded and then available on-demand later?

Perhaps you have more ideas – I would love to hear them - do get in touch and let me know!

See you there?

Those nice people at Dynamic Communities have asked me to be a Community Ambassador for SUMMIT NA 2021. This is going to be an exciting in-person event (fingers crossed) where I'll be speaking about custom pages and Power FX command buttons - it would be great to see you there if you are at all able to travel to Houston, Texas. Here are my sessions:

If you are in North America, do you feel comfortable yet with an in-person event? You can also register using the Promo code Durow10 to get a 10% discount if you've not already registered!

The most important part is - they are offering a 100% money-back guarantee should the event be cancelled due to COVID-19 - and naturally there is a significant focus on Health and Safety.

Looking forwards to meeting IRL 😊


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