September 26, 2016

How to make most out of Salesforce Meet-ups ?

Salesforce developer or user groups are almost everywhere. If you're even slightly active on social media, I'm sure you must be aware of Salesforce meet-ups happening in your city. Following map from meetup.com shows number of Salesforce developer groups world wide. I'm sure where there is technology, there is a Salesforce meet-up group for sure.
This post is to share my experiences about meet-ups, and how to make most of out of it.

What meet-up is all about ?

I would like to start by sharing my thoughts about meet-up, and what to expect from it:
  • Meet-up is get together of developers mostly in same locality/city, who are looking to network, share and learn from each other.
  • You don't need formal permissions from Salesforce or too much official setup to start a meet-up. Its not a very formal seminar, its an open platform to share in easy going manner. You can start in a chai/coffee shop, or any campus which is not too costly to hire, and stick to the goal of knowledge sharing.
  • Once you are making an effort in your meet-up group. Apart from amazing Salesforce community, you will get very good backup and support from Salesforce developer relations team in India and abroad. Thanks to EricaKavindraRegina,HollyNaga KiranRajdeepShashankChris and many others.

Types of meet-up ?

With Salesforce, you will find a variety of flavours here, like:
  • Developer Groups - This is the most popular one, and is mostly driven by developers. If you're are a developer, you can find any good group near your area here: http://www.meetup.com/pro/salesforcedevs/
  • User Groups: These are centred towards customers. If you recently got some Salesforce licenses, you must seek out for local user groups in your area to make most out of your Salesforce instance.
  • WIT (Women ITech): As name suggests, these groups are formed to women developers and admins. Its a really good platform for women to share knowledge, and opportunities with each other. You possibly might not find many of WIT groups in your city, but never hesitate to start one, and possibly attend a local Developer or User group event a few times, to find out like minded women interested in the same.
  • Salesforce Saturdays: This is quite an easy going, and cool meet-up, but its quite effective too. Idea here is to collect on Saturday in a near by space i.e. coffee/chai shop etc. This mode of networking helps breaking silence among attendees, and gives very good platform to interact in more easily. This is because, its mostly not a single guy responsible to create slides and present to everyone. This format of events was started in Salesforce by Stephanie Herrera, reach out to her for more tips and ideas.

Developer personas at Meet-ups

I mostly meet 5 types of developers/people at meet-ups:
  1. Organisers: Of course they are the one who took the initiative.
  2. Presenters: These guys are life line of meet-ups, they work hard to create good content, and then take challenge to deliver the same in front of audience. At a minimum it takes 4 hours to create a good slide deck. I would like to thank each of the presenters for their effort, contributions, and knowledge they share.
  3. First Timers: These developers are coming first time to meet-up, are mostly exploring what a meet-up is all about.
  4. Experienced Guys: Meet-up is not new to these guys, they know what to expect here, and are very comfortable thru out.
  5. Odd one outs: These are real adventurers who are looking to learn something new. I met guys working in SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft platforms in Salesforce meet-ups, discussions with them are most interesting, as we get to know their side of world as well, and how they compare their platform with Salesforce. These are the religious discussions as well, which could go crazy at times :-)

How to make most out of it ?

  1. Don't be a quiet guy, I never met a guy who is hesitant to know a new person at meet-up. Go ahead shake hands, and introduce yourself. You might be attending a event with a bunch of friends, it will be more beneficial to introduce yourself to someone new, and learn what they are doing with Salesforce. I'm sure some guys will blow away your mind, with their creative projects and ideas.
  2. Become a presenter: The more you share, the more you learn. I find all meet-up groups are always hungry for new content and presenters. I find mostly its same guys who are presenting in meet-ups. For newbies, its good to attend a few meet-ups to get a feel for it. But your confidence, knowledge, and communication/presentation skills will be exponentially improved once you present in a meet-up. Its quite an adventure to do it for first timers, as their is a phobia of stage and crowd Q & A attack. I can very confidently share from my own experience, that every time you prepare a slide, this phobia makes you do a lot of research, which we might ignore while reading just for ourselves. Later on presenting the same makes you a better communicator, which helps in internal company and client presentations as well.
  3. Come up with ideas: Its always fun to play some quizzes and games at meet-ups. Every organiser will welcome, if you can come up with something interesting for a meet-up.

What not to do ?

  1. Don't just start a fake meet-up group, to hangout/party with friends or office colleagues, and post happy pics on social media as a testimony.
  2. Don't just start a new meet-up, for just having one in any random city. Sometimes attending meet-up in adjacent city is a matter of 30-45 mins drive, why not work with the organisers in such existing groups to deliver better value and content.
  3. If you are planning to start a new group, make sure you create good content to motivate attendees. Getting presenters on hangouts/GTM, or from other cities, or Salesforce MVPs is fine sometimes, ideally shouldn't be a regular affair. Meet-up groups should be self sustainable, and motivated/driven by local community members. Creating content is tough than starting a meet-up group, set the example correct to local community, by bring your own ideas, and content to the table.
  4. Be open to add more active members as co-organisers. This helps the group grow and keeps the show running without depending on single guy.
  5. Don't market your company or apps: These are not multi-level marketing events, forcing your company or apps on developers is not ideal. Keep meet-ups driven by developers for developers to get best energies and results.
  6. Don't go for ultra luxury spaces for meet-ups, goal is to network and share not to party. With little hard work, you can get a space from near by office, college or school etc. They would love to make their developers, and students more educated about cloud computing.

My Meet-up Journey

I learned and groomed myself a lot via meet-ups. I'm attending and presenting in Salesforce related meet-ups since 2012. As much as I enjoyed attending every meet-up, more adventurous and fun is to present new ideas and content in meet-ups. I can't recall all Salesforce meet-ups I attended so far, its a backlog of 4 years. Here are some memories from the past:
Lastly I would like to talk about Ajmer DUG, which I started early this year. We have three local organisers now, who belong to Ajmer city only. They recently did a fabulous and 100% local community powered event to celebrate AppExchange 4m installsI am so pleased and proud to share that, I was not travelling to Ajmer for organising that meet-up, and will retire out soon from the same as organiser as well. The new local leadership did a fab job on this Saturday, with amazing new talented pool of developers chiming in to present on variety of topics. I hope more group organisers will be more open like this, and will motivate local talent/leaders to take their groups forward. Here is a pic from 24-Sept Ajmer meet: