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Communities, evaluation and being the first follower

Meetups are brilliant. Come along!

Part of my role this year is to help build a business intelligence community in Wellington. I'm naturally people focused and love organising events so this is perfect for me - communities really are all about the people and what they can achieve together.

Building a BI community benefits OptimalBI by growing our network - if we know more people, more people know about us and we have more opportunities to get work. Building a BI community benefits the community because it creates the opportunity to learn new things, pass on your knowledge to others and to meet new people - share, grow and network.

It's not what you know, but who you know. Well, actually - it's both!

As a side note, my lovely colleague Jack Prichard (check him out on Twitter and LinkedIn) is building an online community, he's written some blogs on that subject.

One of the ways we're building the community is by running a Meetup group who get together every two months and six months in, it's evaluation time!

Marketing & Promotion - We used word of mouth to spread the word to our contacts, enabled the right tags in Meetup.com to help us reach those who had also selected the same tags, promoted on LinkedIn and Twitter, told our partners, vendors and customers and in turn increased our network and got people excited about the meetup group.

Topics & Speakers - It's always difficult to start something new. OptimalBI didn't want to be seen as having this as a 'blow our own trumpet' exercise, but rather as the enabler/organiser. Therefore it is important to use speakers from within the community itself and have topic suggestions from the same. We've had presenters from various backgrounds, topics ranging from data collection in the beekeeping and honey industry, data visualisation tools, to cloud based integration, we've heard from a new player on the market and run a hands on problem solving workshop. Speakers are starting to volunteer rather than me having to pester people or call in favours. We have a big list of topic ideas generated by the question asked when you sign up to the group but need to find willing speakers to talk about those ideas specifically.

Attendance - Our original goal was to have 25 people attend one meetup in the first six months. This was blown out of the water on the first go - when we had 39 people show up, so many that we had to move from our meeting room in to the open plan space in our office and reshuffle desks around (not a bad thing at all!). I was shocked and enthused, we had obviously cracked on to something amazing! Our second meetup had fewer people in attendance with 25 and it was difficult to hide my disappointment even though this was our original goal. The third time wasn't so lucky - despite responding to demand and running a hands on workshop/challenge we had a total of 20, 9 from OptimalBI (thanks team, the highest turnout from us so far), 2 from Common Ledger and 9 keen beaners - some new, some old hands. It would be fair to say that my initial excitement has waned and I am concerned that if we don't get attendance back up, running this group won't be seen as a valuable part of my job and momentum will stop.

Gut feel - The group has 92 members. There is a demand for an event like this. People do achieve the goals of the group when they attend - they share, grow and network. So many events like this get to the stage we're at and give up, but the successful ones dig on in, keep trying new things, are constantly evaluating and responding to feedback, display agility and persistence. It would be a huge shame to give up now, sure it's been six months but it's only been 3 meetups and we have a fourth scheduled in August.

Overall, it's up to the community itself. You need to be an active member, not just sitting on the edges enjoying everyone else's hard work. If you don't speak up how will we know what your needs are? If you're not the first follower, how will we know that you're on to a good thing? The Wellington's all about BI meetup is a good thing; get up and dance!!

~ Bronnie