Starting or taking over a SpiceCorps from retiring Admins is nothing to fear. Once you finish the next few paragraphs you will be amazed at the simplicity. If you have any fears remaining after the SpiceCorps Admin section, feel free to read the bottom little blurbs about the local SpiceCorps that I work with and you will soon realize that if I can do this, most likely anyone can.
There are only two real tasks with being an admin of a SpiceCorps group, finding a venue and finding a sponsor, and they can easily be split between two different people…
- Host – someone needs to “host” the meeting. This often requires a discussion with a boss to get approval to have non-employees enter a company building after hours. I find it easier to get this approval when you mention that this is a huge learning experience for the in-house IT staff as well as an advertising venue. No matter who they are, other geeks work for their customers and potential customers. As an added bonus, there is often leftover pizza and pop in the kitchen the next day.
- Admin – this role takes on the task of setting up the meeting online and finding sponsors. In remote areas you sometimes have to be creative but I will tell you after 50 meetings I am still learning.
One of the more recent lessons I learned is that it is totally worth it to spend 30 minutes with your other admins and hosts and build an annual calendar. Have everyone bring in their schedules. Mine includes a week off in May for a festival I have volunteered at for 13 years, my church volunteer schedule, a week off for a Scout Jamboree on the island in July, a Family Training camp I go to annually in August, SpiceWorld Austin in September, and several smaller events I already have scheduled. Pick a date for every month or two or every quarter and set a date, go into the community and enter all the dates a year in advance. As surprised as I was, everyone seemed to love seeing a meeting date 6 months in advance even if the location and sponsor weren’t firm yet (or even thought of). If you are worried about finding sponsors, don’t be. If you aren’t creative, get into the community and talk to other SpiceCorps admins. Check out their meetings and who they get to sponsor meetings. Here are some tips from my experiences…
- Ask Jessica and the SpiceCorps team if they have any recommendations. They have lists of larger vendors who have proven their worth and every group should have vendors like HP, Eaton, Unitrends, Plantronics, Webroot, etc. come in or log in to do a presentation. ~scribbling down to contact Nic from Webroot to sponsor a meeting
- Watch for the new kids on the block with the latest and greatest tech in their fields… there are few vendors that I remember more fondly, or who have expanded my mind more, than Curvature, Ubiquiti and Scale Computing. They were all great sponsors with game-changing tech.
- Keep your eye out for the up and comers who might become the next big thing, or vendors who are in an industry that might be of interest to your members. Our next Edmonton SpiceCorps meeting is probably being sponsored by The Email Laundry (a little plug here should push this over the top 🙂 ). Cloud email management is definitely a growing market and being headquartered in the UK means little in today’s global community of anti-spam filtering. Their company website looks pretty interesting!
- Look for local or regional vendors. Their presentations are more often in-person which is nice (companies like Scale and often HP are big fans of in-person meetings as well). We hosted one of our meetings at our Data Center and it was huge hit and we have had another local Data Center sponsor and attend some meetings and his knowledge is never unappreciated. I am currently in talks with a local MSP who I work with daily and our MPLS provider. Why wouldn’t other members be interested in people that other members have worked with in the past. These conversations usually lead to many more potential leads for sponsors. While these vendors don’t often have vendor pages or a presence in the community, showing off the community’s SpiceCorps power might be one way to get them involved in the future.
- Creativity might be the answer! I am currently in talks with Fluke Networks and while they have no office or sales teams within 1000 km of where I live, they do have partners up here. I am trying to get them to co-sponsor the meeting with a local wiring vendor who uses their product and can come do live demos and let us touch and feel the hardware. Fluke is in the community but are not so fond of sending reps to remote Canada to present to a group of 15 Spice Heads (this is a common concern for us).
With these tips you should have no problem finding a Sponsor for your meetings. Find an admin who can be a meeting host, or a pub with a separate meeting room. So long as the room has some AV hookups for a laptop you can run a webinar. A whiteboard is a nice bonus. Jump in and start your own adventure!
The SpiceCorps of Edmonton, AB
I was attending local user group meetings for Microsoft and VMware as well as one for IT Pros with no vendor affiliation. The problem I had with these groups is that they either focused too much on one vendor solution or not enough on any vendor solutions. The Spiceworks online community discussed everything and anything that an IT Pro could have a problem with. I had just started a new job and it was consuming my life so I had no available time (back in 2011) but I really wanted to start a local SpiceCorps user group to fill that educational gap in my professional development. I somehow talked a couple guys (both said that they were too busy) into starting an Edmonton SpiceCorps group. The group started up and hosted their first meeting to five SpiceHeads (what we affectionately call ourselves) on April 28, 2011. This group has changed admins several times and the job is currently shared between a few guys who have kept the group rocking over the last 25 meetings!
The SpiceCorps of Calgary, AB
At the second or third Edmonton meeting I heard that a guy from Calgary was trying to get up to attend. I reached out to him and told him that a 6 hour return trip was crazy for a two hour meeting and since I was going to be down in Calgary in the next month for the new job I would help him start a SpiceCorps group down there. Well I started the Calgary SpiceCorps group and we had our first meeting on September 30, 2011 where 8 of us got together to talk shop. We have had 18 meetings since then and that group shows no signs of slowing down. For the record, that guy who never made it to the Edmonton meeting has never made it to a Calgary meeting either. It took me a year to find a local admin and Matt was a blessing in that he didn’t mind tracking down vendors and also hosted meetings. This would be very important with what winters can do to my 6 hour return trip on Highway 2. A year later Matt moved to Edmonton (and the Battle of Alberta lives on eh?). We went a very long nine months during a very crazy Alberta Winter without a meeting until Julie stepped up to offer a meeting location and to help co-admin the group. She ran things like a trooper until the end of 2014 when she moved to Edmonton (do you see a theme here?). Calgary joined the SpiceCorps Plus program where Spiceworks books venues and sponsors and we have since found two new admins to help out with the group and we are on fire having 8 meetings already booked for 2015.
The SpiceCorps of Regina, SK (formerly Saskatchewan)
The Saskatchewan SpiceCorps user group had their first meeting on August 11, 2010 and held 12 meetings in 14 months until their group admin took some time off… this group was doing something crazy but it seemed to be working. They were splitting their meetings between Regina and Saskatoon (3 hour drive each way) on alternating months. Apparently someone was pleased with the growth and success in Alberta and asked if I could help revive the group in Saskatchewan. We tried a meeting in Saskatoon in July and again in November 2014 but had very low interest. We had a meeting in Regina on November 10, 2014 with 6 attendees and then again on January 27, 2015 with 8 attendees. I found two eager SpiceHeads who are taking on the admin role in Regina and sharing the hosting responsibility. With a nine hour drive each way I am unsure how many of their meetings I will be able to attend but I will be helping with the scheduling and booking of sponsors.
The SpiceCorps of Saskatoon, SK (formerly part of Saskatchewan)
We are currently turning the Saskatchewan SpiceCorps user group into the Regina Group and starting a Saskatoon Group as well. I have talked to at least one interested spicehead in Saskatoon who is interested in taking on hosting and admin for the new group which is exciting as it is still a five hour drive each way for me to attend meetings in Saskatoon. For the record, Edmonton and Calgary got shirts done by Viral Designs in Spruce Grove, AB. Calgary’s logo was designed by myself with the graphics work completed by Ivory, the daughter of one of our members.