So You Want To Start A #SalesforceSaturday Group?

If you’re reading this, it means you either can’t get enough of your local Salesforce ohana, or you’re too far from user group meetings and want to bring the ohana to you and your local community, but don’t know where to start.

You have come to the right place! Be prepared to read….I get wordy (seriously).

I have been the leader of South Jersey Salesforce Saturday since January of 2017 and it has been much more successful than I anticipated. I’ve truly enjoyed bringing together our local ohana to make meaningful connections and make a difference in our local Salesforce community.

Over the last few months, i’ve been getting a lot of questions around how to get started, maintaining the group, and how to measure its success. Let me start by saying I owe my success to the others that came before us for doing exactly what I hope to do for you in the rest of this post.

avatar the last airbender saturday GIF-downsized

First, Know The Origin Of Salesforce Saturday
Steph Herrera

You should first know and respect the origin of  Salesforce Saturday, which was (to my knowledge) started by the amazing Stephanie Herrera. She is an amazing human being who I finally had the privilege of meeting at Dreamforce 2017(pictured left)! If you get a chance, say hello to her on twitter ,check out her Trailblazer video, and while you’re at it, read about her involvement with PepUpTech and make a donation! Thanks to Stephanie for all your guidance and leadership!

Should I Start An Official User Group Instead? 

Great question anonymous visitor! If you have the personal bandwidth to start your own official user group, I think you absolutely do it. An official user group is listed on the Salesforce user group site, has a direct line (batphone!) to the community group, and can get some great publicity to attract local ohana much easier.

However, notice how I emphasized personal bandwidth. Creating and running an official user group is no simple task…well, neither is Salesforce Saturday, but I think there’s a lot more pressure running an official user group. Typically you need larger spaces that can hold more private events, and with that typically comes a cost. Also keep in mind some(if not most) official UG’s meet during the week, provide food, etc. So the logistics alone can be daunting. But don’t let my opinion scare you, if you’re up for the challenge, the rewards are well worth the effort (more on rewards later).

For the record, i’m not saying running a Salesforce Saturday is LESS work, it just tends to be less pressure, but we’ll get into that.

If you’re considering an official user group, Salesforce has rules and limitations for how many user groups can exist within a certain amount of square miles. Understandably so, because they don’t want UG’s poaching one another and Salesforce does provide some great resources to the UG’s, so they need to smartly utilize them.

Though, if anyone from the community team is reading this, please revisit the “distance” rule for metropolitan areas. While one of the more active UG’s to me is only less than 20 miles away, the traffic to get there in rush hour on a Wednesday is 2+ hours. Its insane. 

How Should I Structure The Group?

This is entirely up to you, but if your group is going to remain successful, this will evolve over time. I think this part of building your group is where you can be a little selfish.

Why are you creating this group?  Community? To learn? To study for certs? Trailhead badges (moar badges!!!)? If you weren’t creating this Salesforce Saturday and saw it listed online, what would draw you to it? Keep that in mind when forming your group. A good chef makes food that they would enjoy themselves, and the care and passion for their craft comes through in great quality. Think of your Salesforce Saturday the same way. What would you want to experience when going to your group?

My Salesforce saturday group structure is now 50% education, 50% community networking. It started with 100% networking, but after gauging interest from the group, we changed it up.

Let’s start with education. We try to expose our members to many facets of the platform and ecosystem with a variety of volunteer presenters from different facets of Salesforce. We don’t pigeonhole into pure admin or dev. We try and stay high level enough so that everyone who works on the Salesforce platform has an understanding of what we are covering, but may need a little more hands on experience to master it. Bread crumbs…if you will. Not only do we cover the technology, but the overall ecosystem as well with sessions on non profits, Salesforce.org, the partner program, etc.

When I went to my first user group meeting, it was dev focused and I was taking notes that to this day I have NO idea what I was writing. I think at one point I wrote a big “WTF ARE THEY TALKING ABOUT?” in my notes, which I believe I still have somewhere. I knew that if I ever ran a UG one day, i’d cater more to a wider audience

Next, community and networking. I’ve been to many user group meetings that are primarily education with a little bit of networking. I’m a very social person, so as I said above, build the group around what you enjoy first, so naturally I build community and networking into the fold. Also, having a strong network is very important in your career and personal life. You never know when someone will need a helping hand, and someone knowing they can reach out to you for help is a great feeling.

When And How Long Should My Meetings Be?

This depends on your audience, and  again, your bandwidth. Many Salesforce Saturday groups meet weekly. When building my group, I decided there was no way I could do that. I, like many others have a family and children, so a weekly meeting for a few hours after a long work week takes away from my limited family time. Therefore, I created my group with the expectation of meeting once a month, and it’s worked beautifully. I think for those that have significant obligations, once a month for a few hours tends to be much less of a sacrifice or strain on relationships.

On deciding the cadence of your meetings, consider that running a weekly meeting can take a lot of effort for yourself, especially if you decide to go with a more content rich structure. If you are just having a very casual get together to do Trailhead modules, there’s a lot less work that goes into that, so sure, do weekly. There’s a trade off for each type though. Doing weekly very casual meetings can be simpler, but finding space for the weekly can become cumbersome week after week. Doing monthly meetings that may be content rich may be more work to get a presenter or content, but less work to find a place each and every month, you have time.

To determine length, i’d suggest keeping the timing close to 2-3 hours tops. Some folks meet for shorter timelines, some for much longer. This will be something, like everything else, you’ll evolve over time. My Salesforce Saturday group just switched from 3 hours to 2 hours. I noticed after close to a year that I started losing people after 2 hours, and I always stayed late to clean up after, causing me to get home later then i’d like. Moving it to 2 hours kept the content concise, the networking meaningful, and we all left and got home at reasonable times.

There isnt really a perfect answer for this, but just ask yourself what you would prefer. What cadence and length would you like? As the user group leader, what does your time permit weekly for  planning and attending? Will you be able to do it consistently?

Something else to consider is if you will be running your meetings year round. Certain months for some are harder (vacation months, holidays, etc). You should consider taking “off” those months, or going meeting-lite. My group shuts down in July & August since a good amount of our members go on vacation during those months.

What Should We Talk About?

Everything! Start with being selfish. What do YOU want to see and hear? I’d guarantee, you’re not the only one that wants to consume that type of content.

We try and keep things relatively high level from the content side to help members get an understanding of what we’re talking about. We’ve covered flow, triggers, consulting, non profits, apps, the employment landscape, salesforce.org, and so much more.

One thing I do at every meeting that I can thank the Philly user group for, is to know whats going on with your members. What announcements do they have? New certs? New job? New baby? Let everyone know. I don’t want to be a user group that just spits content AT you, we want to learn with you, and make the Ohana stronger!

We start every meeting with introductions, if there are new members, and member announcements. I think that practice was a cornerstone in building such a strong tight knit group that we have today.

How Should I Handle Communication & Attendees? 

I did some research on this when I started my group. I needed it to be free, scalable and a solid platform. Meetup.com was a great platform but charged for their service, and as a Saturday group, I have 0 budget to work with.

Here were my thoughts on my selection process of the platform I used:

Chatter : my first platform of choice, but in consideration of any newbies I may come across that do not have a Trailblazer community profile yet, I trashed that idea. It really wasn’t a great solution for marketing the group to the masses, only to people “in the know”.

Meetup: I looked at Meetup next. Great platform, but isn’t free. That was a dealbreaker. As much as I love my Ohana, my family could use that monthly fee a little more.

Social Media: I didn’t look at Facebook even with their events/group features because I have very strong opinions about the platform and am no longer a user. I had issues with LinkedIn groups, and support wasnt very supportive so I decided to leave that one in the dust as well.

Email: I decided to go old fashioned and create a contact list for Salesforce Saturday contacts. Yes, very manual, and yes, i’m a #notSoAwesomeAdmin with this initiative, but it was very simple, manageable and gets the job done (for  now). However, I still needed a way to manage invitations for meetings, so I chose:

Image result for eventbrite logo

Eventbrite is a REALLY nice platform. Not only is there an integration with Salesforce (which I haven’t messed with very much honestly, but it works well), but it’s free. You can have events for free, for free tickets. If you want to charge for tickets (not that you would for Salesforce Saturday), they can handle that too but take a fee out of your sales (which I think is fair).

It’s VERY simple to create events, manage attendee lists, and communicate with registrations. When I create events now I just clone the previous month, change the dates, times and some wording, and publish. I send an email out to my mailing list with the Eventbrite link. I’m sure theres an easier more automated way to do it, but it works great the way i’m running it.

Event Marketing Tip Using Eventbrite

When you are just getting your Salesforce Saturday group started, i’d highly suggest marking your Eventbrite events as “public”. That way, everyone on Eventbrite in your local community that either has a login and/or subscribes to their email list (based on their preferences) will get visibility to your event.

For my first year, I kept ALL my events public and gained a few members that way. Some stayed, some haven’t returned and just communicate with me once in a while, but it helps. When your group grows and you need to reign in membership a bit due to space limitations, bandwidth, etc, then turn your meetings privately listed.

In your event you can select certain tags to market the event. I used everything under the sun I could think of related to Salesforce to get the word out!

Communication
Communication is KEY with a Salesforce Saturday group. People are so busy with their daily lives, and regular user group meetings that you need to stay top of mind.

At first, I sent communications almost weekly with updates as to what was going on in the Salesforce ecosystem, local Salesforce events, news on our members, etc. Eventually that cadence was lengthened a bit and now I only send out about once or twice a month. I also got a lot busier, but we’ll cover when you should “Get Help”.

Where Should We Meet?

Here’s an easy answer: wherever is free!. Seriously. I refused to meet in a coffee shop/restaurant because I have terrible guilt when I sit at a table too long in a restaurant and the server can’t get another table for more tips. Yeah, I know, we may all buy more stuff, but still, I can’t shake the guilt, so I didn’t go that direction. It’s not that I think its wrong, I just get anxiety over it.

It was recommended to me to try a library. So I booked a room in a local library, and it worked for our first meeting and taught me what we needed for the future in order to scale. We were in a VERY small room, little ventilation, cramped, and over capacity. I thought security was going to toss us!

There are positives and negatives to libraries, at least the ones we tried out. Our space was free, but usually either too small or way too big , most rooms that were in the middle were booked WAY in advance, or they charged for it. Noise was also an issue, we make a lot of noise, and noise and a library usually don’t go well together. The library just became more unnecessary stress.

Eventually we migrated to using borrowed office space, first from a members company, and now my employer’s space. It fits everything we need, is free, and no stress.

Am I saying DON’T meet in a coffee shop? Nope. Heck, you could meet in your back yard and fire up the grill (or ice fishing shack if that’s your thing, you Minnesotans) and have people over. Just make sure to find a place that can scale as your group grows, can handle noise, and handle your technology requirements.

Some recommendations are libraries, local community colleges, coffee shops/restaurants,  local businesses, parks (some have wifi!).

I would also recommend that no matter how you structure your meeting or how often you meet, USE ATTENDEE REGISTRATION (discussed earlier). This will help you measure attendance, and if you see it start to trend up, you know you need to start looking for a new venue if it can’t handle the volume.

In the beginning, it was suggested to me to expect a 50% show rate. I used that and it almost bit me (like I mentioned, over capacity for our first event). Lately, my show rates hang between 65-70%, so i’d suggest going with 60-65% for now until you get a good metric. Nothing is worse than thinking youll only get 10 people and capacity is 10-12, and you really get 15-20 because some folks brought people that were unregistered!

Success Criteria

After a few meetings (3?), i’d suggest getting a pulse on your members. Do an anonymous survey on 5-10 questions that will help you gauge the success of the Salesforce Saturday group. This will help you refine the structure to keep the group relevant, engaging, and a valuable experience to all within your local Ohana.

Some questions I asked were:

  • Is the length of the meeting too long, too short, or just right?
  • Would you prefer content and presentations similar to an official user group, 100% networking time, or a mix of both?
  • What types of content would you like to see more of?
    • In this I gave a list of various content such as process automation, programmatic development, partner program, .org/non profit, etc
  • Are you optimistic of the future of this user group?
  • Tell us in your own words what you think of the group, what could improve, and what would you like to see happen?

My first survey helped shape the group into what it is today, and continues to grow (actually i’m due for another soon!)

Closing Thoughts & Tips 

Have Fun & Make A Difference 
HAVE FUN! Seriously.  While running a Salesorce Saturday group whether you meet monthly or weekly is never easy, its very rewarding. I thoroughly enjoy bringing people together and seeing people succeed. Thinking of the connections people have made, and the new jobs they found and started through a group I put together with selfish intentions because I didnt want to sit in traffic, is an amazing feeling. You know the “reward” I talked about very early (I know its a long post, stop groaning at me!)? The reward is just that, making a difference in your community and seeing others succeed. Where else can you have fun, learn something new, meet great people, and make a difference for someone? Seriously!! How awesome is that?

Image result for low batteryAvoid Burnout, Find A Co-Leader 
With that said though, Salesforce burnout is a real thing. A great piece of advice I received early on was to lean on others. I take a lot on myself due to how i’m wired, and have trouble delegating. No matter how small or large your group is, have someone to lean on. I don’t know what I would have done without my amazing co-leader who doesn’t put the spotlight on her…..but i’ll do it anyway because she’s an amazing human being Hint: she’s the millionth trailhead badgerThere were times I was so overwhelmed with life in general she would just center me a bit, provide encouragement and make me realize all the hard work makes a difference. Thank you, millionth trailhead badger 🙂

Image result for ohanaCelebrate The Ohana
Don’t use all of your meetings to just talk about Salesforce. Yes, its a big part of our lives, but take time to celebrate the relationships that were built because of your group. Take a meeting to do a group event like an escape room, or a barbecue, go to lunch, a movie, volunteer activity, whatever. Just have fun with one another. Ohana means family, and family isn’t just related to work. I know that’s not how the line goes, but it fits the context, OK?

Use Your Powers For Good
When (not if) your group grows and is mega successful, I encourage every prospective Salesforce Saturday group to collectively give back to your community in some way. My group had a great #Trailhead4All event last year, and I can’t wait to get into our next initiative this year. I wish we had the bandwidth to do more, but every effort to do good makes a huge difference.

 

Last, but not least…we are all here to help one another. Reach out if you need some #SalesforceSaturday guidance!

 

 

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