Why Join a User Group

Do you have an interest that is shared by many or by a very rare few?  Perhaps you like photography.  That’s a big subject with a large fan base.  Perhaps you like to keep African Killifish.  That’s has a bit of a smaller appeal.  I, myself, have had various interests in my life (the above subjects included!) I’ve had more hobbies than years of my life.  I guess you could say I get bored quickly.  More than that, I get very interested in things, very easily.  Life interests me!

In the “good old days”, if you wanted to find out more about something, you’d go down to the library, check out a couple books on the subject, read up on it and give it a go.  Additionally, you could find a local store that specialized in that sort of thing and chat with the store owner for hours at a time.  The later worked very well if it was a popular activity, like tropical fish or photography.  It also helped in being able to get supplies for said hobby or future business idea.  I always seemed to want to grow whatever my hobby was into some sort of business venture.  I guess that is the entrepreneur in me!

I once saw a program on TV about this twelve-year old millionaire and he started with a pair of hamsters!  (Yes, I even tried to raise hamsters too!) I mean isn’t that what they say, “If you want to be happy, do what you love for a living!”  (I’ve also had more jobs than years of my life!)  But, I AM happy!

There have long been magazines on just about every subject too.  Sometimes, you’d get lucky and there would be a local club related to the subject of your interest, as well.  This adds a whole new level of enjoyment and education to your hobby/business interest.  I have been involved with a few different clubs in my past as well.  Heck when I was ten, I started the Riverside Tropical Fish Club.  There were only three members but I even managed to get a sponsor to donate free samples of fish food and water conditioner to the club.  After that win, I tried, unsuccessfully, to get a donated remote control car to my bright idea of a club, “The Riverside R/C Club!” Oh well! You can’t blame a kid for trying!

So, I guess you can say I’ve had a long history of starting groups.  It’s one of the best solutions for loneliness that I know of!  Join or start a group!  At the very least, you’re going to meet some cool people with the same interest as you.

A “user” group is a group of people that share an interest in “using” some thing, usually a piece of software or suite of software.  There are computer user groups too, like Mac User Groups or PC User Groups.  They are usually put together so that you can learn to use that particular thing better or to get new ideas on how to use it.  There are, for example, graphics user groups who cover creating things with graphics programs like After Effects or Cinema 4D or Maya or something similar.

One of the benefits of a user group is that with the combined membership, you have clout.  You have more clout than with just yourself.  Companies in the field want to communicate to your group and know that a group will benefit their business in many ways.  This is so true that they often give stuff to the group, like prize giveaways and big discounts.

More than the above points, user groups are just a lot of fun!  Meeting people with the same interests, talking about projects, networking, getting new ideas, etc. are some of the great aspects of being a part of a user group.

Currently, I am signed up with lots of filmmaking related user groups and attend three or four on a regular basis: Los Angeles Final Cut Pro Users Group, Los Angeles Post Production Group, Southbay Filmmakers and Digital Media Artists Los Angeles to name a few.  This is in addition to the filmmaking group that I run myself (Independent Filmmakers of the Inland Empire, “IFIE”).

Each meeting or meetup I attend is great.  Very nice people are there and we all share a passion for what we do.  I can’t say enough about networking.  The bonds from a user group are usually a lot stronger than ones made “on the street”.

I see all kinds of people at user group meetings, from ones who just come to see the presentation and never talk to anyone to those who have their core friends that they meet there to those that are really good at meeting lots of people and engaging many conversations.  So, whoever you are, there’s a place for you there too!

My own group uses a lot of different things.  So, I have set out to make it an official user group for whatever products we use.  We are an official Avid User Group, an official Adobe User Group, an Apple User Group, a Focal Press User Group, a Peachpit User Group, an O’Reilly User Group and a Sony Vegas User Group.  Each of these designations has its own unique benefits.  All of which translate to a better user group experience.

User groups usually have a set meeting date and time, say the first Wednesday of the month, like mine, from 7 to 10 PM. Some are very strict with their schedule and start and end on time and others are a bit more lax and tend to go over, like mine!  I think the only problem I have is that I want them to go on longer.  Some groups have after-meeting get-togethers, like over pizza or beers or a late night Denny’s run, for the hard core members (who don’t have to be home so soon). Some are held AT a pizza place!

They also usually stick to a basic format, say some networking or introduction time, announcements, presentations of various sorts and then a raffle or auction of some sort.  The prizes are sort of an enticement to stay till the end, usually.

Like the good old days, we still have the options of the library and the local store owner.  But unlike the old days, we have all kinds of new ways to get information.  The Internet has helped tremendously, not only to look up information regarding your interest but also to find user groups to join!  Meetup.com is a great place to start looking.  If any of the above sounds appealing to you, I recommend finding a user group near you to join.  Not only join, but attend the meetings and functions.  You’ll have a blast.

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