The COVID pandemic does not create a suitable environment for the monthly in-person meeting and mingling at a local office that might immediately come to mind when you think of techical user groups. Conferences like Autodesk University are being moved online, and in-person gatherings have been cancelled. It is true that there's something special about physical gatherings that has been lost in this time.
However, it's still possible to host and start groups in this time. The underlying dynamics of learning, connection, and relationship are as important as ever.
Resources from elsewhere on the internet that have been shared by leaders within the group network
Don't Just Throw Together a Webinar — The Virtual Events Crash Course You Need - David Spinks, CMX
Bringing Events Online - Webinar recording from Meetup.com
Zoom Webinar training that helps you navigating setting the webinar up, hosting the webinar, and closing the webinar
Please feel free to start some dialogue about this on the Group Leader Hub. Here are some existing conversation threads.
Tips and tricks to manage your events virtually (Larger audience but same topic in the Community Room forum)
Online Meetings, within Tips for Event Planning & Marketing
Also, much of the information here is broadly applicable to community group dynamics, and can apply in either physical or virtual meeting settings and spaces. For example, the Starting a Group & Running a Group guides are applicable in COVID times. But the conversation spaces you're hosting to enroll leaders, recruit members, have conversations, and connect with each other will be virtual.
Getting better at virtual now is the only option in the short term + a great way to engage your community if done right. Webinars are not community events. Small-localized discussions are. The best communities out there exist both in-person and online.
Invest in the foundations of your group: discuss, brainstorm, form agreements and intentions with other leaders of your existing group.
Invest in projects, documentation, or logistics you've been putting off. (These best practice guides are an example of that at a network level 😉 )
It's okay to wait-and-see. Invest in personal relationships. This can feel more rewarding and deeper in-person. Maybe you should wait if your main goal is these deeper personal connections? But consider how and whether you'd like to plant seeds digitally?
Keep hosting space. Encourage your group to connect on a virtual platform, synchronously or asynchronously. Opening a Zoom call at a regular cadence can be a way to stay connected. (NOTE: The Austin CADD user group invites you into the spaces it's hosting. See below)
Autodesk is hosting "office hours" every Tuesday on its forums
YourDesk University - (several groups from the network are involved in this) - An initiative intended to help the AEC Tech community connect and share knowledge remotely during these challenging times. Presenters will be streaming tutorials and discussions via YouTube Live that cover an array of topics focused on computational skills and a broader understanding of the technological reform our industry is going through.
Product Help for Working Remotely - Resources curated by Autodesk to help users during COVID.