UPDATE- I want to thank everyone who supported this post and reached out to me about the challenges of managing and working with user group events. This post, as with other’s I’ve written on different topics, (I have quite the knack to say what most just think, don’t I? :)) struck a nerve in the community, but it was also very timely with a mission that Nichole Scott, Oracle’s North America User Group Senior Manager, was working to address. Nichole was kind enough to reach out to me after reading the blog post and a good discussion on what occurred, (both historically and currently) was able to find a way to get RMOUG sponsorship and help us reach out to another marketing team about the conflicting Cloud marketing event in Denver. I really appreciate the great support from Nichole and her efforts went a long way in resolving some of the frustrations RMOUG’s board was feeling.
This is one of those posts where my hat comes off as a previous Oracle employee, same with my Delphix hat. I am here only as a board member and representative of my Oracle REGIONAL user group community and have a bone to pick with a few people at Oracle.
I’ve been the conference director for Rocky Mountain Oracle User Group’s, (RMOUG) Training Days conference since 2012. This is a demanding volunteer position within the board of directors for any regional user group, made even more demanding at RMOUG for three reasons:
- RMOUG’s Training Days conference is the largest regional conference in the US.
- We have a board that is strained on demands, so resources are limited with lives of the volunteers.
- User groups are going through challenges as the Oracle community matures and changes.
After five conferences, you’d think it’d just be down to a science, but there’s always an unexpected challenge or opportunity to take on, plus as a non-profit, I’m required to do it in a way that has little cost or justifies itself with a pay off.
In the last two years, Oracle really stepped up and was one of our top sponsors. With that sponsorship came a number of demands from them in the way of attendee lists, free tickets and extra cost to our membership. There were always a few people inside the company that would bleed us dry in an attempt to get everything out of the event till it would cost us more than the money invested.
Although I’d feel some frustration with this, there were always incredible people inside Oracle who saw the value in the Oracle user group community and would try to make it worth it. On the other hand, the secondary support from Oracle Technology Network, (OTN) through Laura Ramsey has been an incredible benefit to our community. Although we spend every penny of the sponsorship to make sure their area is provided for, they always ensure to help us by marketing our event through social media and with the community. I’ll state again, what OTN does is separate from Oracle sponsorship and as I’ve told folks- Oracle is like 10,000 little companies under one name, so what one does, shouldn’t be put in comparison to another.
This year, the standard routine of speaking with the Oracle Hardware group for sponsorship was underway and they were very excited about RMOUG Training Days 2017. We received word this last week that this wouldn’t be happening and that Oracle wouldn’t be offering any sponsorship for RMOUG. Oracle just didn’t see it very valuable to sponsor Oracle user groups any longer.
Something also to be aware of, is that RMOUG, like UKOUG, doesn’t receive any compensation for ACE Director speakers. We are one of the few that have been penalized as “too successful” as of 2013 and informed that the good that we do in the community would no longer be eligible for ACE Director speakers to be reimbursed for travel expenses. ACE Directors have still submitted abstracts and hoped to be accepted to speak. We at RMOUG went out of our way to help make it worth their while by finding drivers for speakers from the airport, (someone once joked that whoever picked out the location for the Denver International Airport must liked Kansas.) We also have an incredible welcome reception for our speakers and volunteers and offer our volunteers incentives to help us keep everything running like a well-oiled machine. This is all done by a non-profit with rising costs from management companies and event centers, while memberships in user groups are at an all-time low.
We were then contacted by Oracle this last week, to let us know that they would be having a Cloud day event just 10 days before our 2017 conference. There are Oracle employees that are liaison’s on our board and at no time did anyone in Oracle marketing communicate with her, as they began to plan out the event on the calendar or if it would impact the local Oracle user group community.
Their request- They wanted RMOUG’s support in marketing this event and promoting it to our membership to raise attendance.
Nope. Not going to happen. I’m not going to EVEN add a link to it here in my post.
Oracle can’t continue to stomp on the local user groups and expect them to do your marketing, provide you with attendees to your events and expect them to survive.
I’m quite aware how many user groups are in a battle for their survival right now. UTOUG has started to plead with their membership- letting them know that unless someone steps up and helps, their ability to offer meetups and keep the group going will be impacted. NoCOUG has repeatedly gone to their membership and groups outside looking for support- fearful that they won’t survive to see another year. RMOUG dropped one 2016 newsletter and almost dropped a quarterly event due to lacking support, volunteers and attendance. These are just three of the top five in the US this last quarter- I know from my speaking engagements from the last two years, there are many other stories I could share.
The Oracle ACE program now has a point system that requires those in the community to speak at events, but if the regional user groups fail, where will people speak? If Oracle doesn’t support groups, where will they go? I know I’m doing more with meetups, DataCons and other events.
Most directors on boards expect yearly changes to who they will be dealing with at Oracle, as their is someone new every year. Even the Oracle calendar is missing a majority of the US events and I won’t even get started on those outside of the country. The community isn’t volunteering their time to their community, Oracle isn’t supporting the regional user groups and now we have competition from not just meetups and other local events, companies, but ORACLE, TOO?
There’s no shortcut to technical quality that can be had with bright lights and a lot of marketing swag. It takes everyone to built the user community brand and the more that Oracle tries to bundle it up into a fast food type of drive thru experience, the more the user community will starve for real content. That’s where the regional user groups come in and provide sustenance.