User Group Tips
Our users' groups are an important part of the Nemetschek Vectorworks, Inc. team. They not only provide Vectorworks users with a chance to meet with each other and share information, they are an invaluable resource for exchanging tips about using the program, for comparing experiences and asking questions that are specific to a particular field or discipline.
There are many ways in which we can help you start your users group:
- We can coordinate an email blast to registered Vectorworks users in your area to help you announce your group.
- We can post information about your group (special guest speakers, meeting times and places) on our website
- We can offer incentives to encourage group involvement. Depending on what we have available, we can provide you with mugs or other Nemetschek Vectorworks promotional items, occasional discounts on upgrades to registered members of your group, and more!
- Your group can be provided with a free copy of the new training CDs.
There are other ways to publicize your new users group, too:
- You can run a free ad for your group in the newsletter(s) of your local Macintosh users' group(s).
- Contact a local Apple dealer or Apple retail outlet to arrange a meeting area. They like to have Macintosh enthusiasts in their stores and tend to be willing to loan equipment. You might also contact a school to arrange for a meeting area (they often have Macs available).
Tips on making your effort successful:
- Hold your meetings monthly at a set time, such as the first Wednesday of every month. Remember, your meetings should be easy to attend, with a set time, a set place and a central location.
- Have a computer loaded with a copy of Vectorworks available.
- If you feed them, they will come.... Try to have snacks on hand! You can offset the cost either by collecting a small dues every meeting (say, $1) or having people sign up to provide refreshments.
- Ask members to fill out a brief form focusing on who they are, how they use Vectorworks, what they want from the group, and how they can share their expertise with the group. This will give you ideas for meetings and a potential pool of speakers.
- When you do arrange for guest speakers to share their expertise, remember to keep their presentation short - save plenty of time for questions and discussion.
- Speaking of discussion, your group should make sure there is time for socializing/networking at each meeting.
- Allow time to share concerns, but allocate a set amount of time for this activity and stick to it. If you have difficulties staying on track, print out a meeting schedule to hand out at the beginning of the meeting and ask for everyone's cooperation in sticking to an agenda. Or, read a simple schedule out loud and ask people to help make it happen.
- Be alert for issues that come up in discussion. They can help you plan future meetings with appealing topics for the group.
- Provide Nemetschek Vectorworks, Inc. with feedback where appropriate. Run a roundtable discussion to draw up a list of concerns or questions to present to Nemetschek Vectorworks, Inc..
- Welcome non-Vectorworks users to the group! They can get a knowledge of the software and obtain discounts if they decide to buy through the users' group.
Some important hints for group leaders:
- You should expect to work with only a small, dedicated group at first. Don't be discouraged if your first few meetings are small. These things take time...
- When possible, call members (aim to get their answering machines if you don't have time to chat) or drop them a postcard between meetings (Nemetschek Vectorworks, Inc. can provide one) so that they know you are interested. It will also remind them to attend.
- Small users group dues can be used to cover mailing costs as well as refreshment costs. But try to keep the dues very reasonable ($1, $3, etc).
- Group leaders or insiders should NOT user the meetings to try to sell training or services. Wait until you are asked.
- Delegate work in extremely simple, manageable pieces: get person A to commit to call 2 specific people; ask person B to bring cookies to one particular meeting; ask person C to make a 5 to 10 minute presentation on the roof tool. This helps commit people to attend the meetings, gets them involved in the group and takes some of the burden off the group leaders.
Here are some other tips from our users' group leaders:
Patrick Stanford leader of the Southern California Vectorworks User Group offers these observations:
"Our users group focuses on helping everyone to get the most out of Vectorworks. In addition to prepared educational sessions, we save lots of time for questions and answers. You never know where our discussion will go, but everyone always goes home knowing more than when they arrived.
"We have a very diverse group. Architects, Contractors, Landscapers, Set Designers, Art Directors, Lighting Designers, Engineers and Inventors are some of the people who regularly attend our meetings. The interaction between these groups helps to expand everyone's knowledge of the many different ways the tools in Vectorworks can be used.
"Many of our members have been attending for more than 10 years, while others are very new to Vectorworks. We provide a friendly atmosphere where everyone is welcome, and we are happy to answer any questions."
Larry Mortimer, AIA, of the Northern California Vectorworks User Group tells prospective members:
"No matter how new or seasoned a Vectorworks user you are, you're guaranteed to walk away with some new ideas."
His group also looks at topics outside of Vectorworks, such as other programs (Sketchup® and Adobe Acrobat® are a good examples) or hardware. He says, "Lately we have spent more time talking about strategy, including the many ways to get a project from point A to point B. Another issue we seem to continually deal with is: what features and tools are most appropriate for what types and sizes of firms and projects."
They have also formed a steering group that plans to meet at least twice a year to insure that the group has well prepared presentations on relevant topics. For instance, he says, "At our last meeting we discussed preparing 'cheat sheet' handouts describing the techniques shown in each presentation for distribution to those present as an incentive to attend the meeting. We also discussed ways to get volunteers to make presentations."
Larry feels that "The best way to learn a topic is to teach it to others. Volunteer speakers make for committed members."
Tom Pearce, leader of the Vectorworks Mid Atlantic Users Group, shares his thoughts on the benefits of User Groups:
"It is not much of an over-generalization to say there are people who derive benefit from user groups and those who don't. The outstanding characteristic of those who do is their attendance."
Tom also echoes Patrick Stanford's feelings about the dynamic of the group. "I think that there is a distinct difference between a user group meeting and a training session. While both hope to be enlightening, good meetings can profit from their symbiotic and serendipitous nature. As in design, one never knows where the next comment or question may lead.
"Another aspect of user group attendance is the notion of giving back to the craft which has supported us. I don't suppose one does that unless one feels called to. There is an enticement, though, that I learned way back proctoring a lab in college. If you really want to learn something, teach it. Helping those who are less advanced actually yields new insights based on approaching the subject from a different perspective.
"In the Colorado and Maryland groups with whom I have worked, we have had attendees who were more than just VW users. Some have been actual people. The learning and networking possibilities for cross pollination are truly endless within the supportive context of people helping each other on common issues."