Some "must-have" ideas for your next meetup

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In these post-COVID times where airlines, trying to make a quick buck after the troublesome times of the past few years, are charging you the price of a small apartment, plus your first born child, plus your left arm to travel to even the closest of destinations 😀 , I have been exceptionally fortunate to be able to travel to a couple of user group events in the past few months.

This blog post is just to highlight a couple of initiatives done by each of these user groups that I think were very cool. The first one was the Oracle user group conference in Norway. One of the maxims by which all user groups often promote their conferences is that it provides a unique opportunity for attendees and speakers alike to do some networking. After all, the way our community grows is by having like-minded people being able to share their experiences, their successes, and their challenges when working with technology. But it has often been the case that whilst networking is pitched as an important part of the conference, it has then relegated to either the end of the day or given a laughably short amount of time in the 10 minute coffee break between sessions.

So I was very impressed at the Norway event to see that there were no sessions scheduled on both days between about 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM. In that 2 hour time slot, attendees were encouraged to get their coffee, find some time to grab their lunch, but also, and more importantly, just hang around together in the common area where they could do some networking. There were a few tables and chairs but in the main people were just encouraged to wander about, see the exhibition stands and chat to each other!


Perhaps it is a Scandinavian thing, but I was super impressed with the way that there was a strong mechanism of inclusivity in this networking area. Anyone observed just aimlessly wandering around by themselves was typically swept up by a nearby group, asked to introduce themselves, and get involved in the discussion.

I would recommend this practise for any user group planning an event in future. Allocate a dedicated slot of time in which there is no technical content but solely a period of time designed to do what user group communities were specifically designed to do – namely bring people together.

The second user group event I went to was APEX Connect in Berlin. They also had numerous networking opportunities throughout the two day event but the specific thing I wanted to touch on here was the concept of 1-on-1 sessions. At the start of the conference a noticeboard was put in the exhibition hall and people could grab a 15 or 20 minute time slot to have a chat with one of the speakers at the event. I happily put my name down because anyone that knows me knows that I’m happy to talk to anyone about Oracle technology – in fact it is more often the case that people say “Can you please shut the hell up so we can get a word in!” 😀


Don’t get me wrong, a 1-on-1 style of session is something that perhaps doesn’t scale tremendously well, because by definition it is simply two people having a conversation as opposed to a group of people networking. But I think it does serve a purpose in terms of breaking down the walls between attendees at user group events and the speakers.

This helps the attendees because its makes them far more comfortable about approaching speakers in future, whether it be at the end of a standard technical session or just in a hallway between sessions. But also it helps the speakers, because speakers sometimes get nervous presenting in front of a large crowd because they feel that the crowd is just an anonymous group just waiting to judge them in case they make an error or mistake.

Having attendees being happy to just have a simple conversation with speakers outside the realm of technical session means that the speaker feels that they are all in this together. They are not speaking to the attendees they are speaking on behalf of the attendees – sharing their experiences and hopefully presenting content that lets all attendees and the speakers prosper together.

So if you are running an event or attending an event maybe throw some requests to the organisers saying “How about some extra networking time or perhaps getting in touch with the speakers to see if they are prepared to do a one on one session?”

I think both initiatives help build a stronger community and that is how we all can succeed.

One comment

  1. Hi Connor,

    There is basically nothing wrong with having “free” networking time, as well as one-on-one sessions,
    but …
    If I think of all our events organized in Israel along the years, it was always extremely difficult to choose among
    three or four sessions scheduled in parallel.
    The best example of all, one that I will never forget: having to choose between Tom Kyte and Jonathan Lewis’s sessions ………. a “cruel” choice to make …
    I think that if some more free time was scheduled for networking in-between, in the middle of the day,
    that would mean “to pack” the many sessions even more ( PCTFREE 0… if you wish ) …
    making the sessions choices even harder , surely for “short” events, of 2 days only.

    Second, regarding the one-on-one sessions: I think that each such UG event has its two or three super-star speakers,
    and, most probably, everyone could only wish to have such a session with one of those few “chosen ones” …
    and, those who will not be able to fit into the short time frame, will become frustrated …

    Maybe another idea could be a kind of a “mix” of the two approaches, aka, allow for one-on-one sessions,
    or, better say, informal “ask me your question” style of thing, but allowing others to also assist and listen to the conversation , and thus, being able “to have their piece of cake” as well 🙂

    As by my impression, really, ALL the speakers whose sessions I have attended were really more than approachable,
    they were always ready to answer attendees’ questions in the extra-time in the break between the sessions.
    I will NEVER forget the first visit of Tom Kyte in Israel, for a full day event entirely his,
    and how deeply impressed I was that I was even able to ask him a work-related question and get some ideas,
    aka, talking directly and “at the same eye level” with the number 1 Oracle guru in the world ,
    and, also having a photo with him !!!

    Just a few thoughts of a participant to some few meetings, but truly unforgettable ones 🙂

    Cheers & Best Regards,
    Iudith Mentzel

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