Scene and Cut. Training Days 2018

I’m recovering after a very successful RMOUG Training Days 2018 and now looking towards the next year. The board elections come up in two months and I’m happy to say, that the goals that I hoped to achieve in my year as president, the board was able to achieve even as I worked on the conference and started as the president for the SQL Server User Group here in Denver, all in parallel.

The primary leadership for the user group was becoming aware of what most Oracle user groups are facing- our user groups are getting older, (2018 was the 29th Training Days conference) so many are retiring, fewer companies are able to see the difference in free events and the deep technical content that is offered at an event like Training Days and fewer new technologists are going into relational database technology.

With this change, I was seeing consistent feedback at all the events I was presenting at stating they had declining numbers in attendance, memberships are down and a significant shift in what attracts people to become part of any “group”.

There were three main areas I wanted to address as my year as president:

  1. Spark new life into the annual Training Days conference.
  2. Move away from a hard copy Newsletter.
  3. Build long term goals for RMOUG as an organization.

It may not sound like much to take on in a year, but this organization is run by volunteers outside of our Executive Director, Peggy King, and even she has other demands on her, making her part time, so these were some seriously huge goals.

The first goal required planning of more than a year and I began it realizing as a conference director after almost 7 events, that the most crucial change to achieving it was having a new set of eyes on the event. I felt that everyone, including me, needed to step back from the conference.

The changes to the conference were going to be a monstrous undertaking and we couldn’t have done it without the incredible work by Linda Hoover and her team at EPS. They were pivotal in negotiating the new location of the Westminster Westin Conference Center after 20 years of holding the event at the Colorado Convention Center. Komal Goyal, who had *suffered* years with me as her mentor, took over as the new Training Days Director and we even transitioned to new software to manage the event that included a more modernized interface. We didn’t want to change what worked with the event, but I knew I had cut all costs from the event, offering no real perks for our members to ensure I didn’t have to raise the prices for three years and the costs for us to host the event were skyrocketing. We are now back to a controllable expense and the three day event with 8 simultaneous sessions at the new venue was a great success. Even with a move to a new town, our numbers stayed consistent with last year, which is an incredible achievement. We had three times the revenue from exhibitors and we can reinvest that money towards scholarships and the future of RMOUG.

Of course, there were bumps along the way and surprises- but these were expected. The biggest challenge was that Komal, as the managing partner of 6e Technologies started to experience incredible business growth and this required her focus. Needless to say, it was only right for me to take back the reins of the conference so she could focus on the important mission of her company’s success. I’d like to say its because I’m such an awesome mentor, but I know it’s really because Komal has just done an incredible job making the success happen for her and her company.

The second goal, focused on the quarterly newsletter, which was a $14K cost to the user group annually. Rene Antunez, as the newsletter director, with support from Tim, has started to move us to an electronic format for the publication.

For the last goal, this came about due to my incredible husband, Tim Gorman and the work of our executive director’s dedication, Peggy King. They’d already started investigating the additional benefits of RMOUG as a non-profit before I became president. They started additional initiatives that will continue in the upcoming years and we’d invested savings into low-risk stocks to ensure the financial security of the organization. Now many might say that a non-profit shouldn’t be thinking about revenue from events and investing, but the long-term focus for the organization, (as I’ve adopted from Tim) is towards scholarships for those who want a career in technology and our annual event which is the primary revenue opportunity to continue that investment.

The scholarships have been carefully cared for and delivered almost seamlessly, by Nicole Navratil. She really had no transition or training and yet she jumped in and has done an incredible job making sure we’ve achieved great success with scholarship distribution. We’ve had a significant increase in WIT scholarships, which some of them paid out from profit from our investments, helping to decrease expenditures.

With all of these changes, we just needed to see if it had resulted in success and this is where my incredible husband came in. Anyone who knows Tim can attest to this, but he took our treasurer reports and added some simple, but very effective graphs to show financial trends and did analysis to show the turn around in our financial status vs. previous years. The board has done an incredible job moving towards longevity from the previous downward turn in financial savings. I have no doubt that we’ll continue this trend with the next board in the upcoming years as we move forward.

User groups are under incredible pressure to evolve as the technical industry does. I’ve suggested that we take on an idea that was suggested when we first became a 503c non-profit and that’s to move from having Oracle in our name, (as a non-profit, we may focus on Oracle, but can’t be locked to any one vendor) and become a data user group.

Moving from an original proof of value for membership, we may move to one more in-line with meetups, in that membership doesn’t cost anything and we’ll look to other ways via sponsorship to support events outside of the annual conference and have the annual event as our main investment. I spend a lot of time studying the Microsoft Pass community and I see many features of their SQL Saturday events that could be incorporated into a hybrid event for Oracle’s that could bring not just great success, but less cost to its attendees.

As for me, I’m going to retire after this year and simply be an advisor to the board. Bryan Wells is going to take over the conference and I’m proud to say that many stepped up at the event with interest in joining the RMOUG board. It’s a great group that I’m proud to call myself the current president of and look forward to many great things from them to come.

For those of you that look for my annual conference evaluation report, I’ll be producing that in about another month. If you did speak or attend, do fill out that evaluation in your inbox. I live for that data!!

Originally published at DBA Kevlar.

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