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Feb 01

Quit carrying the entire load

Quit carrying the entire load

Most, if not all, Apple User Groups have a Committee or Board of Directors that usually consist on at least a President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. More often than not, there are a couple of ‘Ordinary Members’ on the Committee as well.

And in many cases the Committee end up doing the bulk of the day-to-day work for the club, which means they can’t focus on long term and overall strategic planning… and just as often they just end up plain running out of energy.

If this sounds like your organisation, seriously consider appointing some additional people to extra positions.

Many Hands Makes Light Work” is a very true statement when it comes to running any organisation and by having dedicated people responsible for different tasks means that they can focus solely on that role.

Equipment Officer

Equipment Officer

Equipment Officer

or Technical Support Officer
This person is responsible for helping set up the equipment in the meeting room.
This could be just the computer and projector. Or it could involve setting up sound amplification systems and lighting systems. They could also be the person who understands how the air conditioning and heating systems of the building.

The Equipment Officer should be allocated a complete set of standard video adaptors, power cables to have on hand in case a presenter forgets their own. I’ve seen all too many meetings come undone because the presenter left their Mini-Display Port to VGA video adaptor connected to the monitor back in the office. By the club having a spare set or two of these simple adaptors readily on hand can make or break a presentation.

Ideally the Equipment Officer is NOT also the Meeting Co-ordinator as the Equipment Officer will have their own set of tasks to perform at the same time as the Meeting Co-ordinator is dealing with the Presenter, especially if you have multiple presentations at your meeting.

Likewise the Equipment Officer probably should not be the person responsible for putting out the chairs at the beginning of the meeting, nor packing the chairs up at the end.

Your Equipment Officer should be someone who is both hardware and software savvy and they should be able to be very quick at problem solving on their feet. They should have a solid understanding of OH&S issues relating to the running of cables, placement of equipment etc.

Catering Officer

Catering Officer

Catering Officer

Most User Groups offer at least tea, coffee and biscuits and sometimes a little more… either just before and after their meeting, or during a break in between presentations.

Many groups don’t worry about appointing a Catering Officer thinking that all that needs to be done is have someone turn the urn on, put out some cups and open a packet or two of biscuits.

There is actually a lot more to this role and it deserves to have a dedicated person in this position.

First of all someone needs to be responsible to ensure the supplies are purchased for each meeting and that it arrives at the meeting on time.

Then they need to be able to setup in a timely manner, uninterrupted.

If your Tea Time is before the meeting starts, then the Catering Officer needs to arrive well before the meeting commences so they have ample time to setup and get the urn boiling.

If the Coffee break is in between presentations, or at the end of the meeting, then the Catering Officer needs to be able to slip out of the meeting just before the first presentation concludes and often they still need to remain in the kitchen as the second presentation commences — so having the President, Meeting Co-Ordinator or Equipment Officer to do these tasks is far from ideal.

Also as we discuss in our article “Working with Presenters On the Night” the Catering Officer, or their assistant, can quietly approach the Guest Presenter shortly after the presentation finishes and ask them if they’d like a cup of tea or coffee and if so, how they have it. Then this should be delivered to the Guest Presenter, ideally in a ceramic cup with a handle with a saucer (even if your own members use disposable foam cups) as it can be easier for the Presenter to hold and put down on a table.

Once the Presenter has finished the drink, have the Catering Officer collect the empty dishes so the presenter doesn’t have to worry about where to take it.

Finally after the Tea Break is over some one needs to clean up. There will always be something spilled, benches need wiping down, left overs packed up and usually rubbish put out.

Having a dedicated Catering Officer means you can offer a little more than basic tea, coffee and sweet biscuits. You shouldn’t go overboard, but some groups have a cake or other more substantial snacks available, but this takes extra time to cut, place on plates or in bowls etc.

I’ve seen one group that meets in the upstairs room of a local pub and their Catering Officer is solely responsible for ordering a couple of platters of hot snack food to arrive at the correct time for the break between presentations and letting the pub staff know how platters they need – they are supplied one platter for every 10 people present. The pub provides the room for free on what would otherwise be a quite night for them, and the platters too — in return they expect members to buy drinks from the bar and they offer a 10% discount to members who eat in the bistro before the presentation and most do.

The Catering Officer can also be responsible for providing a bottle or jug of water and a clean glass for the Presenter. Remember to refresh and replace if you have a second presentation.

Meeting Co-ordinator

Meeting Co-ordinator

Meeting Co-Ordinator

The primary function of the Meeting Co-ordinator isn’t to be the host or the compère of the evening — although they can. They are actually the person who arranges for the various Presenters to present at each meeting.

See our series “Working with Presenters” of articles for tips on how best to go about initially approaching potential presenters, confirming with them and then working with them at your meeting and finally following up afterwards.

The Meeting Co-ordinator would be responsible for introducing the Guest Presenter to other Committee members. They, along with the Equipment Officer, will help the Guest Presenter setup and pack up afterwards. They’ll act as the single contact point between your group and Presenters company.

The Meeting Co-ordinator will ensure the Webmaster, Publicity Officer etc have the appropriate images and basic text for publicity material your group produces — i.e. ensuring you obtain the correct version of the Presenter’s company logo and any official marketing blurb they like to use in association with their products.

The Meeting Co-ordinator should also see the Presenter out to their car at the end of the presentation and also follow up after the presentation.

Webmaster

Webmaster

Webmaster

This may seem an obvious position to have, but many groups don’t have a dedicated person for the task — it often just falls to someone to do a basic update once a month.

But your Group’s website is often the first point of contact your potential members (and Guest Presenters) will have with your club and it deserves to be treated accordingly.

The webmaster doesn’t need to be responsible for writing all the content that appears on the website, but they should be able to call upon others like the Meeting Co-ordinator, the Meeting Reporter and Meeting Photographer to supply material promoting upcoming meetings (ideally clubs should look at promoting their meeting topics at a minimum of three months in advance), and for providing reports, links discussed and photos of previous meetings.

Every couple of months, they should ensure that links on the site are still current and work. (Some web packages like WordPress help do this automatically)

Each year the webmaster should arrange for the photo(s) and listing of the current Committee are updated.

Social Media Officer

Social Media Officer

Social Media Officer

With the incredible following various social media sites like Facebook and Twitter now command, many User Groups are looking at having their own presence on Social Media.

However, this only works if the social media pages are maintained on a regular basis.

They must ensure that fresh content is continuously arrives on the feeds — often this can be automated by your webmaster (WordPress with the Jetpack plug-in installed can be configure to Publicise any new posts that appear on your website to also appear on your Facebook Page or Twitter feed.). The Social Media Officer can also start asking questions to generate on the page and just as importantly they need promptly to respond any questions and comments posted to your groups wall or feed.

The Social Media Officer would be responsible for removing spam comments from your feed or wall.

The webmaster may also be able to double as the Social Media Officer.

Welcoming Officer

Welcoming Officer

Welcoming Officer

This position is very simple to perform but makes a huge difference to new visitors to your meetings. The Welcoming Officer’s primary responsibility is to wait near the entrance of your meeting venue and greet people as they arrive and is well suited for someone that is good at putting names to faces and who has a bright outgoing personality as they will be the first person people encounter as they enter your meeting.

Regular members can appreciate a simple “Hello Mary” as they enter.

But more important is welcoming the first time visitor to your meeting as they will have very little idea what happens at your meetings.

The Welcoming Officer can welcome them to your group and quickly explain to them the structure of the meeting and pointing a few key locations within the building like the kitchen or where ever you hold your ‘tea break’ and rest rooms.

Explain how your meeting works:

Hi I’m Fred. Welcome to the AppleUsers.org meeting. We have two presentations tonight, with a 20 minute tea break in between. The first presentation will be Making Greeting Cards using Pages and the second one covers Ten iPhone and iPad Apps to stay in touch with friends and family. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask me, or any one wearing a green badge”

The ‘Green Badge’ idea can simply be used to easily highlight people within your group who are on Committee or in other positions that could assist new visitors and members. Even if that person can’t answer the question at hand immediately they should be able to point the person in the right direction.

The Welcoming Officer can also hand out an information pack to a new visitor.

If you have a Guest Presenter who has never attended one of your meetings before, the Welcoming Officer will often be the first point of contact for them as well.

Have the Welcoming Officer greet the presenter and have another member take the Guest Presenter to the Meeting Co-oridinator or the President.

Publicity Officer

Publicity Officer

Publicity Officer

Contrary to popular belief, the Publicity Officer’s primary function is not necessarily to create the PR material but rather they are responsible for distributing various publicity material about your organisation to relevant and interested parties.

Although a single personal can perform both the creation and distribution roles, you may find that you are better served by have one individual (or a group) create and design the material and have a dedicated person who develops the relationships with various media outlets, contemporary organisations and the general public.

The Publicity Officer should look at getting your publicity material out to at least the following groups and organisations;

  • Local Radio Stations
  • Local Newspapers
  • Local Television Stations
  • Local Council Newsletters & Websites
  • National Radio, Newspapers and TV
  • The MUG Center
  • MacVoices.com
  • Apple User Group Resources
  • prMac
  • Other Apple User Groups in and close to your region
  • Your Own Members
    • Your Webmaster — So the information can be published on your website
    • Magazine Editor — so they can publish the information in your newsletter
    • Your Committee — So they are all informed about events
    • Your Catering Officer — So they know how many people may be attending
    • Your other Volunteers — So they are all informed about events and how they impact on their own roles
    • and especially your Ordinary Members — So they are all informed about events so they can attend and participate!

The Publicity Officer may need to have marketing material produced in a variety of formats to suit the medium been targeted. e.g. a radio station may require a pre-supplied audio recording or they may prefer a written statement that one of their announcers would read out. So this is why the Publicity Officer may be better off having a Design Team to call upon rather than trying to do it themselves.

It is important to note the Publicity Officer should not necessarily be the public face of the organisation — normally this would be the President… but like the Meeting Co-ordinator, the Publicity Officer would perform all the background work to make the Publicity Opportunity available for your group.

The Publicity Officer could also maintain an Announcement Only email list, perhaps called announcements@yourusergroup.com, that anyone can subscribe to. There are dozens of easy to use solutions out there including mailman, which most web hosts have pre-installed and MailChimp.

There is a HUGE difference in the roles of creating and distributing the material!

So don’t be afraid to break the Publicity Officer role into at least two, if not more, jobs!

Meeting Reporter

Meeting Reporter

Meeting Reporter

The Meeting Reporter simply writes a short report about the presentation(s) that occur at your meeting each month.

Now, I say “simply” but there is a knack to it doing it correctly… you don’t want tomes with a word for word transcript of what was said, but you want more than “Fred presented Creating Greeting Cards using Pages”. The ideal length is two to six paragraphs depending on the complexity of the presentation.

The reports can also contain any links to websites that were discussed during presentation. Liaise with the Meeting Co-ordinator to obtain copies of these (working on the principle that one person from your club contacts the Guest Presenter) as often these can be supplied in advance by the Guest Presenter.

They should be submitted in a timely fashion to the Webmaster and Meeting Co-orinator. Normally this is within 12-24 hours of the actual meeting finishing.

These reports should be used by the webmaster to maintain an online record of previous presentations which can be used to attract potential new members and Guest Presenters.

They can be used by future Committee’s and Meeting Co-ordinators to see which topics have been covered in the past and which see if there are aspects of a past presentation that could be expanded upon in future presentations.

Meeting Photographer

Meeting Photographer

Meeting Photographer

In this digital age of smart phones and tablets, most of your members will have a phone with a half decent camera built in, so just about anyone can take a happy snap easily.

But you may wish to find someone with a professional quality digital camera and the skill/ability to take good photos and you want them to grab a dozen or so photos of each meeting and presentation.

You’ll want them to capture a couple of “standard shots” each meeting;

  • Presenter standing in front of a slide
  • Presenter been thanked (perhaps shaking hands) at end of presentation
  • A photo of a slide by itself
  • A few candid shots of the audience watching the presentation

Use some imagination for other shots as well. Try and get different angles, poses, lighting conditions etc each time to add some variety to the images.

A couple of these photos can be used by your Webmaster to accompany the Meeting Reporters article about the presentation.

You can also keep a stock pile of these photos from your meetings in a central location like Dropbox for use in future publicity material and other aspects of the groups website.

Fundraising Officer

Fundraising Officer

Fund Raising Officer

It should be fairly obvious to say that this position requires someone to raise extra funds for your group.

But how they go about achieving that should be left totally up to the Fund Raising Officer themselves — as long the activity fits within your operating guidelines and organisational principles.

Let them think differently! Not every fundraising activity has be conducted at your meetings!

Organise a major raffle.

I’ve seen groups organise bulk ticket purchase to the movies or stage shows. Often you only need as few as 8 people to qualify for a group booking rate from cinemas or theatres and this means an instant saving of 10-20% off the list price of tickets. So the Group charges its’ members say 5% less than the list price. Your members save some money and your group earns some extra money. And often group bookings get better seating allocations!

Other groups do a bulk purchase program on basic computer consumables or new products and resell them at a meetings. I’ve even see groups invite dealers to have a table at their meetings and they charge a small fee for this privilege.

A Trash & Treasure Swap Meet can generate extra funds for your group by charging an entry fee for members to attend and/or charge dealers for a stall.

A trivia night is always a lot of fun. Charge an attendance fee per table or person. Charge for drinks or snacks.

Or have a BBQ in the park for your members and their families. Charge a flat fee for attending or charge by the sausage and drink.

Use your website to earn money — see the presentation I gave on this very topic.

Don’t swamp your members with fundraisers — limit them to one or two events a year!

There a tons of websites out there that offer advice on how to conduct fundraisers and for ideas on different events and products you could consider.

Another area your Fund Raising Officer could investigate are grants – from local, state, and federal governments and other private sources.

Apple Ambassador

Apple Ambassador

Apple Ambassador

The Apple User Group Advisory Board has a great article explaining what an Apple Ambassador is and does for your group.

Basically they have access to ready made presentations via the Apple Sales Website and they can stay up to date on Apple Products via the Apple Sales Training Online. Sometimes are presentations available from other vendors.

The Ambassador can access the User Group Vendor Discount Offers program and pass this information on to your webmaster and magazine editor.

There can only be one person nominated as the Apple Ambassador from each User Group.

Special Events Co-ordinator

Special Events Co-ordinator

Special Events Co-ordinator

It all depends on the size of your User Group and the person you appoint as Special Events Co-ordinator as to exactly what this role can encompass!

Most User Groups have 11 or 12 meetings a year with one or two presentations at each meeting. They are normally held on the same day of the month, at the same time, in the same location. And this continuity is actually a good thing… but it can also become a bit stale and boring after a while.

So why not look at holding a Special Event at least once a year???

It can still be held on your normal meeting date at your normal location if you really wanted — or better still it can be a totally different day in a very different location.

It could be a totally different style of presentation – my favourite is using the Advertisements of Apple to form a presentation. Prior to broadband internet been readily available and live streaming of Apple Keynote Events, I’ve seen groups download the streams and show them at their meeting. Have a “Design Shootout” where a guest panel demonstrates the key aspects of three similar applications to perform a simple task – e.g. using Pages, Photoshop and inDesign to produce a full page flyer.

If you are a smaller group, you could team up with other Apple User Groups (and even PC User Groups and other Community Groups) in your area to arrange a Guest Presenter from a major organisation like Apple themselves, or Adobe or Microsoft, to name a few.

It could arranging to visit your local Museum or Art Gallery and see how they use technology, especially if it is Apple based, to communicate with their visitors.

Perhaps the event could simply be simple “party” at the local park one Sunday afternoon for all your members and their families, or arrange an informal dinner at a local restaurant.

Host a Trivia Night and base your questions on Apple related topics. Organise tables for your members to sit at, rather than the normal theatre style most groups have setup for their meetings. You can order in Pizza to your meeting location OR arrange to have the Trivia Night at a local pub or restaurant and invite anyone along 🙂

Participate in a local, or national, Trade or Community Expo by having your own stand (again consider hooking up with other groups from your area). I’ve seen groups participate in Software Freedom Day; Australian Connectivity Expo; local expos for Seniors; local school fairs and fetes; and even at Macworld Expos.

Conduct a Computer & Technology Swap Meet. Let your members sell their old Macs and iPhones. Invite commercial traders along to have stands.

Have a look at iMug’s Past Meetings Page for some outstanding “Special Events” they have conducted over the years;

  • Tour of Telstra Integration Centre in Barry St, Carlton—a live Cisco CRS-1 core network router operating at up to 92 Tbps (yes, that’s right, Terabits per second) and other cool stuff that connects your iPhone to the world (May 2009)
  • Triumphant Technology and Trombones — iMug’s end of year celebration at Museum Victoria.
    Lemonade—one of the first computer games. Ian Godfrey, with Robert Black. Ian demonstrated Lemonade which he played on his Apple II in 1979. Demonstration made possible by Virtual ][ (licence by courtesy of Gerard Putter).
    Nothing is new under the sun … some of us call it a ‘Mac’!
    David Demant, Senior Curator, Information and Communication, Museum Victoria
    A see, touch hear experience of some of the precursors of modern information and communication devices.
    Trombones (and tuba)
    A pot pourri of outstanding music by the outstanding musicians of the RAAF Low Brass Ensemble (Dec 2008)
  • Apple-based school in action. We enjoyed a visit to Coburg Senior High where we learned about their educational philosophy and how the Mac and its software is central to the achievements of its students and staff. (July 2008)
  • Apple Computer Exhibition Launch — Exhibition by iMug at Museum Victoria of a representative sample of Apple hardware, software and promotional material that tells Apple Computer Inc’s story of its contribution to personal computing and its impact on the computer industry and society. (Dec 2006)

Nicholas Pyers, the Founder and Publisher of AppleUsers.org, has conducted many Special Events for various Apple User Groups;

  • Twenty Mac Years — The History of the Macintosh, Through the Advertisements of Apple Computer, Inc. Presented in Melbourne, Australia; Castlemaine, Australia; and Wellington, New Zealand.
  • Thirty Apple Years — Thirty Apple Years… A Celebration… Through Their Advertisements. Presented in Melbourne, Australia.
  • The Mac OS X Experience — A series of presentations and hands-on workshops that enabled people to learn more about the newly released operating system Mac OS X. Presented in Melbourne, Australia.
  • AMUG 30th Anniversary — AMUG Celebrates their 30th Anniversary… Through the Advertisements of Apple Inc. Presented in Sydney, Australia.

Now your Special Events need not be so extraordinary, but by having someone designated as your “Special Events Co-ordinator” they can think differently and have an exciting event each year that will enthrall your members, and possibly get potential new members visiting.

The Special Events Co-ordinator obviously needs to work very closely with all your other volunteers and Committee… but let them have a fairly loose hand and see what they come up with

Do you have backups for all these positions?

Do you have backups for all these positions?

Do you have backups for all the Officers?

I know it is often difficult to get volunteers to fill the initial position in the first place and finding a “backup” can be an even more daunting task… but it is just as important!

Ideally try and get someone who doesn’t already have an existing role but it all depends on how big a membership base you have to call upon and just how many of the roles your group needs to fill.

The backup person doesn’t need to be on hand all the time, but they do need to be able to jump in at short notice.

Some groups get around this by having an existing volunteer know what’s involved in performing a secondary role. e.g. the webmaster could act as the Backup Catering Officer and the Catering Officer could be the Backup Publicity Officer.

If you do have existing volunteers doubling up as backups first consider what their primary role is and if that conflicts with the backup role. e.g. the Backup Catering Officer should probably not the Equipment Officer as the Equipment Officer could be needed during the tea break to help setup for the second presentation. The Meeting Reporter could probably be a backup for the Photographer in a pinch, but if you want different angles for your photos, the Reporter can’t then be focusing on the meeting content.

Another solution I’ve seen is having the previous person who held the position act as the backup — but carefully consider why they stood down from the position in the first place. Also ensure they are still comfortable to remain on call as a backup — they may have specific reasons on why they gave the role in the first place and may not wish to even continue to be involved in that particular role, although they may still be willing to assist in other ways.

Some advice that is seems obvious, but all too often I see it overlooked — don’t select someone from the same family, or who relies on the primary person for transport etc to be the backup!

This is especially over looked when two roles seem to be quite different — let’s say the Backup Catering Officer is normally the Webmaster. Normally you’d think that the two roles won’t overlap… but if they are say husband and wife and they have a family commitment or emergency that means they both can’t get to the meeting you’ve lost BOTH the primary and the secondary people.

Also keep your Backup people active in the role — every couple of months get the backup person to at least assist with the role they are expected to fill in for. This way they keep up to date on what actually needs to be done.

In fact, you should get them to take over the entire set of duties for at least one or two meetings a year giving the primary officer a break. Other times they can just assist the primary person do their tasks. After all there is no point having a person as backup if they don’t know how to perform the task.

There are two types of scenarios where your Backup Person will be called to duty — a once off situation because the primary isn’t well that month or has a prior commitment that prevents them from performing their tasks OR you need a permanent replacement as the original officer is no longer able to continue in that role for what ever reason.

Are you backups ready for either situation???

Stay in Touch with your volunteers

Stay in Touch with your volunteers

Stay in touch

Some people might say that some of these roles should be taken on as an additional responsibly by an existing Committee member to facilitate ease of communication and to instil a sense of responsibility and accountability.

I disagree with that viewpoint — I firmly believe most of these positions are actually better served by people NOT on the Committee. Remember the idea behind appointing people to these roles was ease the work burden on the Committee.

But the Committee does need to stay in regular contact with all these volunteers and assistants.

Most User Groups already have (or should have) a group email address for contacting the entire Committee at once. It is a simple process to setup another address of say “volunteers@ourclub.org” or “the-team@ourclub.org” that includes all the volunteers as well as the Committee.

Set this group email up on your web server so everyone on Committee and the volunteers can all use it… and you don’t have say the President with their own personal list that is slightly different to the one the Treasurer has in his address book on his computer.

This way Committee can quickly send out information as required to everyone. Use the list to remind your volunteers of upcoming meeting topics, any last minute changes, etc.

Also invite your volunteers to physically meet with the Committee at least once a quarter.

I’ve seen groups that invite a couple of different volunteers to attend the first half hour of a Committee meeting to discuss issues relevant to them. If you go down this path, mix the invited volunteers up a bit… don’t always have say the Webmaster, Catering Officer and Apple Ambassador along to the January Committee meeting… one quarter you may have them, then next quarter get the Webmaster along with the Equipment Officer and the Welcoming Officer… third quarter the Webmaster can attend with the Meeting Reporter and the Special Events Co-orindator etc etc… this way you get a mix of views and the volunteers can also communicate directly with one another.

Other groups have a dedicated meeting with every officer and the full committee coming together and each volunteer gets a few minutes to present their own reports and then a general discussion can occur about issue affecting everyone. Committee can then have a meeting by themselves afterwards to bring it altogether.

Regardless of how you meet with your volunteers, keep minutes of these meetings, just like you should be for your normal committee meetings, and distribute the minutes to all the volunteers, so everyone is kept up to date.

Also, let your volunteers stay in touch with others… by providing them with an offical club email address based on their position. e.g. meetings@ausmug.org, events@yourmug.com, catering@mymug.org, publicity@ etc etc
It looks more professional when dealing with external organisations and allows the address to be passed on to the next person occupying that position, with no loss of contact with others.

3 Responses to “Don’t Carry the Burden Alone!”

  1. Does your Apple User Group have a website? | AppleUsers.org Says:

    […] User Groups also include other prominent volunteers like the Meeting Co-ordinator, Equipment Officer, and Welcoming […]

  2. End of Year Tasks for Apple User Group Leaders | AppleUsers.org Says:

    […] ideas on what sort of Special Event you could hold, duck over to the “Special Events Co-ordinator” segment in our “Don’t Carry the Burden Alone” […]

  3. Finding Guest Presenters | AppleUsers.org Says:

    […] your Special Events Co-ordinator to look at having you all going somewhere different, as a group, once or twice a year. Often with […]

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