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Chris G. Williams Beware: I mix tech and personal interests here.

For those of you that have been waiting patiently (and not so patiently) I'm happy to say that we're very near completion on some changes/enhancements/improvements that will allow us to finally go live with the INETA Regional Speakers Bureau.

I know quite a few of you have already registered, which is great (though some of you may need to come back and update your info) and we've had a few folks submit requests, mostly in a test capacity, but soon we'll be up and live.

Here's how it breaks down. Be sure to read this, because things have changed a bit from when we initially announced it.

1. The majority of our speaker/event funding is going into the Regional Speakers Bureau.  The National Bureau still exists, but it's a good bit smaller than it was before, and it's not an "every group" benefit anymore. We'll be using the National Bureau as more of a strategic task force, targeting high impact events and areas that need some community building love from INETA. These will be identified and handled on a case by case basis, and may include more than just user group events.

2. You're going to get more events per group, per year than you did before. Not only are we focusing more resources on this program, but we're also making a lot of efforts to use it more effectively. With the INETA Regional Speakers Bureau, you should be able to get 2-3 INETA speakers per year, on average. Not every geographical area will have exactly the same experience, but we're doing the best we can.

3. It's not a farm team program for the National Bureau. Unsurprisingly, I managed to offend a number of people when I previously made the comment that the Regional Speakers Bureau program was a farm team or stepping stone to the National Bureau. It was a poor choice of words.  Anyone can participate in the Regional Speakers Bureau, and I look forward to working with all of you.

4. There is assistance for your efforts. I'd love to say these are the "final" amounts, but let's be honest. These numbers are "final" as of this writing. That doesn't mean they will never change. There are a lot of factors that go into funding a program like this, but here's what we have today:

(all distances listed are based on a round trip)

  • Distances < 120 miles = $0
  • 121 miles - 240 miles = $50 (effectively 1 to 2 hours, each way)
  • 241 miles - 360 miles = $100 (effectively 2 to 3 hours, each way)
  • 361 miles - 480 miles = $200 (effectively 3 to 4 hours, each way)

EDIT: For distances >480 miles, this is really further than how we perceive "regional" but we recognize that it varies depending on where you live and how far you're willing to go. So we're willing to cover these distances as well, but capped at the max of category 4, which is $200.

For those of you who travel a lot, we're working on a solution to handle group visits when you're away from home. These will (for now) be handled on a case by case basis.

5. We're going to make it as easy as possible to work with the program. In order to do this, we need a few things from you. For speakers, that means your home address. It also means (maybe) filling out a simple 1 line expense report via the INETA website. For user groups, it means making sure your meeting address is up to date as well.

6. Distances will be automatically calculated from your home of record to the user group event and back. We realize that this is not a perfect solution to every instance, but we're not paying you to speak at an event, and you won't be taxed on this money. It's simply some assistance to make your community efforts easier. Our way of saying thanks for everything you do.

7. Sounds good so far, what's the catch? There's always a catch, right? In this case there are two of them:

1) At this time, Microsoft employees are welcome to use the website to line up speaking engagements with user groups, but are not eligible for financial assistance.

2) Anyone can register and use the website to line up speaking engagements with user groups, however you must receive and maintain a net score of 3+ positive ratings (we're implementing a thumbs up / thumbs down system) in order to receive financial assistance. These ratings are provided by the User Group leaders after the meeting has taken place.

8. Involvement by the User Group leaders is a key factor in the success of this program. Your job isn't done once you request a speaker. After you've had your meeting, it's critical that you go back to the website and take a very small survey. Doing this ensures that the speaker gets rated (and compensated if eligible) and also ensures that you can make another request, since you won't be able to make a new request if you have an old one outstanding.

9. What about Canada? We're definitely working on that. We are still encouraging Canadian speakers to register in the Regional Speaker Program. While we do not currently have the funds in place to cover expenses for Canadian events, we are working to do so. There is still benefit in speakers listing themselves, especially if they currently happen to travel to other areas of the country. We are also working to extend special offers and opportunities to speakers registered in the program.

So... this is where things stand currently. We're working very quickly to get this in place and get speakers and groups together. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I'll answer them as quickly as possible. If I've forgotten anything, or if things change, I'll update it here.


Chris G. Williams
INETA Board of Directors

Posted on Monday, March 22, 2010 12:06 PM | Back to top

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