OK, we’re entering the final turn on this weird and wonderful odyssey to define some of the other characteristics of groups which we should consider when we are thinking about joining up. Of course, we are always looking for fertile ground for our networking, but beyond that we need to make sure that this is an environment in which that networking will be possible.

So, on with the next three.

User-friendly. As a computer programmer by training, I know that user-friendliness is about helping the person sit at the keyboard know what to do next, almost intuitively. For groups, the same holds true. Primarily this is the role of communications and marketing within the group. After all, it’s hard to network when you don’t know when they are holding the events. To that end, check to make sure you can use the group’s website and that it has the information you are going to need about upcoming programming. Do they have a newsletter? While you can do without one, it sure does help remind us when new opportunities are coming down the pike.

Visibility. Is the group a viable part of the community as a whole or does it tend to focus more inwardly? Both can be valid, depending on the group you are joining. A Chamber of Commerce should probably have ties to the region it serves. For a Web technology users group, the external community aspect isn’t nearly as important.

Welcoming. We’ve already talked about the importance of having new faces in the group. In order to encourage this, the group should know how to make guests feel welcome. A welcomed guest is far more likely to stick around and become a new member. Does the group have a formal welcoming committee? Are their people at events assigned to help newcomers feel more comfortable? Does the group follow up with guests to see how the group can further help them?

We’ve hit a lot of attributes so far (twenty-three of them!). Again, they aren’t all equally important, but each should be considered with respect to any group you might join. In fact, if you are dissatisfied with any of your current memberships, you may want to look at some of these concepts with respect to them. Maybe you can help pinpoint what is putting you off and then you can decide if you want to move along to a different group which fits you better, or roll up your sleeves and try to help the group find a new path.

Photo credit: Keith Tyler