by Stuart Silverman
I just returned from the Region 5 14th Annual Spring Conference. I first need to
say that I am so proud of the FACUG Board of Directors and especially our new
President Marie Vesta. We worked as a TEAM and the results were quite evident.
All the participants both registrants and vendors gave extremely positive
feedback. The presentations were well above average; we tried out some new ideas
and took some risks. We relocated our Conference from the central part of the
state to a small town about a half hour drive north of Tampa on Florida’s West
Coast. We moved from the Kissimmee Civic Center to the Zephyrhills High School.
We raised the registration fee and we attracted about 50 more participants than
last year. We had 48 first timers. For the first time, we extended an invitation
to the entire Southeast Region; unfortunately for them no one took us up on our
offer. Perhaps they will rethink this and next year come to Florida and
experience a great event.
We scheduled two bonus sessions for the entire group,
yet still had time for 26 individual workshops and 5 Keynote meal sponsors.
Friday evening was traditionally a token event which many of our members felt
served little purpose. We served cheese and crackers and crudités as we had in
the past; however, this year we also had sandwiches that were delicious. Marie
Vesta wanted to make this a fun evening and we actually did have fun. “Doc”
Dockery made a most enjoyable and informative presentation and showed a video on
the direction of technology, to everyone’s amazement, he even wore a jacket and
tie. This was followed by a computerized technology Trivia Game by Dave Gerber.
Those who got a correct answer were able to make a selection from a grab bag of
wonderful prizes donated by Dave. Everyone left Friday evening with a good
feeling and eager to see what the rest of the weekend had in store. This set a
wonderful tone for the ensuing conference, as many of our registrants started
off with selecting some very nice prizes. In the process, we were able to turn
a drastically red bottom line to a very black bottom line.
The Lupton Food Service that catered our meals was so pleased by the feedback he
had been receiving the whole weekend, that they voluntarily upgraded our final
luncheon meal at no additional cost. We did not have the Keynote Presentations
in the same room that we ate in. The presenters did not have to complete with
clanging dishes and on going dinner conversations. After the meal, we adjourned
to what we referred to as the Stage Area just outside the food area. Our vendors
were generally quite pleased with the energy that was generated this year; in
fact, one of the vendors was so pleased with what he saw, that they offered to
sponsor our entire Fall Conference. What a wonderful direction to be moving in.
By taking calculated risks and trying many new concepts we discovered old ideas
are not necessarily the best ideas for today’s needs.
Jay Ferron, APCUG President, presented among other things, some new directions
APCUG is looking into, and made a very persuasive case for the new risks that
APCUG might be undertaking. He discussed rotating Regional Conferences around
the country, rather than sticking to Las Vegas. He spoke of new benefits of
membership such as the soon to be operational SharePoint sight where User Groups
can share all sorts of relevant information with each other. Another concept
presented was the convergence of technologies, and we need to look at expanding
our focus from being strictly a computer oriented organization to additional
computer related technologies, such as smart phones, PDA’s. MP3 players,
Digital photography groups etc. He spoke of the upgraded web hosting facilities
that should be operational shortly. Jay expressed the logic of groups working
together to make each of us stronger. He had quite a powerful message.
Sam Wexler and Tom Thiel presented at another bonus session regarding techniques
for doubling your clubs membership. This same presentation will be made at the
APCUG Leadership Development Conference in May 17 & 18 2008 in West Nyack NY.
Each and every vendor presentation was stimulating and interested their
I had been touting this as a not to be missed event. I am very happy to say that
we hit a grand slam. To top it all off we estimate that the 150 attendees of the
14th Annual Conference walked away with somewhere in the neighborhood of $80,000
worth of gifts. Trend-Micro provided a fully functional copy of their 2008
Internet Security Suite to each and every person who visited their vendor table.
This has a retail value of $7500. Then Microsoft came through in a big way. They
set up a lounge for the first time with 6 computers so participants could access
their email and they had extremely knowledgeable and competent technical
personnel to weave through to intrigues of Vista. They were also extremely
generous in providing product for the event. We had a door prize for each person
in addition to that which Dave Gerber donated from his former radio show. What a
way to conclude such an exciting, interesting, educational and stimulating
Eric Kamont from Microsoft
For more pictures and a description of the program, you can access the
www.facug.org website and see what it is we are talking about. Kudos to FACUG.
They had the courage to try many new concepts and swept the attendees off their