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Fall User Groups Have Arrived

Lauren Gilchrist
Lauren Gilchrist - Conference Connoisseur

Football season has kicked off, temperatures are dropping, and the kids are back in school. Yes, fall is upon us. And that means something else... It's user group season once again!

This article will cover what user groups are and where they are held. You might even find a few travel tips and fun activities to make the experience even more memorable for you and your newfound friends.


What is a User Group and Why Do I Care? 

If you use Skyward and you want to help yourself or your team get more out of it, user group conferences are the place for you. These conferences are held throughout the U.S. and are typically organized by existing Skyward customers on independent state Steering Committees. Each year, thousands of Skyward users attend them. Repeat attendees are the norm. Why? Because these conferences are really helpful and a lot of fun!
Here’s what you can expect at a Skyward user group:
Breakout sessions: Choose from a wide variety of sessions ranging from New Features in Skyward to discussions about ACA Compliance, Google Apps, and Positive Attendance.
Skyward staff: At user groups, you’ll have the opportunity to talk directly with the Skyward team – from product managers and solution consultants to our executive team. We’re all more than happy to give you advice, answer your questions, and talk with you about how we can help your district achieve success.
Networking opportunities: Whether you sit by someone new at lunch or talk to your neighbor before a session, user groups provide plenty of opportunities for meeting other K-12 professionals. We encourage you to make lasting connections by exchanging contact information. Your districts may be able to swap ideas and help each other out in the future.
Skyward partners: Most user groups are generously sponsored by Skyward’s partners. You can count on helpful representatives from these organizations to be on hand and at your service. Be sure to take a tour of the vendor booths and see all the opportunities you have to save money and integrate existing practices with your Skyward solution.
Delicious meals and just-because fun: Our Steering Committees recognize what elevates a conference from “helpful” to “fantastic” and “memorable.” We know you’ll enjoy the tasty food and fun activities, such as bowling or a photo booth, that each Steering Committee selects for its event. 


Is There a User Group Near Me?

Check out this year's "Fall 6" – if you don't see your state here, odds are your conference falls in the spring rotation. Keep an eye on the website for more details.


Skyward User Group of Minnesota (Oct. 7-9)

What to expect: You'll want to rest up on Wednesday night. Thursday's scheduled activities start at 7:30 in the morning and don't end until 11:00 that night. Sessions end at 4:30, leaving three hours for networking and dinner before a performance from The Johnny Holm Band caps off the evening.

Fast facts: If you have some free time on Wednesday or Friday in between travel, check out the wide variety of seasonal activities at the resort. If you want to get further off the beaten trail, head for one of the city's many lakes and learn why the city of Alexandria is billed as "easy to get to, hard to leave."

Click here to visit the official User Group website for registration and conference materials.

   Jam with the Johnny Holm Band on October 8!
   Photo courtesy of johnnyholm.com


WASWUG – Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana (Oct. 8-10)

The Davenport Grand Hotel – Spokane, WA

What to expect: WASWUG is presented by Skyward's longtime partner in the northwest, WSIPC, and they sure do know how to put on an exceptional event! Aside from being the largest gathering of school district staff in the state, WASWUG also boasts an impressive website and numerous fun-filled activities (look for the Secret Agent Recruitment Social and the Skyward Royale casino event this year). 

Travel tip: If you're flying to the conference, Alaska Airlines is offering a 7% discount! Book your flight online and use the code ECMW191 to save. 

Fast facts: You're sure to enjoy the beautiful 15-story hotel, which just opened its doors this summer after two years of construction. It's ideally situated near Riverfront Park, Spokane's number one attraction, and the Spokane River. If you have any time to look around while you're here, there's no shortage of destinations to explore.

Click here to visit the official User Group website for registration and conference materials.



TSUG – Texas Skyward User Group (Oct. 12-14)

What to expect: This year's keynote speaker is Anne Barab, a best-selling author and positive psychology speaker who has presented in 44 states and six countries. She'll get things started with some motivation on how to improve individual and team performance. As if that wasn't enough, the Steering Committee has also promised free "fun, food, and prizes" on Tuesday night!

Fast facts: The setting in Frisco is ideal for sports fans. Some of you may even get a field-view of Dr. Pepper Ballpark, home of the Frisco Roughriders minor league baseball team, right from your room! The hotel is just minutes from Toyota Stadium, home of the FC Dallas Major League Soccer team. If sports aren't your thing, you're sure to appreciate the close proximity of Frisco's many restaurants and shops.

Click here to visit the official User Group website for registration and conference materials.

    If you're lucky, this could be the view from your room!
    Photo courtesy of hilton.com

Wisconsin Skyward User Group – Fall Conference (Oct. 19-20)

Kalahari Resort – Wisconsin Dells, WI

What to expect: I had the pleasure of attending Wisconsin's Spring conference and got to see firsthand how much excitement was fit into Day 1 alone. Check out my blog post for an on-the-scene look at the experience. If you're attending for the first time, there's no need to feel intimidated. The WI Steering Committee is offering a free new-user session to teach you about the conference and give you advice on which presentations to attend. You can also look forward to a "hands-on" session, where you can BYOD and try out the tips and tricks you've learned.

Fast facts: There are hippos and giraffes in the hallway. Enough said... 

Seriously, though – there's no shortage of fun at this African-themed resort. Hippos and giraffes populate the hallways. The water and theme park are prime places for you to prove you're young at heart. If your speed is more low-key, chill at the swim-up bar or use your free time to check out the Wisconsin Dells restaurants and outlet stores. 

Click here to visit the official User Group website for registration and conference materials.

   Wisconsin user group attendees always enjoy
   the opportunity to be more brilliant.


Illinois Skyward Connection User Group (Oct. 26-27)

Peoria Civic Center – Peoria, IL

What to expect: In honor of the state's 25th conference, the Illinois Steering Committee has promised to make this a "very memorable event" that you won't want to miss. With almost 600 people in attendance, the 2014 conference was one of the largest in the country.

Did you know? Every district that's a member of the Illinois Skyward User Group is entitled to one free registration and voting rights at the Annual Business Meeting (scheduled for Tuesday during the conference this year).

Fast facts: For all you history buffs out there, the Civic Center – home to over 500 events every year – sits on the same location as a former stop on the Underground Railroad, the Jefferson Hotel. If that's not enough to capture your interest, you'll also find a zoo, boat tours, parks, and museums – all within Peoria's boundaries. 

Click here to visit the official User Group website for registration and conference materials.

       A former stop on the Underground
       Photo courtesy of peoriacountyillinois.info


Michigan Skyward User Group (Nov. 3-4)

What to expect: The Steering Committee is excited to offer over 100 sessions this year, plus a Tuesday evening to remember – Hospitality Hour immediately following the final session and a Mixer Event to take you up to 9:00 PM. On Wednesday, you'll have a chance to take in four more valuable sessions before the conference closes with a door prize drawing at 12:45.

Travel tip: If you'll be flying in for the conference, the Double Tree Hotel offers a free shuttle service to and from the airport.

Fast facts: The hotel is located on the banks of the Saginaw River, just steps away from the Riverwalk – a path that can take you and your new friends to downtown Bay City, where you can enjoy over 120 unique specialty shops and a plethora of wining and dining options. 

Click here to visit the official User Group website for registration and conference materials.

     The Saginaw River and Hudson Bay form a
     picturesque backdrop.
     Photo courtesy of michigan.org

We look forward to seeing you at an upcoming user group! If you have any questions about attending or want more information on the next conference in your area, don't hesitate to reach out to your state's Steering Committee or contact us today!



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