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VSDA To Create SIGs and E-Chapters

6 Feb, 2002 By: Kurt Indvik

The Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) announced this week it will create "Electronic Chapters" and "Shared Interest Groups" (SIGs) as new member networking resources to go along with the existing 34 regional chapters.

In addition to new member networking services, the VSDA has announced a series of 11 daylong road show educational/networking events will be held throughout the U.S. beginning in late March. These events, along with five planned "retreat" programs, modeled on the New England and Monterey retreats held last year, will be held in conjunction with local chapters and other SIGs.

The new networking program, dubbed "No Boundaries," was created by the association's Chapter Advisory Committee to use new technology and "out-of-the-box" approaches to enhancing opportunities for VSDA's 1,700 members to network and work with each other on common issues, be they regional or broader. A document explaining the new program has been sent out to all chapter leaders this week.

"The members of the committee are very excited about this program and the initial feedback we have gotten so far has been very good," said Mark Fisher, VP of Membership.

The VSDA's Web site will have the enabling technology to serve these groups by early April. The system will allow a SIG or E-Chapter (or a regional chapter, for that matter) to host a section of the site with enhanced functionalities such as discussion boards, online conferencing or storage of documents such as minutes.

E-Chapters will be created for VSDA members who are either not within a region served by an existing chapter, or who are too far away to take advantage of any face-to-face meetings of a traditional chapter. An E-Chapter could be developed to serve members in a state, or a region of the country, said Fisher, or may just encompass members across the country unserved by a chapter.

"We're going to be flexible going into this and let members decide how they want to use these services," Fisher said. There was some concern that E-Chapters might compete with existing chapters, said Fisher, but he added that "I think that's more a fear of the unknown. I don't see any way this will weaken the way we serve our members with networking opportunities." In fact, Fisher added, E-Chapters that grow significantly may choose to become traditional chapters.

SIGs may be set up to serve retailers interested in a particular issues or revenues streams, that belong to a particular retail category such as supermarkets, or established even temporarily to produce and manage a regional event. VSDA members can join as many SIGs as they choose. Members interested in forming a SIG will submit an application and budget to the VSDA's Chapter Advisory Committee for review. They must be consistent with and support the mission of the VSDA.

The VSDA will offer financial support to those approved SIGs, based on submitted budgets, for some face-to-face meetings or conference calls. It's expected most of these will meet electronically, so costs should be minimal. SIG members may be asked to make an effort to raise funds to help support their meeting costs.

According to the VSDA, it has been facing challenges in recent years with its chapter system and instituted in 2000 a program called "onTarget" to help make its chapters more relevant and valuable for members. Those that could not meet minimum organizational and activity level requirements are subject to being closed. Since the program began, eight chapters have been closed.

Less than 50 percent of VSDA members actually attended a local chapter meeting in 2001, Fisher said. Thus VSDA managers hope implementation of E-Chapters and SIGs will enable these members to participate more fully in the association. Chapters will continue to be expected to meet minimal requirements to maintain their status.

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