The good thing about working in a city like Manchester is that there is an active digital community. This means that there are quite a few digital events as well as a number of communities and user groups. I have been going to (and even organising) local user groups for a while now and I always learn something or help someone out, but the groups are more than that.
I recently encountered an attitude (from more than one person) that made me think that the point of usergroup meetups was slightly lost on them. Essentially, I saw that people were taking one look at the agenda for a meetup and saying "oh, there is nothing on the agenda that interests me, so I won't be going".
I found this attitude slightly confusing. Meetups, for me at least, are only partially about the talk in question. I always find talks useful and interesting (even if they aren't relevant to my interests) but it's the talking and discussions afterwards that I usually get the most useful information.
When I was first getting into Drupal I managed to find out about the local Drupal usergroup called North West Drupal User Group (NWDUG). I went along to see if anyone had as much difficulty as I had in getting to grips with things. What I found was a group of enthusiastic and supportive people who spent the time showing me where to find out about things and how to get into doing things the Drupal way. They had all been in the same boat at one point and so were all willing to share their experiences to help me out.
The same enthusiasm can be found at PHPNW or the Manchester WordPress group; both of which I also attend and have found the communities at both to be very welcoming.
I now have the privilege of helping to run NWDUG with a couple of other people and we normally have one (informal) talk followed by discussions and talking about Drupal. We will quite often have the odd impromptu talk or lengthy discussion about what is going on in the Drupal world. On occasion we will even split into small groups to solve problems or talk about specific issues with people's Drupal sites. This is just what we did during the last meetup. Once the talk and group discussions were finished I was able to help someone with their server setup and impart a few hints about how to solve some problems on their Drupal installs. I think I accomplished more in ten minutes of talking than would be gained through hours of reading documentation. Whilst I was helping this one person out the same thing was going on in other areas of the room. This collaborative workspace of people sharing knowledge and experience was exactly why I attend all of these meetups and volunteer my time to the groups.
The essential message from all of this is that it is the community that counts. If you have a local user group promoting something that you work with or enjoy then I encourage you to attend. Alternatively, if you don't have any local user groups around you then why not set one up? A friend of mine recently set up a Drupal user group in Leeds because they were impressed by what we have going on in Manchester but couldn't always make it. All it takes is finding a venue and a couple of people who are interested in the same thing.