Will "the Mighty" Strohl

Keep Your User Group Events Up to Date

As part of one of my overall themes in my blog, I want to once again speak about user groups.  User Groups are excellent resources.  If you’re interested in any technology, like DotNetNuke as an example, then user groups can be an invaluable resource if you let them.  However, user groups wouldn’t exist without, among many other thins, meetings.

ODUG Meeting from back (in the front, you can barely make out Nik Kalyani in the black shirt, speaking)

Meeting Formats

In my opinion, user groups that have in-person meetings are the best types.  These groups and their individual members and attendees get a lot more value out of being able to shake hands with the person next to them, and talk to each other about what they do.  This often leads to many potential opportunities down the road.

The same thing goes for speakers.  While technologies like Live Meeting and GoToMeeting make it incredibly easy for a presenter to be in one place, while you’re in another, there is an extreme level of disconnect between the speaker and the attendee in several areas.  This post isn’t about those areas, but rather about the speaker.

Think about this though…  Without an events calendar, regular newsletter announcements, and an updated website, neither attendee or speaker would exist for your user group.  This is the primary function of the leaders of any user group – keep your members informed of events. 

Plan Your Meetings in Advance

Ask yourself this though, “How can an attendee or speaker plan to be at your meeting, if it gets constantly posted late, or you don’t have a forecast date for future meetings?”  That question might not be enough for you.

Imagine that a high-profile public speaker such as Joe Brinkman was coming to your city on a business (or pleasure) trip.  It’s not uncommon for talented speaker to look up the user groups in that area to see if they can drop in on a meeting – or even better, plan to present at that meeting.  If your meetings are not clearly visible on your website, then you are really doing yourself and the user group a disservice.

Your attendees are less volatile in nature in terms of showing up at a meeting, because they typically live closer to your meeting space.  However, if you don’t have a set schedule of when your meetings will take place, your attendee numbers will drop and/or never grow.  Only the most dedicated and passionate people will show up, but you need more than just those 2-5 people at your meetings.

Choosing Your Meeting Date Format

Always plan your meetings around a set time of the month.  My favorites are the 1st or 2nd Tuesday or Thursday of the month.  Never plan your meetings on Wednesdays, because you will compete with Church goers.  Never choose Mondays or Fridays or weekends, because people are more busy for various reasons on those days.  Also, try to avoid the last 2 weeks of the month, because there tend to be more rescheduling or cancellations throughout the year due to holidays.

Once you have the date format figured out, being setting those dates in your events calendar.  Even if the event speaker and topic aren’t finalized, this gives everyone an idea of when to be ready and plan for it.  This also puts pressure on everyone responsible for the logistics of the meeting itself, because they have a deadline.

Posting Your Meetings/Events

When you post your events, you need the maximum exposure possible to make sure that you informed the largest number of people in the broadest number of places possible.  This is not unlike marketing and advertising, and I spoke about this in a previous blog post.  However, it is worth mentioning again.

At the minimum, as a DotNetNuke user group, you should be posting your user group events to:

  • Your own website -  this is naturally the first place a new or existing member will look, if they already know you exist
  • Your own newsletters (2-4 a month) – once people register to be a member of your user group, you should send a regular newsletter to them to keep them updated on user group events and news
  • DotNetNuke User Group module – This allows anyone that has searched for your user group on the DNN site a way to instantly see your user group events. Additionally, your events get published on the DNN events calendar, and will get put into the DNN Community Newsletter that is sent out by the DotNetNuke Corporation.
  • User Group Support Services (UGSS) – This is a great resource for getting swag and managing some of your user group tasks, such as sponsors, speakers, events, newsletters, and more.
  • Community Megaphone – If you’re using UGSS, then this step is unnecessary.  But this is the most common place that techie-minded people in the US look for community events – especially experts that travel.
  • Your local .Net, SQL, and other user group calendars - Very often, your other local user groups will have no problem helping promote your meetings, unless they’re in a competing space or technology.
  • DNN Forums – The forums on the DNN site are a great way to post quick announcements such as your meetings.  Most people only come to the forums when they need help, so you never know who will see your last forum post – possibly gaining you 1 or more attendees each time you post an update about your user group.
  • Craigslist – I am not simply promoting Craigslist, but it has an area to announce meetings in your community, such as your user group meeting.  The principle is the same as with the forums.  You never know who will see it this time.

I certainly hope that I have given you enough information and inspiration to get your own user group event updated and posted.  This will help people like me show up at your user group the next time I am in town.

As an example, this is one of the many ways I was able to keep notable attendees and speakers coming to the ODUG, such as:  Joe Brinkman, Chris Hammond, Paul Scarlett, Mitch Sellers, and more.

Joe Brinkman and Will Strohl after the Tampa DNN UG meeting in January 2010
Joe Brinkman and I, admiring the bling on his Android phone 

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