How to start a user group

First off and very important

KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid!

I had several false starts with events that just became to complex, imploded and failed to happen. Learning from the mistakes, tried again but with a much smaller scope. I.e. No meeting rooms for 50 people or PA systems, etc

Step 1 – Round table group
System administrators are extremely keen to hear about what works and what should be avoided, both technology and companies. Try and get a group of about four people around a table to discuss the topics.

How?
Boss Get company/boss to agree if your company name will be involved
Location Either meeting room at your company or suitable local restaurant / bar
Date Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are easiest for most people
Time Late afternoon or evening if a social drinking event
Duration 2 hours; not too long if the group dynamic fails
Agenda Something to talk about and attract others to the group. As good to get the boss / company on side when selling your idea
Who Ask your account rep or support engineers for contacts and post invites on forums
Notice Set it 3 or 4 weeks in the future to give people chance attend

Early start
http://communities.netapp.com/thread/2063
http://communities.netapp.com/thread/4251

Step 2 – User group
After a couple of round table sessions, you should be ready to step up to user group level. As the group chair you are providing a service where the core deliverables are again what works or not but also how to make it better or more secure.

A round table format will not work in larger groups unless the facilitator (you) is very good, so use presentations. Speakers can be found by asking the vendor and resellers. If there are more than 10 customers in the room, both should be happy to help with resources and may help for smaller groups if the resources are local and available. Case studies are always very popular if you can get a customer to stand up and talk about their experiences with the product. Try it presentaing the case study yourself and then get someone else from the original round table to go next.

Start with a list of possible deliverables and then turn this into a draft agenda. Give the agenda to the speakers and they may be able to deliver it or suggest changes to improve it.

How?
Permission Get company/boss to agree if your company name will be involved
Location Meeting room which will holds the required number of people, has a projector and white board. If your or another round table group member's company has a studable room which you can use GREAT. These types of facilities are widely available on a commercial basis but how will they get paid for? The vendor or reseller may have some funds to help out so ask but if you have no track record as a users group, these will be limited.

Date Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are easiest for most people
Duration Either half or full day
Agenda Core to attendance, as it will be used attract delegates in the 1st place and enable them to get permission to attend. Needs to say what is happening when. Write detailed descriptions of the presentations and importantly who the speakers are.
Who Ask your account rep or support engineers for contacts and post invites on forums
Notice Set it 2 or 3 months in the future to give presenters time to prepare and book time. Send out the early invites and forum postings with general details and then try and build enthusiasm as the date gets closer by sending out more details and the full agenda.

Example
http://communities.netapp.com/thread/5021

Should we have after event fun stuff?
KISS – NO!!!!!!

The go-karting was the most stressfull part due to sorting out the money to pay for it.

However if you are feeling brave I have a thread here on possible activities.
http://communities.netapp.com/thread/5630

4 Responses to “How to start a user group”

  1. gravatar nova88

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