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New user group checklist

Page history last edited by Igal Koshevoy 10 years, 10 months ago

Tips from Igal Koshevoy on how to start a new user group or make the one you already have better. Some items are specific to Portland, Oregon (e.g Calagator) but it's a good summary of the initial admin work needed.


  1. Preparations 
    1. Ensure that there isn't already another group in your region with the same or similar topic. Creating a competing group can make you look bad and cause conflict. Try hard to participate and improve the existing group before deciding to fork the community.
    2. Find co-founders through your contacts. Seek out a handful of people that are both enthusiastic about starting a group and willing to put in the effort to make it happen. Although you can do this on your own, having others involved will really increase your chances of success and happiness. At the very least, you'll want someone else to be able to organize and run a meeting if you're sick, busy, etc.
  2. Foundations
    1. Come up with a descriptive name for your group, e.g., "Portland Functional Programming Study Group"
    2. Come up with a short, easy to say nickname, e.g., "pdxfunc"
    3. Setup a mailing list, e.g., Google Groups
    4. Setup a Twitter account, e.g. @pdxfunc
    5. Register a domain, e.g., "pdxfunc.org"
    6. Add your group to regional directories, e.g. http://ePDX.org in Portland
    7. Setup a simple website, e.g., WordPress, DokuWiki, etc
    8. List the following information prominently on your website:
      1. Name of group
      2. Nickname of group
      3. What the group is about in a sentence or two
      4. Link to group's mailing list
      5. When usually meets (e.g., "Xth Monday of the month")
      6. When and where the next meeting is and link it to a calendar entry on Calagator or Upcoming
    9. Distribute privileges so multiple organizers of group can manage the site and list
    10. Pick a day to meet, e.g., find a night with few collisions by using Calagator review past months
  3. First meeting 
    1. Arrange a venue, seating, projector, signage to the room, etc. for your meeting.
    2. Find at least one speaker and topic for the first meeting so you have something to rally around, use your contacts or do the presentation yourself.  
    3. Come up with a short PR piece introducing the group, how to get more info, when it will meet, and what your next meeting is about. Pass this PR text to other user group leaders, or post directly to their mailing lists if you know that they'd be okay with this. If you have a local user group leader's mailing list, like http://groups.google.com/group/pdxgroups in Portland, post it there too. You may want to consider passing along your announcement to local tech industry journalists, e.g., Rick Turoczy at the Silicon Florist.
    4. Talk to everyone you know that's even vaguely interested in the topic about this new group. Encourage other enthusiasts to do so as well.
  4. Run the meeting 
    1. Assign a person to act as the master of ceremonies (MC) for the meeting.
    2. The MC should announce the beginning of the meeting, remind people what the group is about, encourage people to participate in the meeting by raising hands or politely interrupting to add comments and ask questions, mention other events of interest, list this meeting's agenda, introduce speakers, assist speakers with technical issues, ask people to speak up or clarify, etc. 
    3. At the end of the meeting, the MC should thank the speakers and everyone for participating, and invite those interested in hanging to a nearby eating and drinking establishment to continue the discussion. 
    4. The MC must be committed to providing a safe, welcoming event for all attendees. If someone is doing something inappropriate or disruptive, the MC must immediately deal with it because they're perceived as the representative and authority figure.
  5. Ongoing 
    1. Make sure someone's assigned to regularly send out meeting reminders. Post events to Calagator or other calendar events sites at least a month in advance. Post a reminder to the mailing list a week before the meeting and on the day of. Post a Twitter reminder on the day of the meeting. 
    2. Meetings with some pre-announced topics are always better attended and easier to publicize than those without. Sometimes you can get volunteers by just spending a few minutes at the end of your meeting asking attendees for topics they'd like to hear more about or present on.
    3. Meet regularly, regardless of whether you have a presentation lined up. it. As long as as some people show up for your meeting, you can get a discussion going and have interesting, meaningful content -- this is the unconference principle applied to a meeting. This works great, but requires an MC or other person that knows enough about the topic to start the conversation, keep it going, and encourage people to talk, share, clarify, ask questions and such. Do not have a "should we meet up tomorrow?" discussion on your mailing list because it's discourages participation, just commit to having the meetings.
    4. Post meeting notes or videos to a well-organized section of your website. This will help people find them and encourages them to attend meetings. Please be aware that it's difficult to run a meeting AND take notes or run a video camera at the same time, so try to get another volunteer to do this.  
  6. Have fun!


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