2010/Organizing user groups, a panel discussion
User groups are a vital part of the open source community. Learn more about how to start a group, keep it going, and make an existing group better from a panel of experienced user group organizers.
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Contributed noteshttp://pdxgroups.pbworks.com/ - wiki of user groups
Introductions and tips: Introductions with tech question. Schedule talks way in advance. Get minions. There are never too few people to start a group. It helps to have somebody asking the obvious questions.
How to attract new and regular members: Calagator, upcoming. Drawing from other user groups. Local schools Google groups Announcements 2 weeks ahead, 1 week ahead, and 1 day ahead. Meeting announcements on Twitter. Business cards for your user group. Spread the word at conferences and to people you meet randomly. Index of topics for people who don't know what group covers what they want to know? Announcing other meetups at your meetings - cross-pollination. Link to Calagator search results from mailing list description.
Encouraging discussion and participation: Shorter talks. Encouraging ideas when people are a little hesitant. Wiki for organizing speaking slots. Encourage members to nominate others for talks. Write a big list of topics, pass it around and tell people to put there name next to an item. Then have each person say one thing about that topic. Show-and-tell. Emphasize that groups are a good place to practice speaking skills. Some people need more encouragement than others. Speaker prizes! Swag with your group's name on it or similar. Patch review parties. Discussions, as opposed to presentations, can encourage input that you would not get from other formats.
Group activities: Lots of structure. Make sure hacking environment is ready to go. Send instructions before the meeting for setting this up. Wrap-up - everybody presents on their thoughts after the hack session.