Online community is essential to the success of the eZ Community, but it is not the only way to share ideas, innovation and interesting lessons learned. User groups are a powerful way to share experiences with peers and learn more about delivering leading edge web and mobile content applications.
Who Can Organize a User Group Meeting?
Any member of the eZ Community – partner or individual contributor – is welcome to start a group in a region or city where none exists.
Encourage organizers and attendees to blog about the event, tweet, promote through social media, email lists, relevant discussion groups/forums
Ensure any organizations who provide facilities, money or refreshments are highlighted in communication as thank you for their support.
Cross-promote to other technical user groups – Developers, php, web designers, etc.
Use word-of-mouth – invite colleagues, prospects, other interested web professionals, developers, students, digital marketers. Local and personal network communication is very effective.
Encourage everyone to bring a friend or colleague.
At the Event - Preparation Before Arrival
Have simple name badges for registered guests. Have attendee sign-in sheets to confirm attendance, and track walk-in attendees for future contact lists.
Be able to take payment (if requested) at the door for last minute attendees. Have a receipt book for cash payment, laptop for electronic registration.
Provide simple refreshments such as coffee, tea, cold drinks. Make a sign thanking sponsors who provide food/drinks.
Test the projectors, microphones, wifi, Ustream, video, laptops in advance to ensure prompt start time.
Designate a host to introduce speakers, keep to schedule, announce next meeting
At the Event - During Event
Encourage attendees to tweet interesting thoughts and use a consistent hashtag such as #eZCommunity or specific to your user group name
Encourage attendees to take notes and blog about event highlights, sharing ideas, photos, etc.
Ensure everyone knows where to sign up for barcamp topics, find refreshments, find presentation rooms, wifi ID/password, when to ask questions - typical housekeeping items as part of welcome by the host
Tell attendees where slides or videos will be posted later (eZ Community site, Slideshare, Youtube, blogs, etc)
Announce next event dates, location, topics if known
For new groups, it is helpful to survey the group to know preferred locations, time of day, topics of interest for future events.
Simple paper evaluation form/survey in person
or, online survey as followup. Example: Surveymonkey.com or a Google Doc Survey template
After the Event
Send thank you emails to all registrants and remind them of next event location/date.
Include interested parties who were not able to attend in order to promote next event.
Include links to any interesting blog posts, slides, Youtube videos about the event.
Ask for volunteers to help plan future events, present a talk or suggest an idea
A user group that has had a couple of successful meetings may choose to seek sponsors from vendors, integrators, consulting companies in order to increase their planning budget and help companies supportive of the eZ local Community.
Why Seek Sponsor Money
Better quality facilities (premium rooms, larger spaces, better food/drinks, wifi, AV equipment, professional on-site IT help)
Out of town Experts as Guest Speakers
Able to pay part or all of travel expense to get top notch speakers
Lower costs for user group attendees
Offer lower registration costs, or remove entirely
Be able to sponsor charitable programs - donations to tech education, fund-raise for good causes, send a student to a conference
What Sponsors May Expect
Logos on slides, email blasts, other collateral related to the user group
Mention or thank you at the event
Ability to pass out business cards, collateral, gifts
Speak or do a demo at event
Access to mailing lists or names - make it clear if your group is willing to allow this or not, often for marketing purposes.
Create a clear and simple sponsorship program so the expectations are easy to understand and acceptable to all parties.