Some of you may be already running your DotNetNuke user group meetings. If that is the case, let this be a refresher or a guide. For the rest of us, this is meant as a reference to help you plan out your first meeting, or the ongoing logistics of future meetings. If you’re doing the right things, holding the meeting should be the least amount of work for a user group leader every month. It should begin to run itself…
Know the Venue Layout
Knowing your venue is important. Every meeting place will have attributes that you will have to describe and know before announcing and holding your meetings. For example, there may be multiple entrances that your members could enter. There might be multiple hallways, stairs, or elevators for them to take. There might be multiple meeting rooms with similar or same naming conventions. The worst is when more than one group of people are meeting at the same time. You need to expect and plan for these things.
Probably the easiest way to plan for these things is to have pre-made and re-usable signage to help point people in the right direct. The signage should have arrows on it to guide your attendees all the way up to the right door.
If you are meeting in a secure location that doesn’t allow anonymous people to enter on their own, make sure that you do one of the following:
- Have a Greeter – Place an attendee or volunteer at the door(s) to let people in. They should be there through any opening announcements to allow for stragglers to be let in.
- Give Out a Phone Number – Have a phone number for people to be able to text and/or call you to be let in. Most of us don’t want to have our private numbers displayed publicly, so services like Skype and Google Voice make this easy without costing money or compromising your privacy.
- Attach a Wireless Doorbell – I’ve see a wireless doorbell work quite well. They are battery-powered, low cost, and allow you to temporarily have a way for people to let you know when they’ve arrived without permanently altering the door way or giving away your personal information.
The last thing to remember in this area is to keep an eye open. You cannot expect your volunteers to stay at the front door for the entire meeting. Instead, it will normally fall on your shoulders as a leader of the user group to keep an eye out on the phone and doorway to help stragglers gain entry to the meeting after it has begun.
Assign Common Tasks
There are a great number of things that you could possibly do at one or more meetings. You should find a dependable volunteer to assign responsibility for any tasks that repeat from meeting to meeting. This is a great way to make someone feel like they are part of the group, they have ownership in the group, and ensure that they will continue to show up at as many meetings as possible. Informal leadership positions can change the dynamic in so many ways – and almost always for the better.
Here is a list of the most common things that you might need to consider assigning tasks to people:
- Greeter – As mentioned above, this person would let attendees into the building where the meeting is being held.
- Registration – If you keep track of who attended, this person would make sure that everyone signs in. If you’re doing any kind of raffle, they would likely hand out raffle tickets as well.
- Raffle – This person would do any of the following: call winning numbers, hand out prizes, record any required information for/from winners, report winners to sponsors as required.
- Announcements – Announce any news about DotNetNuke that had occurred over the past month, as well as any member-related announcements.
- Newsletters – Draft and send newsletters to known members of news and upcoming events.
- Manage Events – Depending on where and how many places you post your events, it might be great to have a person who posts your events in the various places for you.
- Post Session Information – Speakers usually have links, sites, slide decks, example code, and more that attendees would be interested in later. This person could coordinate with the presenter and post it to your website for you.
- Recruiter(s) – There are two different types of recruiters that you will want to have, and you can name them anything that you want. You need someone to continually recruit new speakers, and someone to recruit and communicate with sponsors.
There could be any number of other duties that might need to get done. These should just give you an idea. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to do something either. You’d be surprised at how many people really are willing to help if you ask them.
As a leader of the user group, it probably isn’t a good idea to do everything yourself. If for some reason you are no longer able to lead the user group as thoroughly as you were for any length of time, the people that were helping would generally be able to step up for you to make sure the meeting still took place.
The most important thing that you can do as a leader of a user group is to identify the various things that need to take place over the month, and assign those tasks to people as much as possible.
What to Bring
Along with hopefully bringing some attendees to your meeting, there are some must have items that you should consider, as well as some optional things depending on how your meeting is formatted and what kind of support you have.
- Pens & Paper – Sometimes you can get this donated as swag. People won’t always remember to bring their own materials to take notes. Sometimes accidentally, and other times they didn’t think that they would want to take notes.
- Technical Equipment – This could include projectors, power cords, a wireless router, LAN cables, web cam, and more. I am the type that likes the have a spare, just in case a piece of equipment goes bad. Of course all of these items depend on the format of your meeting, what your venue is able to support, and what resources you have. Many of these things could be purchased by a sponsor.
- Cameras – It really is a best practice to take some pictures and post them online. If you have the resources, recording the meeting is great too. These two things can really add some interaction and exposure to your user group before and after a meeting. It can even help during the meeting too if you’re updating Twitter and Facebook.
- Sign-In Sheet – It would be great if you could do this online using a laptop or tablet, but you will usually see a standard paper sign-in being used.
- Signs – This of course could be tasked out above, but know the number of signs you need to have and bring them. Ideally, they should be laminated or in sheet protectors to make them re-usable.
- Door Prizes – This of course depends on if you have sponsors or not. But bring the prizes if you’re going to give them away.
- Raffle Tickets – Raffle tickets are usually pretty cheap, but you only need them if you have something to give away. You can get an entire roll for about $3-5.
- Drinks – Ideally, you would have a sponsor bring the drinks, but otherwise, it’s a good idea to have some soda and water on-hand. I’ve always bought a small case of water for a meeting anyway. Lot of people prefer water, and most food that is delivered to a user group meeting doesn’t have the choice of water.
- Food – I wouldn’t suggest that you purchase food on your own. This could very quickly burn a hole in your budget in a way that you wouldn’t be happy about. Get this sponsored or don’t provide food. Though, if you have a disposable budget, feel free to donate some food. In the past, I’ve even gotten restaurants to sponsor food. All you have to do is ask.
If you end up being as thorough in your meeting format as possible, you might end up with too many things to carry into a meeting. This was certainly the case at the last user group I ran. In the event that this happens, a large plastic bin, a cooler with ice, and some bungee cables will become your best friends.
Hopefully, this blog post was able to identify some of the things you need to remember and do for your meetings – and maybe even give you a couple of new ideas!
This blog entry is cross-posted from my personal blog site.