How to Start a User Group

1. Don’t, it is a lot of work!

a) Look for existing User Groups (UG) in your area. Even if they are not what you looking for (Developer, IT Pro, SQL, *nix, Apple, etc.). Contact them to see if they know of a groups in your area.

b) Contact other User Groups that are not within your area and ask them if they know of any UG in your area.

c) Ask your MS Technical Account Manager (TAM), what UG exist in your area.

2. Start a Study Group (SG) (2-60 member)

Once you have determine that there is no user group in your area, start a study group.

a) Determine which exam you would like to do for yourself.

b) Determine the rough cost

    • Book $65
    • Exam $125
    • Party $10; yes a party!
    • Extras ??? (awards; snacks; etc.)
    • Remember the SG is not TRAINING, members should have some experience with the product already and are looking to get certified.

c) Determine rough Schedule (maximum 16 weeks, any long and people start to lose interest, but not too short < 8, otherwise if people miss one session they tend to drop out of the rest SG )

d) Contact all UG and ask them to have people interested in join a study group contact you.

e) Tell your TAM that you are creating a SG. Ask them to spread the word.

f) Cap the SG at max 20 people, anything more is just too hard to manage.

g) Find a location to host the event

    • Training centers (CPLS)
    • Your office boardroom
    • Library
    • Etc.

h) Split the group into 3-4 teams

    • Elect a team leaders
    • The team leader is responsible to ensure that their team is ready for their respect week’s material. (~3rd week)

i) Have each team write and present summaries of each section they are responsible for.

j) Insist that all members help with the group and all of them present to the group.

k) Try to find a MCT to help with the final review/ preparation for the exam

l) Have a close out party

    • Invite all members
    • Invite who ever agree to let you host the SG
    • Invite local MS technical audience team
    • Give a plaque to the person that passed the exam first.
    • Give a plaque to the meeting place as a ”Thank you”; This will go along to getting you into their good books and maybe they will agree to let you doing it again.
    • Give a plaque to the MCT / person who helped out with the exam review
    • Give a plaque to team leaders
    • Pay for snacks

m) Repeat for the next exam (keep it to no more that 3 exams per year.)

3. Start a Special Interest Group (SIG) (30 – 300 members with 20 regular/key members)

Now that you have a core group of people that have work together for a while, this is the time to move to the SIG. The reason for a SIG are clear, UG are allot of work! An established UG can help out with things like they already have:

a) All ready have a base of users to draw from for event

b) All ready have a web site with maybe:

  • Forums
  • Mailing list
  • Blogs

c) Usually they already have a meeting place setup, that you might be able to use.

d) You will be able to leverage the existing UG knowledge and resources such as:

    • Contacts (MS, Training Centers, Sponsors)
    • Other Events / UG / SIGs
    • Marketing (yes everyone needs to think about marketing)
    • Privacy statement
    • Access to ClicktoAttend.com

e) Set a meeting date to create the SIG

f) Ask the UG for an email address used for contacting the SIG

g) Ask the UG announce in their newsletter / RSS / forums the creation of the SIG & the first meeting.

h) Create an executive board

    • Give all Exec titles (don’t underestimate this! This allow them to put it on their resume, thereby making them more willing to help out more)
    • Get all Exec committee business cards

4. Once the SIG is going

a) First event

b) Ask the UG what they typically do at an event, what you need for an event and how many people they generally get for an event.

c) Ask to host one event. (60+ day away) This allows for time to set things up and the get the word out about the event.

d) Ask EVERY to see if you can get money to host an event. (door prize / food / etc.)

    • MS marketing groups
    • MS technical audience team
    • Local contracting firms
    • Training centers
    • Etc.

e) Select a topic

    • Avoid sales pitches!
    • Avoid marketing stuff

I’m sorry to say but no one want to see market and sale pitch stuff. If they did then they would call the vendor themselves!

f) Find an presenter

    • TAMs
    • Local contractors
    • MCT
    • MVPs
    • Yourself!

g) Market the event!

h) Create evaluation forms for the event

    • Ask what the next topic for the SIG should be

i) Get a domain name and point it to your space on the UGs website (www.70-400.com)

J) After the first event ask the UG if you can host one – three events a year

k) Arrange to have some of the SIG executives on the UG executive board!

l) After a while get your own bank account, make sure that you pay your fair share of UG costs

    • Website
    • Close out party
    • Your event costs
    • Etc.

m) Don’t forget to keep the Study group going! This helps everyone.

n) Partner with as many UGs as your can!

5. Start a user group (UG)(100+ members, with 40+ regular/key members)

Now that you have a strong base, This is where you need to start working on truly formalizing the group. This is also the place where the UG is likely to fail! Until now it was mostly run by a few people maybe even one person. The key task here is to help the UG grow and work on what happens if one or two of the key members (Executive Board) can no long continue working to help the User Group.

a) Expand the UG Exec Board (12-20 people)

b) Get UG member to help out with event and offload as much as possible so that no one person will bring the UG down if they stop helping out.

c) Talk to the original UG, work out details so that neither group fails when the new UG spins off

    • Make sure that event date don’t overlap
    • Try to work with them on common dates UG1 on 1st Thursday of the month, UG2 on 3rd Thursday of the month

d) Arrange for joint close of season party with all UGs. Many members will belong to more than one UG.

A strong user group is one that serves the IT community at all technical levels and will survey the lost and any one key member. Remember these are guidelines there are no hard and fast rules. As the famous MS saying goes “Your mileage will vary”.

Above all else, Have Fun! When any of this seem like work, this is when it will fail.

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