On January 12, 2010, the Hampton Roads .NET Users Group will celebrate its first anniversary. Running a user group is a huge undertaking, but the rewards are priceless. I’ve met dozens of new people, many of whom I interact with on a weekly basis. We’ve had 12 awesome speakers come visit us. With the turn of the new year, I think it’s time to take HRNUG to the next level (or the next version).
Here’s a list of my plans for HRNUG Version 2.0:
Some time in January, we will be releasing a new website. The current basic template is nice, and it’s served its purpose. However, I feel that HRNUG should really have a top notch web site. In order to fulfill this, I’ve been working on a Silverlight version of HRNUG. It will include several new features, most of which you’ll have to wait for the release to see. My hope is to release the new site in January.
Currently, we have a single email address for HRNUG, and it ends in a @gmail.com. That’s not providing the level of professionalism that I would like HRNUG to express. A few weeks ago, I registered HRNUG with Microsoft Live Domains. All email will now come from our domain. This will help prevent emails from going into spam filters. Additionally, I can now have a email address for our newsletter and job offers.
We’re going to be updating our process for RSVPing to HRNUG. RSVPing is an important aspect of a user group meeting. Our sponsors pay for food and drinks for all the attendees. However, if they don’t know how many people are coming, it’s possible that food could run out before the people do. As a courtesy, we ask members to RSVP for the meeting.
Our current solution, ClickToAttend, has one flaw. Users are required to have a Microsoft Live account. I discovered that not everyone has a Live account, nor has the ambition to register for one. Because of this, we miss out one several RSVPs.
The new system will be integrated into web site. Users can either RSVP from the main page, or directly from the Newsletter. We’re hoping that this will entice people to RSVP early. Sometimes that lack of food isn’t enough.
HRNUG has some great sponsors, and we’re looking to obtain more. The current website was not designed to show off our sponsors. In HRNUG v2.0, I’d like to make the sponsors stick out some. I’m hoping that this will help us bring on more sponsors, but show existing sponsors that we really appreciate everything that they do for us.
The largest hurdle for HRNUG will be growth. My goal for the group is for it to grow more and more. In order to do this, we need to get creative with ways to get users to the meetings. Majority of our users are repeat attendees. I would like to see a high percentage of new members. This can only be done by introducing the group to people that haven’t heard of it. Starting in January, we’re going to start a SWAG enticement program. If you bring a friend or coworker, we’ll give you a ticket for a big prize. Additionally, we’re going to start giving away larger SWAG items when attendance is over 25 people a month.
I’m curious to hear other people’s suggestions for growing a user group. Let me know in the comments!