Read Part I and Part II!
One of my favorite activities is running the Hampton Roads .NET Users Group. I meet a lot of great people, and I have a chance to interact with them on a monthly basis. I’m blessed to have access to some of the best speakers available to me.
I have a goal of taking this user group to the next level. We just had our 7th meeting a few weeks ago, and I’m seeing a trend of attendee’s starting to occur. Our first meeting was an anomaly. We had roughly 40 attendees. I had prepared myself for this, and accepted that it would not be the norm. Our meetings from then on varied between 15-25 people per month. However, I am discovering that this number is growing month to month. Not by leaps and bounds, but by one person at a time. One month I would have 19 attendees, then 20, then 22, and then 25. People are progressively coming back to the group.
So how do we take this to the next level? Well first, I need to start working on building the “Hampton Roads .NET Users Group” brand. Right now, I tell people that aren’t from our area that I run HRNUG, and they say, “oh I didn’t know you had a group.” I would love for HRNUG to become a household name in the developer community. When I go to a developer event outside of my region, and I say I’m involved with HRNUG, the reaction I want to hear is: “I’ve heard that your group is awesome.”
So what’s the first step in building the brand. I see it was the website. When you currently go to http://www.hrnug.org, you’re welcomed by our logo and some static text describing the group and our next meeting. While this is “good enough”, I believe that it presents a poor image of the group. That’s 100% my fault, because I haven’t put the time or resources towards improving the site. What’s the solution? I’m in the process of designing and rebuilding a new HRNUG website which will run on Silverlight 3. The backend will be completely data-driven so that we can retain past meeting information, future meeting information, and special event information easier. Currently, I would have to retain all the information by hand. That’s what databases are for!
Next, we have an important event coming up in September. The MSDN Mid-Atlantic Roadshow is coming to our area. This is a great opportunity to get the user group name out to people who’ve never heard of it. I’m working with a graphic designer friend of mine to prepare pamphlets and posters for HRNUG. I can then pass these out at the Roadshow, and hopefully expose more people to the group. I’d also like to launch the new website at this time.
Thirdly, I need to help HRNUG go to the next level by sponsoring a developer event of our own. I’ve been speaking with members of the group, and we’re discussing the probability of doing a Give Camp in our area. A Give Camp is a 48-hour developer event (that’s consecutive), where developers, graphic designers, and other IT professors come together in order to provide our services to non-profit organizations (who would typically not have the budget for these projects). Some might need web sites redesigned, while other might need a building set up for wireless internet.
Other possibilities include Code Camps. Our good friends in Richmond and Raleigh each host their own code camp, and are within driving distance. If we were to do one, it would most likely be during the summer, or in middle of the “no code camp season”. I wouldn’t consider that an option until the member-base for HRNUG was considerably higher.
Lastly, I want to try to promote more local involvement in HRNUG. We have an awesome user base, with a variety of talents. I’d like to see some of that talent be exposed for the rest of our members to take advantage of. I gave my first presentation at the group back in February. In fact, it was my first presentation ever. I’ve learned a lot about speaking over the year. If I could possibly mentor someone into becoming a community speaker, at least at the user group level, that would be awesome for me.
Keep your eye on HRNUG. Great things are going to happen!