This post is a part of a series I wanted to do on simple user group management tips.
When you visit a user group, the person standing at the computer is most likely not being paid. In fact, a large majority of the technical speaker circuit is filled with unpaid speakers. Not only that, the speaker might incur costs just for having come out.
What costs would a speaker have?
Let's imagine someone is driving ~4-8 hours round trip to visit a user group. This will include one or two tanks of gas, depending on the type of vehicle you're driving.
If I'm driving more than 4 hours in one direction to visit a user group, I probably want to get a hotel for the night.
- Lost wages
Odds are if I'm driving to a user group, I need to take the afternoon off work. This means I'm burning PTO or (if you're like me), you're not billing time.
Organizations like INETA have programs to help offset the costs of for speakers. For example, if I were to travel over 360 miles, INETA will reimburse me $200 for the trip. That's pretty good and covers most of my costs of speaking.
How can the user group help?
I understand that asking you to cover speaker costs is a huge thing. So I'm not going to do that. Still assume that speakers will come of their own freewill and will cover their own costs.
Consider this: Your goal as a user group leader is to promote the local technology scene. You want to attract people to show up and learn, but you also want to attract great speakers!
A couple months ago, our user group started a process of giving out speaker gifts. We don't promote it ("HEY EVERYONE! LOOK AT US GIVING A SPEAKER GIFT!"). Instead, the speaker loves the thought behind the gift and keeps us in mind for a return visit in the future.
These speakers will then talk about you to their speaker friends. "Hey, those guys at the Hampton Roads .NET group are really cool. I definitely recommend getting on their calendar."
What kind of gift can we give?
We just give a $50 Amazon gift card in one of the fancy boxes. That's pretty good, and it's a cost we subsidize with sponsor money.
A couple months ago, I visited a group called GANG where they gave me a engraved metal mug. That was awesome, and it makes me definitely want to come back.
Why not start simple and give the speaker a thank you card signed by all the organizers and some of the attendees? Every little bit you can do makes a difference.