One of the great things that goes on here at TechEd is the concept of Birds of a Feather sessions, where people with similar interests can get together and discuss a topic. Last night I went along to BOF55 (yes, there are over 50 such sessions, one of my favourites is titled "Geeks with ADD: It's an Advantage!").
The format of the session was a panel-led discussion with representatives from INETA and CULMINUS, as well as our very own Regional Director (and highly relevant author), Greg Low. There was some great discussion around marketing, sponsors and venues, re-energising committees and more, but the thing that seemed to be closest to home for me was the question of starting a new user group.
This is something I get asked a lot. Greg led the discussion on this topic and shared his (very successful) formula for new leaders - personal contact. It's much more likely that people will come and, more importantly, come back if they feel like they're part of a community. Take time to learn peoples' names, assign members of the community to be door greeters to take new attendees under their wing and introduce them to others. Reply individually to RSVP emails. All of these things build a sense of belonging and identity and mean that your group has a much higher chance of success.
In addition to this very important ingredient, I'd add my own 3 key factors at the beginning of a group:
We'll be running this session some time during TechEd on the Gold Coast in August, so if you're there, be sure to keep an eye out for it.
Fabulous idea, sign me up Coatsy - I'll be there with bells on!