I’m a long-time believer in users groups. I gain so much knowledge, not only learning Xojo, but learning other related technologies as well such as communications, database issues, security, etc.
Here’s some tips, not in any particular order:
- Try to find Free meeting space. Yes, this is a tough requirement. Sometimes a company will be a “sponsor” and allow you to meet in their conference room. We haven’t been that lucky. We meet at a restaurant that fits the bill. More details below.
- Private meeting room. We’ve met at some restaurants that were too loud. This one (unfortunately for them?) is quiet.
- Central location. Atlanta is huge and people come from all over. Two of our attendees come from Tennessee. A central location is a must, as we learned the hard way.
- Reasonably priced food. Developers aren’t all rolling in the money. I’m one of those low rent kinda developers.
- Variety of food. Vegetarians can be anyone and anywhere. It’s worth being sensitive to their needs. Yes, even a BBQ house can have something on their menu for anyone.
- Power. Curiously, computers need power. I typically bring extension cords and power strips not only for the presenter, but for the attendees too. It’s surprisingly hard to find outlets in the dining area of restaurants.
- Internet access. A luxury but a nice one. The restaurant we use allows us onto their Internet. Some people will hesitate to attend if Internet access isn’t available. It’s easy nowadays that people have phones that can act as hot-spots, but a high speed Internet access is always more stable with better speeds.
- Free/good/safe parking. A must for me. It burns me to pay for parking. This rules out most of downtown Atlanta, unfortunately. Many times the “parking lot talks” are of as much technical and business value as the presentation.
- Projector. Some locations have a Flat Screen TV that we use as a monitor. At times we have borrowed someones projector. Most of the time, I just bring a monitor. They’re light, reasonably priced, and fit on the table. Our group is small and everyone seems to be able to see the monitor just fine.
- Be ready to start small. For a several of our first meetings, it was just me and another developer. Even after all this time, we’ve grown to about 5-7 people on a good month.
- Publish your topics ahead of time. I need to do better with this. Publish your topics months ahead so people on the fence need to say “Yeah, I really need to go to May’s meeting. I need to learn more about that topic.”
- Be ready to prepare all of the presentations. They don’t need to be fancy but when you are getting started, you’re going to be doing the presentations.
- When your attendees talk about their experience say “That sounds like that would make a great topic. Would you be willing to make a presentation on that next month or the month after that?” Even if it isn’t about Xojo, it can be about a related technology.
- Let Xojo and Monkeybread Software help get the word out. Both have offered to do a mailing to their customers.
- Use the forums to post in the events area.
- Consider getting a website. Meet-up is expensive but instantaneously gets the word out to area people. We didn’t go that way. One of our members donates the website space and we run a WordPress based web site with an email plugin that allows us to email our members.
- Email your members! I send out a notice a week ahead, and then another email the day of the meeting. Yes, people forget and forget often.
- BE CONSISTENT! This one is key. Hold your meeting every month. We meet on the second Monday. Partly because this is a slow day for the restaurant. We meet each and every month. Be prepared to hold a meeting, each month, for an entire year. Be prepared to dine alone if no one shows up. That’s okay. Xojo is a small community and it takes time to grow the trust and value of a users group.
There’s some tips on how to start a Xojo users group. Xojo as a company can only do so much in getting the word out about Xojo as a development tool. It’s good for us as a community and good for us as individuals to spread the word about Xojo as a cross-platform development tool for Windows, Mac, Linux, Web and now iOS!