When I introduce myself before I give a talk at a conference or a user group I mention I am a user group leader and very passionate about community. I happily receive questions from people starting new user groups or reviving old groups.
I wanted to share a recent response I sent to someone today who was asking for advice about their meetup group:
Congrats on jumping into the world of running a UG. A lot of this is “in my experience” so your milage may vary™
Some of the best advice I can offer is to don’t try to go too big right out of the gate. Pick a date/time and stick to it. Don’t get discouraged if attendance drops.. Don’t worry about sponsors and food unless that has already come pretty easily (IE you already have someone offering this). Alternative to providing food would be to meet in a bar/restaurant where people could order their own. Don’t worry about having conference level talks every month. You’ll burn yourself out really fast trying keep that pace.
Get a co-organizer / co-leader. Share the workload of finding speakers / venues. Always meet even if you haven’t prepared a topic. Even showing someone how you setup your environment can lead to big light bulb moments for others who may not realize a shortcut. (this goes both ways). Connect with other local groups (even if they’re not Laravel related). If there is an existing PHP UG there make sure you’re pairing up with them and not conflicting. Cross pollination can help get the word out and raise awareness. Encourage others to give talks, even if they’re short talks and without tons of preparation. User groups are the starting point for many conference speakers, nurture that potential talent even if they never speak outside of the local group. Make sure your local UG is connected to the larger user group community via Social Media, IRC, Slack, ETC.
Protecting your user group
Tons of people have all kinds of opinions about recruiters. Here in Memphis I know of about 5 that I trust and have vetted. These are the only ones I allow to interact without moderation to my user group because many in my group have had bad experiences with predatory recruiters. So be aware of how people feel about recruiters or sponsors in general. Remember your group is something you’ll want to protect and make people feel comfortable in. This goes for recruiters, sponsors, and any other party interested in speaking to / marketing to your audience.
Resources For you: (Where you can get support)
- Subscribe to the UG Admins mailing list: https://wiki.php.net/usergroups Lots of offers for UG come across here + good info about running a user group
- PHPUG Slack: http://murmuring-forest-7062.herokuapp.com
Resources for the User Group: (Where the user group can learn more about PHP / interact with the community)
- #phpc On Freenode: https://webchat.freenode.net/?channels=#phpc
- PHP The Right Way: http://www.phptherightway.com/
- php[architect] Magazine: https://www.phparch.com/
- PHP Mentoring: https://phpmentoring.org/
- NomadPHP: http://www.nomadphp.com/
- PHP Weekly: http://www.phpweekly.com/
Podcast Episodes regarding User Groups:
- It’s the booze talking: User Groups https://voicesoftheelephpant.com/2016/03/08/booze-talking-user-groups/
- PHP Roundtable “Running a Rockin’ User Group”: https://www.phproundtable.com/episode/running-a-rockin-php-user-group