by Mike Nelson, CTA, CUGC Leader
So you want to start a Citrix User Group? Starting the group may seem a bit daunting, but that’s why we’re here to help. I have been a User Group Leader for over 6 years and some bits of wisdom I’d like to pass along, if you’re interested. I hope that these simple tips will help you on your voyage to creating a successful, engaging, and most importantly, FUN user group!
This will be a two part posting, with us focusing on the group and its membership first, and then moving on to sponsorships, venues, and marketing.
The Group and Its Members –
- Listen to your membership! This cannot be stressed enough as your members are the core existence of your user group. Without them, you will have no group. Talk with them, handout or email surveys periodically; ask them what they think about everything. Now, there are some comments and suggestions that well, just don’t fit or may be considered a one-off depending on the person saying it, but still, take that information, learn and grow from it.
- Lay down some guidelines. Every group should have a set of guidelines. They should not be “rules” or “policies,” but rather unwritten guides for you and your leadership to follow when dealing with members, sponsors, and the like. They should be very flexible and not focused on just running a “tight ship.” Relax, it’s a user group, not Congress.
- Solicit help. Believe it or not, some of your members are willing to help you in your path to being a successful user group. That being said, some members may be overly helpful and you have to be careful about that. Take a few minutes at each meeting and describe what you do and how you could use some assistance. People will help you out, you just have to ask. Consider creating a steering committee of members to help with meetings, sponsor communication, and planning.
- Repetition is a good thing for certain things! Creating a general rhythm of things will keep your membership engaged and ease the flow of new members into the fold. Try to meet at the same venues, and create an agenda cadence that is maintained for all meetings. These are just a few examples of how repetition can help your cause and keep members coming back.
- Make sure the bills get paid. This is true for any organization, even user groups. Venue payments, goods, supplies, etc., all these bills must be maintained and paid on time. Sponsorships will be paying for most, if not all of these, so keep the finances tight and keep a record of everything!
- Get members involved. Having members become an active part of your meetings is essential for your success. One such involvement is to ask users for their experiences, their questions, and their stories. Members could give presentations, or just open a Q&A or roundtable discussion to start the flow of participation.
- Members like free stuff! Here is where you need to get your schmooze on. Vendors have lots of swag and members love to get it. Ask vendors for their support, hit up the booths at the trade shows and ask for their contact that may be able to get you some free products or swag for your user group giveaways. Have contests, or gifts for best questions, or just general meeting giveaways. Just make sure you have some “guidelines” on how winners are selected, as you need to ensure that all members are given an opportunity.
In Part Two of this posting, we will cover working with sponsors, the venues, and marketing your group. Stay tuned!