As you may be aware, the SQL Server South West User Group has finally had its inaugural meeting. Jonathan “Fatherjack” Allen (blog|twitter) has managed to start something that I hope will run. It has been, as you can see from his blog post and the front page of the SQL South West website, a long process to get it running.
To give you an idea of what’s involved, if you’re thinking of starting a new user group, some of the things he has been talking about over the months include:
- Location – what’s good? Just because it’s close to your home, doesn’t mean it’s good for everyone, particularly if your target catchment area is geographically large.
- Speakers – who do you get? For the first event, do you go for celebs / big name speakers, or do you try to keep it a bit more low-key in case of a disastrous turn-out. Jonathan went for the latter approach. Hopefully once the UG is up & running, though, he’ll be able to get some big names booked in.
- Facilities – are they going to be adequate? Fortunately for Jonathan, the venue was provided by his wife’s company, so at least he didn’t have to worry too much there! Apart from making sure that we didn’t spill coffee all over the boardroom table, and that we would be able to hook up laptops to the presentation kit…
- Attendees. This is the big one. If nobody turns up, what’s the point? But it is going to be hard getting people to attend the first UG meeting of anything. Some of the things you could try is canvassing local firms, by post, phone, email, whatever. Try talking to people at nearby UGs. Ask your friends. Your friends’ friends. Tweet, blog, do appropriate things on LinkedIn. Issue bribes, or threats (if you’re in a position of authority over them). Whatever it takes to get people through the door.
- Swag – based on my experiences, people expect there to be some form of takeaways / giveaways at these meetings. Jonathan was lucky – he’s a “friend” of Red Gate Software, one of the providers of various software tools and books, and they provided a few books for the speakers to give away. Jonathan also managed to get some SQLSkills swag sent over from the US by Paul Randal (blog|twitter), one of the biggest names in the SQL Server business. Coeo also provided some bounty, and Christian Bolton, their Technical Director and a Microsoft Certified Architect: Database, volunteered to come and speak.
And the meeting happened. We had three speakers – Jonathan presented on Red Gate’s SQL Monitor software, Mike Casey presented on an introduction to Data Warehousing, and I did a 15 minute spot talking through a problem I had encountered a while ago in my work – I may turn this into a blog post in the future.
In the end, we had 9 people at the meeting. A couple of no-shows, and a couple of cancellations meant that we could have gone into double figures. I hope that the group grows and thrives. I look forward to attending future meetings – as long as I’m in the area!