VMUG Playbook: Connecting Out of The Routine Schedule

This is the sixth post in my series of developing your user group. In my previous post, I shared with you how to work with your sponsors and help them fine tune their message, so it can be relevant and the most impactful to your audience.

My seven part series on developing your user group:

You’ve done your best through the year scheduling meetings, some years you have a minimum of four meetings and some years you’ve had seven, eight or maybe ten meetings (BTW there is no right or wrong answer in how many meetings should you have). You get a decent turnout most of the time, some new members, some occasional and some regular folks.

But you only hear from your user group when you are having meetings, it’s like having a family reunion each time, but you don’t want to wait for the meeting to share any updates, news, or blogs. You need to keep your group connected in between meetings.

Newsletters are an effective update tool

One of the most effective ways to keep folks connected is to have a newsletter. Have a sign-up page on your user group blog and decide on what frequency works for you weekly, or monthly. Use it as a tool to share any noteworthy blogs you have read recently, have a section where you share thoughts to give your membership some insights into what your thinking, and use the newsletter to gather feedback from the membership, use polls or surveys in the newsletter to shape content for any upcoming meetings.

If you need help to get started, consider modeling some of your favorite newsletters in terms of style and structure. You can also leverage free tools to build and send the newsletter, tools like MailChimp, Revue or paid platforms like Curated. Most of the platforms offer a free tier, so be sure to test drive a platform before committing to one.

Virtual meetings are easy to schedule

Consider holding a virtual meeting, these meetings can be shorter than normal and a great way to get others to present. Public speaking scares some people, especially when they see a group of people in front of them. Presenting over Zoom for instance, can help with that because you don’t see all those people in front of you and your mind thinks you are only presenting to one person. Nice little metal trick and one that should encourage more community talks. Always remember to record those meetings and include them in the newsletter for folks who could not make it.

If you are attending any industry events, in between your user group schedule, be sure to let others know. You can have an informal meetup where you can all connect and catch-up or talk about the event you all are attending and what are some of the takeaways, etc. Exchanging thoughts on sessions, or keynotes will help ensure folks from the user group get the most from the event.

You can sometimes feel lonely at these large conferences and getting a few members from your local user group can help make everyone feel more comfortable. As they say on the Cheers theme song, “…sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name”.

I’ve mentioned this in a past blog, but it’s important to have a user group blog. Keep the content fresh, consider posting weekly, or bi-weekly, this keeps folks coming back. I can hear you now – but that’s a lot of work, well yes it is, but it’s worth doing. You can find ideas for content everywhere – Reddit, forums, and Quora for example. Oh and be sure to have an About page on your blog – this helps with sponsors trying to reach out to you.

Decide which social network most of your local community is on and double down on that network. Try not to be everything to everyone. Sharing the same content on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for example, gives the impression of laziness. It’s easier to be genuine and authentic on one platform. For us it was LinkedIn and Twitter – we found LinkedIn the most effective. Post often and be sure to take the time to reply to folks, that way they get the sense that the social account is not just a broadcast tool but a two way real-time communication tool.

These are just some ways to keep the group engaged in between meetings, if you have done something different, share with the community and let me know on Twitter and as always thanks for reading.