Secret ingredients to quality software

SSW Foursquare

Rules to Running Better User Groups - 10 Rules

  1. Do you book a venue a month ahead?

    At least a month before a user group talk the room for the presentation should be booked.

    1. Book the room at the venue via a phone call
    2. Send a meeting request "as per our conversation" to reserve the room to the admin staff at the venue, cc the presenter and the user group organizer
    3. If a speaker has not yet been appointed for the month, add them to the appointment when they are booked in
  2. Make sure that the venue is prepared for the speaker to arrive.

    On the day of the presentation (or the day before for a morning presentation).

    1. Call the venue and confirm the room will be available and that the seating will be organised in a 'lecture' or 'classroom' style
    2. Send an as per our conversation email to the admin staff at the venue, cc the presenter and the user group organiser.
  3. Many of our speakers have hundreds or thousands of followers on social media. To get the best attendance for the user group, the speaker should announce their presentation using as many media channels as possible that they are presenting at the user group.

  4. Each venue is a little different and has different requirements. Don’t expect presenters to know how each user group runs, especially if the user group organisers will not be available on the day/night.

    For example:

    Sydney .NET User Group Presenter Information

    1. Presenters will require a HDMI output, you will need an adaptor if you do not have this output.

    Canberra .NET User Group Presenter Information

    1. Presenters can use full-size HDMI, Mini-display port or USB-C to project. There is a monitor on the lectern which duplicates the projector        screen, so it is possible to use “Presenter Mode” if you want to.
    2. Wifi is available on the MSFTGUEST network, but you will need the reception staff or MS sponsor to create an event access code that you      can use to authenticate. 3. Attendees arrive around 5:30. Meet-and-greet until 5:45, then start the user group.

    Brisbane .NET User Group Presenter Information

    1. Presenters will require a HDMI output, you will need an adaptor if you do not have this output.

    Melbourne .NET User Group Presenter Information

    1. Presenters will require a HDMI output, you will need an adaptor if you do not have this output.
  5. How are you going to have a successful event if no one shows up?

    You will have to promote your event in a way that makes sense to your topic and approach. The most cost-effective way is to use a large variety of online services that are available.


    This is the best way to increase the discoverability of your event. Meetup provides the following:

    • Allows people to search and discover events
    • Allows people to join your group to get updates
    • You can easily list your upcoming events and have people join them
    • Comes with an automatic mailing list so you can send out announcements

    Word of Mouth

    Don't underestimate the power of one friend or colleague telling another. DDD Melbourne sold out in 10 hours with almost no promotion except for Twitter and Word of Mouth. If you are creating a recurring event, Word of Mouth becomes extremely important as past experiences flow through the grapevine.

    Social Media

    In some circumstances, it is worth setting up one or more accounts on social media for promoting and corresponding as the event identity. In technical circles, it is especially popular to use Twitter as a way to create awareness about events. SSW uses a combination of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram to promote our events, that way we have a much larger and diverse audience to draw from.

    Tip: Get your staff to Tweet at events and to Re-Tweet your events to help reach a larger audience! 

  6. Do you need to increase the attendance at your User Groups?

    A great way to increase your over all audience, as well as your attendance at each User Group, is to use social media and online forums like MeetUp to advertise your events. At SSW we use MeetUp, as well as the social media platforms, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to announce all of our upcoming User Groups and keep track of attendance.

    Tweet UG
    Figure: An example of SSW promoting the .NET User Group on Twitter

    For tips on taking great photos for social media promotions, see Do you know how to take great photos for your socials?

    You can read more about promoting your events here in our Rules to Better Social Media and in Promotion - Do People Know About Your Event.

  7. Audience shots are great except when you don’t have a full house. In this case you should move people to be next to each other.

    bad audience
    Figure: Bad example – the audience shot shows the bad numbers. It would be better to not use this view

    bad audience 2
    Figure: Bad example – the audience shot shows the bad numbers. You want to use this wide shot, but you need to make sure the attendees not in the shot are moved so their head is visible

    good audience
    Figure: Good example – a shot from the SSW Chapel where the audience has been moved so they are in shot

    TIP: To ensure you get the best shot possible, fill seating from the front back. It's a good idea to use VIP signs and place them on the back row to prevent people sitting there initially. These can be moved later when all seats are filled at the front.

    Figure: Using a VIP sign on the back row to prevent people sitting there initially

  8. How Are You Collecting Feedback?

    In order to make your next event even better, you need to be able to collect feedback on the day from the people that were there.

    There are a few options on how to collect the information.

    • Use a feedback form such as the one from SSW
    • Set up an online survey using services like TypeForm
    • Set-up a QR code for people to scan which links to a Microsoft Form.

    Another great way to obtain feedback is to use a reward system: for example, at SSW after our events we organise QR codes for our SSW Rewards App - where attendees can scan their attendance and obtain a number of points which they can use to claim prizes. We use the QR codes for feedback as another great incentive for our attendees to give their feedback so we can iterate and improve the experience for future events! 

    The best time to get attendees to fill out the feedback form is before the last session of the event. This is when people are still reasonably engaged and the people wanting to leave early haven't left yet.

    Sometimes it is also worth getting attendees to evaluate individual speakers. This can be done with something as simple as red, yellow and green tokens to indicate how well a speaker did after each talk, or you can set up an elaborate online rating system. It really depends on what you are trying to achieve and what information you need.

  9. The best way to find out how your clients and customers think about you is to ask them. If you're not up to putting your pride on the line by asking them yourself then the next best way is to use surveys or evaluation forms. It's discrete, impartial and gives the evaluator a chance to add comments that may be difficult to say to you in person.

    At SSW we bring our eval forms to every event we run or speak at. This allows us to reflect on our performance and run some quantitative analysis on the survey results. Take a look at our Speakers and Presentation Evaluation Form.

  10. Do you evaluate your event feedback?

    After the event it is also critical that you analyse the feedback. Why else would you be gathering it?

    Look for trends in the data and evaluate what you can do better next time and what you should possibly leave out.

    You should then send a retrospective email to relevant team members, and let them know how you feel the event went, and ask for their feedback.

    Remember to include important feedback like:

    • Any great comments from the evaluation forms
    • Any not so great feedback from the evaluation forms
    • Points for improvement
    • Stats on the free demand generation (how 'Googleable' is your event)
    • Stats on the paid demand generation (if applicable)
    • The demand generation of the speaker (for example did they Tweet your event & what engagement did it get)
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