When discussing this, I've always been very honest and enthusiastic that holding joint events of local technical communities really works.
We all joke that developers and database administrators don't get along. The playful banter back and forth between devs and DBA's in Baton Rouge is never mean spirited, and is actually embraced (see image to the right). I personally work with 20+ developers every day and enjoy the dialogue and camaraderie, at both a technical and social level.
I'd recommend collaborating with your local .NET UG community to any PASS user group looking to
1) increase the number of folks available for networking at monthly/annual events
2) increase the ROI to sponsors of monthly/annual events.
If your SQL Server User Group isn't reaching a critical mass of folks at your monthly user group meetings or annual SQLSaturday events, reach out to your .NET group. They might be in the same boat.
Gaining a critical mass of attendees is important. That doesn't mean they all have to do the same job. That critical mass of attendees each month makes the room feel full, it makes folks want to invest in becoming a technical speaker, user community leader, and recruiter for future user group attendees. IT professionals are far more likely to recommend to their friends and colleagues a meeting that monthly gathers twice as many people.
Here's how we meet in Baton Rouge with both .NET and SQL User Groups:
5:45pm: Meet in one room for professional networking, dinner (usually pizza)
6:15pm: Introduce the user groups and each group's leadership. Give out announcements about upcoming events applicable to both groups, facility information, etc.
6:20pm: Announce the sponsor for the meeting. (Thank them for the pizza!) If present, the sponsor can give a demo or a talk or a giveaway.
- Also allow for your host facility, whatever it may be, to talk briefly about their mission/purpose as well. In our case, the Louisiana Technology Park sometimes sends us a representative (or CEO!) to give a short pitch on what the Tech Park does and the kind of companies they foster.
- Past examples: SQL Server Reporting Services, Power BI, source control, professional development, communication skills, tools and utility applications, Visual Studio tips and tricks, security, cool upcoming tech gifts for holiday shopping.
6:50pm: Once separated, sometimes each user group will have its own Lightning round and announcements.
- For example, the Baton Rouge SQL group shows the monthly PASS slidedeck now, not to the combined crowd.
9pm: Usually, folks are still networking and chatting in the facility by the time we need to kick them out! Sometimes, they'll continue the tech talk and networking at a nearby bar or restaurant.
You may find that technology professionals will attend your joint SQL+.NET meeting, then decide which one to attend based on the topic. Many .NET coders know and work with SQL Server, and vice versa. In practice, we very rarely hear the complaint that they cannot attend both meetings. It hasn't happened in recent memory. User group presenters frequently make their presentation slidedecks available for download after the fact, or have the content recorded otherwise. Attendees can still visit with presenters from both presentations, regardless of what room they choose.
Here's what you may need to invite the .NET folks:
- Find a two-room venue, typically with one big room and one smaller room. Already have a meeting venue for your monthly meetings? Ask if they have another room you can use.
Don't have a venue?
- Reach out to universities, specifically the alumni coordinators or faculty members who are interested in connecting students with professionals in the field. Ask for a consistent, scheduled-in-advance location, don't get moved around every semester, it will hurt attendance.
- Reach out to technology parks or incubators who cater to tech startups - tell them that your attendees are their target audience for future startup tenants.
- Reach out to local consulting firms or training providers who have conference rooms in use during the day but vacant at night.
- Reach out to local Microsoft offices or facilities.
- Our Networking Night is the July meeting preceding our annual SQL Saturday event in August. It's our largest meeting every year, features short-format (<10 minute) entertaining presentations on career topics. It's part of the SQLSaturday sponsorship package too, giving a Career Night speaking opportunity to Gold and Platinum sponsors.
- Our Speaker Idol nights are entertaining and informative "competitions" where speakers create short (<10 minute) demos or "tips and tricks" presentations. "Celebrity judges" can include local CIO's or IT professionals who are witty with a talent for giving constructive feedback, congenial heckling and creating a fun, positive atmosphere.
- Holiday Parties are really tricky to schedule in December because of all the conflicts every night of the week. But we have in the past tried and had success with hosting a User Groups Holiday party. No main presentations at all, just networking. Perhaps do a "white elephant" or "sneaky santa" gift exchange. Find a restaurant with a low rental fee for a private room. Find a sponsor interested in connecting with the groups on a less formal level, like consulting companies or recruiters. (For liability purposes, don't have any of the user group funds pay for alcohol.)
- Regardless, reach out to leadership of other user groups and introduce yourself. At your user group meetings, evangelize for other groups in the area, even non-Microsoft ones.
In summary, try reaching that important critical mass of attendees by making a bigger, wider tent. Yes, this will have much more appeal to sponsors, especially recruiters and staffing agencies, and this isn't an insignificant reality.
But it will also incentivize attendance by exponentially increasing the monthly opportunities for:knowledge transfer,
professional and social networking,
development of new local technical speakers,
fostering leadership enthusiasm in user group leadership,
fostering leadership enthusiasm in user group leadership,
If you'd like to discuss this more, please do not hesitate to ask via Twitter, LinkedIn or the comment section of this blog post.
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