First, consider having a joint meeting with a shared speaker with other user groups, like a .NET or Analytics UG in your area. Share sponsor, food, speaker, networking. More critical mass of fellow professionals, more ROI for sponsors, more potential future speakers and volunteers.
Second, make sure you ABC - Always Be 'Cruiting - new speakers, attracting people to get their feet wet for the first time with technical speaking. Make sure the atmosphere of your group remains approachable, constructive, and not intimidating to new speakers. Make sure you are always reaching out directly to new speakers, offering short-format speaking timeslots at your meetings, and offering mentoring and constructive feedback.
Non-traditional meeting ideas: I'm not claiming credit for creating any of these ideas, they've been executed by others for sure, in fact, I've tried to link to them when possible.
- "Game shows" - Most fun if game shows actually have individuals at play, not just "ask the crowd" style
- SQL Jeopardy! using PowerPoint - Not hard to make at all, just what it sounds like. Don't forget to phrase your answer in the form of a query!
- I have a slidedeck for three rounds of Jeopardy! from SQLSaturday Baton Rouge 2016, happy to share
- Here's another Jeopardy! game shared by the Baltimore SQL Server User Group
- Here's another from Chad Crawford of the Utah SQL Server User Group
- SQL Family Feud - Chad from the Utah County SQL Server Users Group also put out an online survey and delivered the data to anyone who requested it in January 2018. - SQLSat Dallas did it this year for a big finale as well, or, ask around to collect your own "surveys"!
- There are a lot of list games that are fine for group play, including SQL-themed games in the style of Listography and the Game of Things, like topics like: write down as many data types as you can in the next 20 seconds, or "things developers say", or "most common table name"!
- Lead an interactive Normalized Database Design for a topic that many people know the business rules for, or, for a brand new business case with a guest product owner - https://www.sqltact.com/2013/01/try-database-design-exercise-at-your.html
- Lead an interactive "choose your own" Database Corruption Recovery Challenge from Steve Stedman's blog series - http://stevestedman.com/server-health/database-corruption-challenge/
- Speaker Idol - self-explanatory - well in advance of the meeting, put the call out for "short-format" speakers only, ask bosses, sponsors, spouses etc. to be judges.
- Licensing - this is not a common topic - ask a local software reseller to send a SQL licensing specialist to talk and do Q&A for an hour, can be very informative.
- The Toolbox - ask everyone in advance to bring handwritten tsql or powershell scripts from their own "toolbox" to share and briefly demo
- Networking Night - invite a wide array of people to give short-format talks on career, interview, soft-skills, invite attendees to bring resumes. In BTR, we also add this meeting as a Gold tier SQLSaturday sponsorship
- New speakers night - another short-format idea, invite only new speakers to give talks, with experienced speakers primed to give constructive, positive feedback
- PASS Summit knowledge transfer - invite everyone who attended the PASS Summit to give a recap/best-of style presentation to do knowledge transfer to everyone else.
- Panel of Experts - again, make sure your group remains constructive, approachable and non-intimidating. But a panel of "experts" for Q&A might be a great idea to attract user group attendees with name recognition.
@william_a_dba speaking about his Baton Rouge UG experience at #PASSSummit pic.twitter.com/quT8nOEwIJ— Paresh Motiwala (@pareshmotiwala) November 6, 2018