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Improving attendance at Linux Users Groups

(Note: this post is not about you.  I swear.)

Someone once asked me what improvements they could make to their Linux Users Group (LUG).  New people came but never returned.

Two things I observed.

1.  New people didn't feel welcome.  Suggestion: Go out of your way to make new people feel welcome.  Have a designated person show up early and just say "hi" to everyone that walks in. (If you are the leader, don't do this yourself.  Delegate. Look around, find the person with the biggest smile, and ask them to do it.  Not all geeks are... how do you say... "camera friendly".)  Most of us are introverts and would be turned off by someone that tries to make small-talk, but just hearing someone say "hi" is great.  Have good signs on the doors so people know where to go.  Nothing makes new people feel unwanted like a lack of being told where your meeting is.  I once went to a meeting (not a LUG, but the issue is the same) only to discover that the web site listed the address, but not the specific room... or which building.  There were no signs telling me where to go.  Ugh.

2.  If you have a Q&A session, the moderator should never answer the questions.  People come to share and everyone wants their turn to show off.  A big mistake I see is that the moderator will answer each question then look around and say, "Does anyone else have anything to add?"  Nobody answers.  Gee, I wonder why.  Well, the moderator just expressed their dominance and anything else would be an affront to the leader.  Folks, this is an open source movement.  We all have power and knowledge and good stuff to day.  If you are the moderator, be the last person to speak. Sure you know the perfect answer, in fact I bet you have 5 points you'd like to make.  However, so do other people in the audience.  Get them to say the answer.  Let a couple people speak.  After 3-4 people speak it is likely that 4 of the 5 points you wanted to make have been made already.  Now you can chime in with your 5th point.  Everyone else got their chance to shine and your 5 points were made.  You'll still look brilliant for having a 5th point that nobody else thought of, but you won't look overbearing.

Those are the top 2 problems I've seen.

The #3 issue is "Where to advertise?"    Please post a comment if you have suggestions.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Community

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2 Comments | Leave a comment

Thanks Tom, I'm gonna send that to my LUG list. Only because I was feeling particularly persistent that night, did I stumble around in the dark long enough to find the LUG meeting room.

Although it is a paid service, if your LUG is serious, you should be using http://meetup.com to organize your events. I find it really helps getting new members, and adding just enough communication features to keep people involved without getting in the way.

Cross-pollinating some of your LUG members in other related user groups occasionally like Programming groups in your area and encouraging them to stop by your meetings helps too.

Also, using twitter or facebook or other social networks can really help raise 'day of the event' awareness to remind us busy people who tend to forget things.

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