As a user group leader I see new products as a chance to make sure our members know about the new features (or pitfalls) of a new release, and to grow and evangelize our group - not a novel approach, but sound I think. Met with Shawn Weisfeld from ONETUG last night to discuss what we might do to put together a launch event for our respective (SQL & .Net) communities next year. It's going to be a little strange since VS 2008 is RTM, SQL 2008 is somewhere on the horizon, and perhaps Server 2008 is somewhere in between? It was an interesting discussion; how do we something different from our annual events (SQLSaturday, Orlando Code Camp) that will still be fun, leverage our event experience, and not just be a waste of time for attendees? We want something demo focused, not the fancy demo's you see at TechEd, something down to earth that shows how to employ a new feature. How do I create a spatial index? How does the new date data type work? I think seeing that stuff used in minimalistic fashion helps people relate it to the work they do now, looking for the one or two killer features (for them) that might make it worth the pain of the upgrade!
What's a good format? Do we rent a theatre and just put a succession of demo doers up front? Good for a large audience, but harder to get participation. Maybe something less formal akin to a chalk talk? What's a good venue for that? Or do we go for a few flashy demo's and just make it a fun event, perhaps at the FunSpot?
The challenge of course is to provide value to those that attend as they'll be taking time off from work. I like SQL Server, earn my living from it even, but for a community launch event to work it can't be all fluff and spin. I think it's enough to look at the new features and how to employ them without a lot of 'this feature saved Company X 2000 man hours' or whatever the marketing people come up with. Or do people find value in seeing how the early adopters find value and all the success stories?